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What color are your glasses? Thoughts on the power of perspective

Published by Tiffany Jenkins on

We’ve all heard the phrase, “looking at the world through rose-colored glasses”.  It’s typically used to refer to someone who has an all-too-naïve view of a particular situation.  I’m not 100% sure why “rose” was the color choice, but I do know that all of us have life experiences that can “color” our perspective.

Some of us have experienced a great deal of pain in our lives.  We therapists like to refer to this as “trauma”.  Trauma isn’t just battle-fatigue experienced by soldiers returning from the battlefield.  On the contrary, some of us have experienced physical and emotional trauma as a result of abuse (physical, sexual, and/or emotional), natural catastrophe (fire, earthquakes, floods, etc), death of a loved one or loss of a child, chronic substance use, major medical issues, or any number of other harsh life experiences.

If we are not careful, pain will be the only lens through which we are able to view the world around us.  Rather than donning rose-colored glasses, we will have something much worse – something that casts a dark shadow over every life experience and robs us of our joy and our peace.  Choosing to view the world only through the lens of our pain makes us bitter and hardened – unable to receive all the possibilities that await us.

This is not to say that we must dismiss our painful experiences and put on a happy face.  On the contrary!  We have to choose a different lens.  Being naïve opens us up to be victimized but being bitter removes all possibility of victory.  There are other options available to us that allow us to walk fully into our destiny and create for ourselves the lives that we desire.  Two such options are self-love and gratitude.

I’m not sure what color self-love and gratitude are.  If I had to choose, I’d say that they were varying shades of purple.  Purple represents both wisdom and royalty.  Loving ourselves is built on the wisdom that we cannot give what we do not possess.  Self-love, then, is one of the greatest gifts that we can give to the world.  When coupled with gratitude, we are able to skillfully navigate through the pain of our past without blaming ourselves.  We are able to acknowledge the pain without being a slave to it.  We are able to grateful for our survival, and stride into a promising future with our heads held high like the kings and queens we are.  It is not a cure all for what has hurt us, but it provides the strength we need to keep moving forward.

We all have been hurt at some point in our lives (if you haven’t yet, keep living), but the difference between those who can thrive despite their pain and those than seem to collapse under its’ weight is their perspective.  Victor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor who became a psychiatrist, once said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves”.  No one can erase the past, but by choosing to change our perspective, we can alter our futures in new and amazing ways.

What color are YOUR glasses?