Have you ever been guilty of this?
A few insights emerged this week and I found my mind heading back about 17 years or so when I had a very interesting friend in my life whom I had met at work. This was all before Facey and social media, but she was a very social girl, if a little unconventional, and loved bringing people together and organising events.
Through J, I met lots of other people – her friends, their friends and her partner’s friends etc (it’s actually how I met my partner!). It was a great time in my life. We all connected well, and because none of us had kids back then, hung out together most weekends.
Because we lived close and spent a lot of time together, J discussed some of her friends with me at times, particularly those she had gone to school with – and one of them in particular. She more or less warned me about this person – “P”. She said P had certain behavioural patterns and was someone to be wary of. I was surprised by this, but of course she knew this friend way better than I did. Her telling me this didn’t really change anything; our dynamics stayed exactly the same. But still, I formed an opinion about P based on what I had been told. From that moment, in my mind at least, P was someone to be kept at arm’s length because she had issues.
A couple of years on and J went through some very challenging life stuff. Her relationship ended and she fell out with lots of people in her crew, including me and P. Life moved on. I had a baby and moved to Port Stephens, but interestingly though, despite what I thought I knew about P, she and I kept in touch and became really good friends. It was only when she was visiting me here with her son not long ago that I finally brought up what had happened – the conversation with J. I was a bit confused actually and was questioning what had taken place because I had never seen or witnessed P exhibit any strange behaviour of any sort. Ever! She was a great person to be around. Patient, calm, a great mum and a good listener. She was clever, creative and independent. Nobody is perfect of course, but I realised that for many years, I had formed an idea about someone in my head and been wary of them because of what someone else had told me. P and I talked and laughed about it because it was all water under the bridge by then, but still, it made me think. I don’t think that J was lying deliberately or was being malicious, it’s just that what she shared with me was all based on her own personal perspective. Sure, I get that my reaction was somewhat of a basic instinct; we use information like this to protect ourselves and to keep ourselves safe, but I also think I clearly knew P wasn’t dangerous!
Living in a small town often presents like an interesting microcosm of the entire world as a whole, and how this stuff has the potential to play out becomes quite obvious. With so much information and chatter these days, it has become even harder to trust our own judgements and to be true to ourselves. However, we must remember that individual experience is quite unique, as is the perspective that will be formed based on this experience. It’s not easy, but it is important to instil a sense of healthy detachment when it comes to the opinions and thoughts of other people who have their own unique experience of the world and the people in it. Tune in with yourself on a deep level. What do you think about certain things? Give people (especially) a chance, because we are all different with different people and are all going to connect with some people better than others. This is based on many things, including history, personality and dynamics generally. In short, make sure to keep an open mind – it’s your mind after all – and never, ever give anyone else the power to hijack it!