Sunday, May 10, 2009

I Used to Think...

I used to think that I have it all figured it out. I usually try to be open-minded, but in truth, once I think I figure something out (for example, what is good for me), I stick with that idea, and it's pretty difficult to convince me to try something new.

Have you ever been in this situation? Probably most of us have, to some degree. For example, imagine that long ago, as a child, you used to hate the taste of green peppers. You think green peppers won't taste good to you, so you avoid them at all costs. When you do try them, you expect they won't taste good, and they don't, because a large part of your experience is based on prior expectations (sorry, no references for this statement, but I have read about a number of studies that showed this interesting phenomenon). If, on the other hand, you didn't have the prior expectations, you might actually enjoy green peppers a lot.

Recently I've been trying to let go of some fixed ideas about myself, and try new things. I blogged a while back how I used to hate bell-peppers, but recently cooked something with orange bell-peppers. I've also been drinking bottled green tea, which I used to dislike quite a bit when I first came here, because of the strong taste and the lack of sugar. Food is just one example... I think that what I want the most in terms of improving myself, is getting strength to dispel these fixed notions about the world and discover more things, without fear of novelty. I think this fear is pretty strong, and to a degree it's useful, because it's a self-defense mechanism, but if you are careful and don't do stupid things, if you listen to what feels right and wrong to do, then trying new things is a really good idea and a way to overcome fears and improve yourself.

The other day I very nearly escaped hurting someone and getting hurt because I assumed things without listening carefully and calmly. I am sure both me and the other person added to the misunderstanding, but I know for sure that if I listened and asked, it would not have happened to the extreme that it did. I was very lucky (and am very thankful) that this person was very patient and understanding, and that people close to me also helped me see things in perspective. In the end everything worked out, but it was close.

It wasn't just that time though that I faced misunderstandings. While teaching I often assume what my students don't like and don't want to do, and I am sure my attitude affects my interactions with them negatively. I've been trying to watch myself, but I still need to work on this.

I am glad I came to Japan. Here sometimes you don't ask. You have to watch, with your eyes, ears, and heart open. And this is what I am trying to learn. I need to learn to listen to other people and to trust people more.

Using metaphors, I think if the rest of the world feels like an ocean, we all need to have something to hold on to, so that we don't drown. I always used these fixed ideas about myself as a thing to hold on to, but I think that maybe a more reliable thing to hold on to is a belief in yourself, something like self-confidence. If you think you are a good person, and are honest with yourself, and listen to your own feelings and act upon them, then this faith becomes something to hold on to when things get difficult. Of course relying on other people is important, but if you don't believe in yourself, it seems that if a misunderstanding happens between you and other people, you'll be in trouble, wondering if you are a worthy person or not, etc. Of course other people's support is what makes your belief in yourself stronger, but maybe essentially, however cliche it may sound, what you really need the most is to love yourself, and love other people with an open mind.

Maybe? :D

In any case, I've been thinking about this ever since I moved here, and I am going to keep testing out this idea, and remind myself every day to be more open-minded.

Just thought I'd share.

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