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Do you want somebody’s perspective, or do you just want yours validated?

5 Jul 2024

It’s a delicate but enormous distinction. To be willing to hear another’s perspective means to be truly willing to consider that your own is incomplete, not nuanced, or even completely false.

The closer this perspective is to your perceived identity, the more uncomfortable it will be to hear anything that challenges it.

So much of the time we do the opposite. We hold so tightly to our identities. Because we live in fear of our identity falling apart, we seek validation to reinforce the perspective we already have.

Years I spent in fear of being wrong, for how would that reflect on me? What if I have the wrong view? How would I find my “tribe”? Would I be ostracised from social groups? Would I be publicly shamed? So I sought validation from every conversation. Many political conversations with agreeable friends were nothing more than us validating each other’s one-sided view of the world.

I’m reminded of a time after this had begun to fall away, where an acquaintance called me up to get my opinion on some perceived political injustice that he was otherwise not involved with. He wondered if he was right to be so concerned over this situation, whether he should get involved, and wanted a second opinion. While mine is just yet another perspective, it seemed to me that he was blowing things out of proportion, so I explained that my view was that it wasn’t really an issue. It quickly became clear that he had already made up his mind, and was only seeking for me to agree with him. The conversation soon turned to him trying to convince me why this was an injustice.

For the person seeking the truth, the problem is that these beliefs create a distorting layer on top of reality. The deeply rooted and unexamined fears of our own inadequacy cause us to seek comfort over reality. They make life more challenging, cause unnecessary stress, and create friction in relationships. A threat to a tightly held belief is a threat to our very identity. We hold on to them only because the falling away of identity seems worse. It seems scary to have no perspective from which to approach reality.

The beliefs that we hold tightly to fuel righteous anger, disdain and division. They are dysfunctional triggers within us that we defend quite literally with our lives.

The alternative is to look for that identity that seems so solid, and discover for ourselves that it cannot be found. To see clearly and directly that the identity we construct is entirely an illusion, made up of nothing more than fleeting thoughts. To allow this understanding to permeate the mind, and dissolve the clinging to belief.

Then there is nothing left to validate. Nothing left to hold tightly to. Nothing left to defend.

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Jordan West

Sydney, Australia

jordan [at] west.io | twitter | github | youtube | instagram