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That’s Just the Way I am…Or Am I?

November 13, 2015

By Jacinta Hin

I am watching a movie set in a beautiful landscape, yet tortuously boring. The acting is dull, the dialogues uninteresting. I decide to scratch out the actors so that only the background remains. My eyes scan the screen for nothing in particular. Now and then I catch a fragment of people talking or otherwise engaged. But mostly I see mountains and forest trails and candles and bottles of wine and posh furniture and pine trees and rock formations draped in early morning mist. Within seconds of shifting my focus, the film has turned into a pretty picture book.

When we change our perspective -our focal point-, our experience and perception also change.

The other day I challenged a friend who claimed he had no empathy. I felt compelled to prove him wrong. Empathy is a choice, I offered. Think of someone you care about and put yourself in their shoes. What do you see? Can you feel what they feel? He gave me a bewildered look, not sure what to make of my theory.

I know he has empathy. I’ve seen it in action. I also know he repeatedly has been told that he doesn’t. At some point in his life he bought into the belief that he is indifferent to other people’s feelings. But what if he isn’t?

I don’t believe we are the sum of our self-image and other peoples’ opinions of us. We are so much more. But there again, we are a lazy breed. When was the last time you challenged a decade-old way of looking at things?

“That’s just the way I am”: an easy answer out of any situation. We stop at this habitual point. Repeating the same old approach, sticking to the same old mode of being, seeing and thinking. And, of course, we keep getting the same results, over and over again.

Why are we such sticklers for our default ways? All it really takes is a different outlook. Yet, we struggle to look differently at ourselves and so alter the situations we find ourselves in. Opening up to a new mindset requires curiosity and courage. And a teeny bit of lightness too. Which is hard for many of us. We take ourselves far too seriously. We let fear and unresolved pain dictate behavior. We avoid feeling our feelings. Do I need to go on?

Yet, a change in perspective is always at our disposal. Why not choose a way out of what doesn’t work well or has become musty, and embrace a better way, one that is aligned with who we are and what we want and that opens up pathways to something, or someone, new and more inspiring?

My friend, if you read this, do tap into that wonderful, but unappreciated source of empathy and compassion. I know it’s there. Try it out in small, subtle doses, if that’s all you can muster at first. The world will be a better place just because of your efforts.

Also by Jacinta:

- On Finding Magic and Shifting Gears: a Personal Story

- Be Ready for Life’s Unexpected Turns

- The Art of Moving On


About the author: Jacinta Hin was born in the Netherlands and has been living in Tokyo, Japan, since 1989. Her professional background is in human resources, career management and coaching. She is passionate about helping people, herself included, discover new perspectives of possibility, move to embracing and working with their transitions, and designing and realizing changes aligned with who they truly are and what they truly want from their lives.
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