The first time I realized that I viewed the world with a perception of black and white was when my husband and I were in the middle of an argument and he told me I was 'so black and white.'
I brushed it off and continued to try to argue my point all the while this comment lingered in the back of my mind.
When the argument finished, my frustration with my husband's claims didn't. I'm not black and white, I'm a VERY colorful person. I make him laugh out loud all the time. I'm goofy, sassy, and I see so much color in the world. How dare he!
As the days went on I couldn't shake what he had said. I pondered my views of the world and slowly but surely, I started to realize that I AM very black and white.
A black and white perception could mean many things. You may, like me, be a rule follower and wouldn't even think of breaking said rules. Or, maybe (also like me) the thought of drawing outside of the lines makes you cringe and recoil just a tiny bit inside. Or how about when you are following a recipe, does the idea of using a different ingredient then what is on the ingredient list send you into a fit of panic? These are all just some examples of living in a black and white world.
The list goes on and on but the truth is, it's all about perception and why we've created them.
For me, I was a very insecure child, adolescent and am still struggling with it to this day. I grew up in a home that, at times, was confusing. I knew my parents love me and they told me so often but as time went by my little protected world of having both a loving mother and father started to crumble. We learned that my father had a mental illness and with that came a great deal of anger, outbursts, and a broken little girl. My mom did everything she could to protect, overcompensating for a father who was sick but when you are a child, your environment and the words that are said to you greatly shape the way you view the world as you get older. And even my mom couldn't protect me from that.
As I grew up, I started to build my shield, my black and white bubble that would protect me from the meanness and unpredictability of the world. It wasn't until my husband brought this to the forefront of my mind that I started to realize I had create this perception as coping mechanism, a way to compartmentalize life. If something fit into my 12x12 box then all was right in the world. If it didn't, then my world was turned upside down.
There is a point however, as you become an adult, that we need to realize we are not our past. That the things that were said to us, things that happened to us, they do not define who we are. I grew up with an unpredictable father so I developed a way of making my life predictable. I found ways to sort through life's ups and downs in a way that I understood, even something as simple as veering off from a recipe would cause me to panic, so I rarely did.
It wasn't until David, my husband brought this to my attention that I started to really think about the way it affects my life. The way it can hold me back from living from a deeply authentic place and living life to the fullest.
It's still hard. I still try to throw things into their particular compartment but I've developed a set of tools that have helped me see the world in more color. Tools that help me step outside my comfort zone and think about people, situations, and even cooking differently.
If you struggle with something similar, I invite you to follow these simple steps and see if it encourages you to see the world, yourself, and situations differently.
Four Simple Tools to Change Your Perceptions
Forgive yourself - Many of us have had things in our past that have affected how we perceive the future. Things that were beyond our control and we handled them the best we could at the time. As we grow as people, we learn more and have a wider range of resources to pull from to handle similar or new situations but before we can fully make the changes needed, we need to forgive ourselves.
It took me a long time to realize that I was angry at myself for not handling certain situations differently over the years and I beat myself up constantly because of it. We need to forgive to move on. We need to forgive to grow. We need to forgive to love ourselves fully. And we need to understand that so much of that was beyond our control.
Forgive yourself and realize that you did the best you could with what you had at the time. Moving forward you have the tools to handle situations differently and view life in more colors.
Breathe - Sounds pretty simple, doesn't it? We all breathe automatically throughout the day but how often to you stop and just notice your breathe? Feel how it organically moves in and out of your body. How natural it is to take the surrounding air in and then moments later release it back out. If you find yourself in a situation where the familiar panic feeling starts to set in, the one that causes you to through situations, people, and everything else into differing compartments, then stop and breathe. Ask yourself if you can see this too differently.
Learn to Laugh at Yourself - This has been a huge one for me. I grew up taking life way too seriously because I was afraid that if I laughed, it meant that didn't really hurt or affect me. If something didn't fit into my bubble I could barely handle it and would have a fit. It wasn't until a couple of years ago that I learned to just relax and laugh at myself and once I realized that I was so black and white, I've been able to use this tool as a way of finding more humor in situations and looking at it differently.
Laughing is therapeutic and it brings a smile to your face. See if you can look at whatever you are faced with and laugh at it. Find some way to smile even though it seems huge and daunting or you feel like you need to stuff it in a compartment.
And even more, laugh at yourself when you feel those old habits starting to control your perception. Then pause and breathe again.
Try One New Thing a Week- For someone who see in black and white, trying new things can be challenging because is disrupts your way of handling the world in a concise and peaceful way. Trying something new, even if it is small, will open up your mind to new ways of seeing and feeling. For example, I am a morning person. I like to get up early because I've always told myself that this is when I do my best work, feel the most clear-headed, and I've told myself that repetitively over the years. This prevented me from doing a lot of things that involved staying up late because then I'd either sleep in or feel sleep deprived and not be able to work well. I created this little world where I thought I could only work well in the morning and if I couldn't do it at that time then I just wouldn't do it at all. Recently I realized that this was just another compartment or another story that I had created and I have been challenging myself to sit down in the afternoon and work, even for fifteen minutes. And guess what, it's been totally working.
By giving myself small little goals, like fifteen minutes, I'm able to see that I can actually work well throughout the day, regardless of the time. So start small but try one new thing a week.
By seeing the world in black and white you are really only making room for two viewpoints but by seeing with color, anything is possible. It wont happen over night but by following the simple steps I've laid our for you, small changes will start to happen and new opportunities will come your way. Before you know it, you see the world in color and your need to compartmentalize with slowly start to diminish.