As a teenager I used to have extreme social anxiety and shyness. I was completely stuck in that experience for years before finding tools and resources to rewire my brain and emotions.
There are many factors that contribute to social anxiety, depression, etc., but if you’re stuck in fear, loneliness, boredom, or any other emotion, strongly consider taking steps to enrich your perspective from many different angles. The results can be extremely liberating and transformative. It certainly was for me! I credit that with a huge increase in peace and connection with others.
The Problem of a Narrow Viewpoint
Almost all of us humans are “stuck” in a personal viewpoint. We naturally think the world revolves around us. I say “naturally” because if you think about it, your senses affect only you personally. If someone else feels pain or sees something beautiful, you don’t register it unless they tell you about it. From the time of infancy, we see the world from our own eyes, ears, nose, and hands. It’s only later (and often with great effort) that we start to notice the potential for different viewpoints. Even adults are vastly below our potential to see life from an expanded perspective. We get so used to our own experience, our senses, our thought patterns, and our feelings.
The problem is that this narrow viewpoint does us immense harm in many ways.
Even though we’re so used to having such a limited perspective, the limitation still leads to a huge sense of isolation from others and fear because of that isolation. We can feel alone and what’s worse, we fear others are not concerned about us as much as we are about ourselves. After all, they don’t seem to respond to our pain and joys as much as we do. This makes us feel unsafe at a deep level.
Additionally, our narrow perspective leaves us living life with a very limited toolset for solving life’s problems. We all have problems, and we all sometimes feel stuck in a rut, unable to get out. Albert Einstein famously stated that we can’t solve our problems at the same level of thinking that created them. Expanding your perspective gives you a whole new level of thinking that will allow you to see solutions you may not see now. It’s much easier to learn better ways of living from others than it is to try to figure things out on your own. And once you learn something from someone, you pretty much have that increased perspective for the rest of your life.
Seeing others’ perspectives is incredibly liberating. It frees you from all the wasted worry about yourself, yet doesn’t diminish your ability to get what you want in life. Actually, it helps you get more because when you connect with others, they are able to provide you with insights, support, and love when you need it. You feel empowered when you realize you don’t need to do life on your own. Others are there to help you. You realize the purity of others’ motives and that nobody is out to get you, they just might be stuck in their own little world like everyone else. You begin to feel compassion for that fact about yourself and others rather than judgment or fear.
Expanding your viewpoint, or consciousness, has the potential to dramatically shift your life.
How to Expand your Viewpoint
Our consciousness is capable of much greater perspective than we have, and we know it, but often don’t know how to increase it. Theoretically, consciousness could be infinite, much greater than the limited experience we now have as humans. For example, start by thinking of your five senses. Now imagine you had a sixth, and a seventh, and an eighth. Pretty difficult to imagine, but you can conceive of it, right? Now imagine you had a separate set of eyeballs somewhere else on the planet. Now imagine yourself with a set of eyes on a satellite looking down at the little Earth, and then imagine a tiny set of eyes in the dirt looking at microbes. We could go on forever with this exercise. Can you see how there are literally infinite ways of looking at things? Not only that, but there are over 7 billion people on the planet, each with their own perspectives, hopes, dreams, and desires. There are infinite perspectives, yet you’re stuck, as a human, with only a handful of personal perspectives corresponding to each sense.
Does that seem overwhelming? It’s not. When you start looking from more perspectives you actually start to feel liberated!
Below is my quick-start guide to expanding your perspective.
Practice seeing things from others’ perspectives
When you see people, practice imagining things from their perspective. Try not to think “what do they think of me?” That’s still focusing on yourself. But rather, “what are they aiming for? What are they seeing? What are they feeling? What did they have for breakfast?” By doing this you can mentally “walk a mile in another’s shoes” and this will increase your ability to gather insights from people.
When you think this way, you naturally connect with other people. It becomes easy to know what to say and how to start conversations because you’re focusing on them, not yourself. All sorts of funny things happen to people when they focus on themselves, and it rarely makes others want to be with them. I know it can be hard, and maybe even seem overly simple, but looking at things from others’ perspectives dramatically increases your ability to be connected, have friends, and maintain friendships.
A technique that has worked very well for me in feeling an expanded sense of consciousness or viewpoint is to imagine seeing things from God’s perspective (or a higher power, etc). This has helped to distance myself from my own feelings in a good way and see how my life experience fits into creation as a whole.
When you help others, you naturally start to see things from a new perspective (their perspective). Helping others is like getting a perspective transplant; it gives you another set of eyes for looking at your own life. We often hear people saying how much better they feel after helping others, but it’s still hard to do when we’re so focused on ourselves. Remember, a lot of people out there feel lonely. When you connect with them, you remedy that loneliness in others and yourself at the same time.
Read, Watch, Listen
Luckily, people everywhere have recorded their wisdom and perspectives on life and solutions to countless problems. Learning from them is one of the best ways to expand your perspective. If you have a problem, chances are someone has the solution and it’s sitting on google or Amazon.com right now. For example, if you want to connect with others more, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is a classic in self-improvement books. Its message is in line with the recommendations to practice seeing from others’ perspectives. It will guide you in-depth on how to connect with others by seeing things from and focusing on their perspective.
In addition to reading, I recommend watching movies and reading books from people of different cultures and perspectives.
Do the above, and you’ll probably find that fear, anxiety, insecurity will start to diminish. Like I said, there are many things that go into a problem, but expanding your perspective is one of the best ways to get out of a rut.