So if you couldn’t tell by now, Dr. Brené Brown has had a huge impact on my life ever since I discovered her five years ago. Her research and discoveries are what have shaped the majority of my views on kindness and empathy, so surprise, today’s blog is about another one of her ideas and how it relates to kindness!
In Dr. Brown’s book, Rising Strong, she discusses what happens to us when we inevitably fail in our lives and how we can cultivate wholeheartedness through rising strong after our fall. A part of this process includes her idea of recognizing that maybe… just maybe… everyone in this world is simply just doing their best.
This is a mindset I adopted into my life about three years ago and yet again, it has been one of the hardest but most worthwhile decisions I have ever made. This mindset is incredibly difficult to foster because it requires us to see the best in everyone, which is a lot easier said than done. It requires us to humble ourselves and realize that the world isn’t out to get us, people are simply trying to live their lives to the best of their ability, just like you are. However, when we truly feel that we have been wronged by someone, this mindset can feel impossible to uphold. We may even believe that these people don’t deserve our benefit of the doubt.
This is exactly what I mean when I say choosing kindness can be the more difficult choice to make. In these situations, you may feel as though these people don’t deserve your benefit of the doubt, but wouldn’t you want them to give you theirs if the roles were reversed? Think about times where you’ve thought, “If only these people knew I was having a bad day,” or “If only these people knew what I was going through right now.” So yes, they have wronged you, but who says they don’t deserve your benefit of the doubt? I believe our “eye-for-an-eye” society is partially to blame for this.
When I tell people about this mindset, one comment I receive a lot is, “but that’s simply not true, not everyone is trying their best all of the time.” With this mindset, it’s not about if the assumption is true or not, it’s about shaping your actions towards other people based on this assumption alone. Coming from experience, this is extremely difficult in the beginning, but I promise the more you practice it the easier it gets. A strategy I like to use is making up stories as to why people are behaving a certain way. For example: if someone just cut me off in traffic, my immediate reaction is to flip them the bird; instead of doing this, what I do is I pause and think about why they may be in such a hurry. Maybe their wife is in labour and they need to rush to the hospital, or they’re super eager to go pick up a loved one from the airport! This not only controls my anger towards that person, but also changes my attitude by helping me assume that they’re just doing their best. Making up positive stories about people’s negative behaviour is literally what gets me through the day without having a mental breakdown sometimes. You never know, those stories just might be true.
Adopting this mindset three years ago not only helped me release the anger and frustration I held towards people (and the thought that the world was out to get me), it also helped me become a kinder person. When we carry this mindset with us throughout our day, our sense of empathy for others grows exponentially. Everyone you pass by and interact with is going through something, even if they don’t show it. If everyone kept this in mind, I think more people would think twice before acting out of anger, and more people would choose kindness. What if everyone is just doing their best?