The Advantages of Other Vantage Points

From the time I was a kid, I’ve often grappled with the feeling of being misunderstood. In most circumstances, I was the only disabled person in the room, watching the able-bodied people just carry on however they wished. I hardly ever felt like somebody could relate to me because they weren’t feeling what I was.

As I’ve matured, I realize how many people feel the same way, for one reason or another. No matter your lot in life, you only get to live in your own skin, and it’s easy to get caught up in thinking nobody’s walked the same path as you. If you aren’t careful, that mentality can isolate you, making you conclude nobody can understand your challenges and help you navigate them.

While it’s true that we all encounter different obstacles and a variety of combinations of them, we should resist the tendency to conclude no one hasn’t felt the way you do. Though we want to think we’re unique, we typically face many of the same struggles as our neighbor, even if they have a completely different set of circumstances. Isn’t that what makes any kind of art successful? The artist captures an emotion we can relate to and expresses it in a way that connects with us.

Isn’t it silly, then, to convince ourselves nobody understands what we go through? More than that, aren’t we misjudging others when we make the very accusation of “You’ll never understand my situation,” when we don’t even give them a chance? If we aren’t willing to take that risk and share our battles, we don’t put them in a position to try to understand and help us. We also close the door on an opportunity to hear them relate thoughts and/or experiences similar to ours and how they may have coped with them.

Imagine this scenario: A homeowner never examines the exterior of his/her house but starts to notice the ceiling leaking. He goes to his neighbor’s house, and the neighbor leads him to the window. The neighbor then points out the root of the problem, and even better, he tells the homeowner he’s dealt with a similar issue and knows how to handle it.

Likewise, we don’t have an objective view of our problems many times, and we can all too easily huddle into ourselves. We focus primarily on the symptoms of the problem without really trying to remedy it. That’s where an outsider’s perspective comes in handy. They can give us a view of the matter that we might’ve overlooked on our own and may provide just the insight we need to better manage the predicament.   

An ancient proverb states, “Plans fail when there is no consultation, but there is accomplishment through many advisers.” Life is the ultimate building project, and just as it takes at least a small crew to construct something, we all need a handful of people to lean on, especially when difficulties arise. Unlike a construction project, we can’t make a true rendering of the finished product because of the unexpected. Thus, we must not block out people, assuming they lack the skill set or experience to assist us. Rather, we should embrace the input they can give us, allowing them to open the window we couldn’t find.

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