When I first saw the TED talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie titled “The Danger of a Single Story,” it occurred to me how little I pay attention to my perspective in everyday life and simultaneously how integral it is in forming my identity. Throughout the talk, Adichie highlights the extent to which exposure to one side of a story results in countless biases against people and things when growing up — a habit which she struggled to unlearn.
The fact is that we encounter perspective through work we do every day. From the moment we wake up in the morning to when we go to sleep at night, we constantly have to make decisions that assess angles. More often than not, we assume that the choices we make are minor, unless they are life-altering things like picking a college or a job, in which we are aware of the severe implications they might have on either our present or our future.
At the same time, decisions like what clothes to wear in the morning or what to eat at mealtimes, how we choose to go about our days and even what to consume on social media have a lot more impact than merely being an aspect of our daily routines. The actions we deem as tiny contribute to a significant part of our identity, as well as our place in society and the rest of the world. We will never fully understand our individual actions that contribute to our stories and the stories around us if we do not acknowledge our own biases and listen to other perspectives.
Additionally, what we choose to consume in the media alters our political thoughts and views, whether we know it or not. Similarly to how our expression through fashion contributes to our overall aesthetics, all of our choices impact how people perceive us. If we lack a basic understanding of why people do what they do, this gives us a limited scope for how to go about co-existing with others. In a broader sense, our choices speak to how well we’re able to relate with other people daily.
However, it is essential to note that applying open-mindedness to situations is not a justification for morally and humanely wrong action. No one should be allowed to do wrong by others or justify their harmful bias. Instead, we should embrace other people’s perspectives in order to combat our own bias. Being open-minded and welcoming to all perspectives does not allow for people to force their perspectives on others nor should it pressure someone to explain their own personal choices for self-expression. If a person chooses to dress a certain way or listen to a particular genre of music, they should not be forced to explain themselves.
That being said, nothing is ever as clear-cut and straightforward as we make it out to be. Although examining both sides to a subject is an essential skill for decision-making and therefore, forming identities, there is also always a grey area that we overlook and hardly pay attention to. Thus, perspective goes beyond the “yes or no” and “black or white” binary that we perceive it to be.