Sink back into the world view of a child. Through a child’s eyes, everyone lives exactly the way they do. If they grew up poor and hungry, they assume that everyone grows up in a hard life. If they grew up in a divorced household, they assume that all of the other children of the world have divorced parents.
Maybe they grew up like me and assumed that everyone had large extended families. All of whom lived only 15 minutes away. Life is the same for everyone through a child’s eyes. Then one day the fragile bubble they live in bursts and they notice that everyone is different. Even other families who look like them or live right next door are different.
Each and every one of us has grown up through a unique experience. Your set of experiences shapes you into a very unique person and with a unique world view. This should set you up to follow a unique life path. This makes sense to you, right? Each of us is unique so we should each follow a unique path but we don’t practice this mentality. We stay in that viewpoint of a child but instead of assuming everyone lives like us. We assume that they should live like us.
This is understandable because we are told by society how we should live. We see everyone around us living this same way. We start to follow the set routine, in parallel with most other people, and follow the beaten path. The more we follow this path the more we start to believe that we should live that way. Then we start to think everyone should live that way because we believe it is the right way.
This leads most people to live similar lives to each other. We judge other harshly when other’s don’t follow this same model. But just because you have lived a certain way and it works for you, it doesn’t mean that it is the right way. There is no one right way for everyone. There is just one right way for you.
Projecting our way onto others
Assuming that people should live or assuming that most people live the way that you do is called “projecting.” Projecting (or projection) happens automatically when we assume that everyone should be living, thinking, and acting the way we do. This is not a bad thing until people start using it as validation to look down on others.
Projecting can create a vicious cycle of judgement and compliance. Because we project, we know that other people are projecting their way of life onto us too. External projection, especially from people that we care about, creates pressure to live up to that projection.
For example, if everyone in your family went to college, they will project onto you that you should go to college. This will probably lead you to go to the best college that you can get into. That experience will shape your world view into thinking that everyone should go to college. When you meet people who did not attend college, you will assume things about them. You may even go so far as to think you are superior to them because you have a college degree.
This notion about going to college will be reinforced because most of your friends will have gone to college (because you met them there). The more that you believe that the way you live is the “right,” the more you will judge others who will also feel the need to meet the projected expectation.
This cycle creates masses of people living in a similar way. All of these people will assume that this is the “right” way because everyone else is doing it, and because they were told to do it. Even though it may not be a path you ever wanted, it was just projected onto you. You will inevitably project the way that you think as right onto others.
the lonely island of one
On top of the pressure to live the same way other people do, it is also easier to live like everyone else. Who wants to put themselves through ridicule when the rest of the world thinks that they are living the right way? Being different feels like trying to make your way through crowd of people frantically running away from a burning building that you need to get to in order to save your priceless things.
It is hard to pick a career, a hobby, or even clothes and hairstyle that is a little “out there”. There is a never ending battle to justify to other people why you are doing something so different. It can even be a battle to justifying it to yourself. You get asked questions, are given weird looks when you deviate from the “norm.” It’s easier to live like everyone else because no one questions you.
Being different puts you on a lonely island by yourself. You feel like you’re the only one who gets “it,” whatever “it” may be for you. But there is a thrill that comes from being the only one. That thrill comes from a lot of confidence and practice not caring what other people think. You can be a pioneer for people who want to be different but can’t find the courage.
Eventually, as you live differently you stop caring about other people. You will stop projecting on to other people and accept that there is no one right way to live. You will probably find people who understand what it’s like to be on an island of one and you will feel a little less alone.
no right way
There are millions of different ways to do anything. There are an infinite number of ways we can live our lives. Why should we all box ourselves and each other into living exactly the same way? Who are we to assume that our way of living is the right way?
Each of us is a unique individual, who has gone through unique experiences. These experiences shape what we want, so each of us is bound to want something different out of life.
We should all stop assuming that our way is the best way because that perception is only created through the vicious cycle of projection. Your view of the world is not your free pass to feel superior to to other people. Just concern yourself with your own life and where you are going, shape your life into what you want it to be.
Stop caring about the way other people live. Do not limit yourself to who you think you should be. Stop caring about what other people think about your life. They just haven’t learned that lesson that you have just learned or experienced the things you have experienced.
No single right way to live exists for everyone. There is just one right way for you.
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