Many of us feel appreciated and accepted by our loved ones, colleagues, teachers, supervisors, families and communities when we work towards the greater good, helping others and enabling others to feel happier about their lives.
Often, this is only so when things go right.
I feel that people are less attuned to appreciate or accept what we have done when things go wrong. People start blaming one another. We see this in real life and reel life, we see this in reality programs where team members blame each other, we see this in the classroom where students are blamed when they got things wrong (in the midst of setting things right) and we see this in the workplace where employees are chastised because something went wrong (in the midst of them trying to get things done and setting things right). We seems to be living in a society where we have a strong preference for getting things right in the first place and an intense lack of tolerance for individuals caught in the situation of “messing thing up” (while all the time ignoring [sometimes by choice] of the previous things that these individuals have got it right or the contributions that they have made). In another words, we seem to futilely pursue the art of perfectionism when we should be embracing others’ mistakes so that they are able to learn from them.
The question is why?
This is a vital question, especially in the classroom and in the workplace. This is especially so in societies where teamwork are valued and emphasised. If the level of acceptance and appreciation is low in a team, then how does a team excel in their project, not to mention function properly? It is almost not possible. From my experience, below are some of the common reasons why acceptance and appreciation is low in some if not most societies:
- Societal/Corporate trends: While much can be attributed to our upbringing, it’s undeniable that a substantial portion of what produces and sustains our mindset to scrutinise and criticise is due to societal and corporate trends. As the adage goes, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”. I have recently attended an educational conference and a professor has stated that most educators often emulate their teaching style after their teachers, which not be an ideal case. Thus, it’s not surprising that our supervisors in the workplace may be emulating their superiors or predecessors (whom the supervisors have taken over their position), who may – at times- not prove to be appropriate role models. And when society moves towards a trend of scepticism and criticism, most of us will probably be swept along by these waves and eventually drowned in the sea of damnation. This is more so for society whose emphasis is more focused on the sciences (where everything has to be made quantifiable and measurable). In the words of a typical corporate executive, I believe this is called a “KPI-based” or performance-based approach. Some supervisors in the workplace believe in quality and not quantity. They believe only in the final product, value the employee who gets productivity in the workplace and criticises employees who put in much more effort but gets less than the desired results. We see this often in sales. But do we get excellent products/outcomes without putting in the necessary (and often sustained) effort? I believe that Rome wasn’t built in a day. And not all elements can be measured. How do we measure elements such as “happiness”, “creativity”, “love” and pertaining closer to the classroom, “passion for teaching”? Some things in life are just not quantifiable. This is one fallacy of a results-oriented society which pushing for constant progress but may be failing miserably in its endeavours. And the root cause of its failure lies in its inability to accept and appreciate others who aspires to work for the greater good.
- “Self-centric” model: Most of us in contemporary times have developed a mindset of thinking for only ourselves, something I call a “self-centric” mindset. Please note that this model is different from being selfish, which means a callous disregard for the well-being of others in the pursuit of the well-being of oneself. A person who is self-centric does care for others but prioritises himself or herself above others. It can be observed that the media and the advertising industry have a large part to play in creating this model. In a bid to increase consumerism, they have advertently or inadvertently created a somewhat individualistic culture whereby self comes before others. I have even seen an advertisement whereby a protagonist is portrayed in various scenes getting what he/she wants whenever he/she wants it. Although availability of good and service is what the advertisements want to portray, I believe it’s the message that “I get what I want whenever I want” that the audience takes away. This works against the treasured value of volunteerism and altruism, with the rates of volunteers declining over the years in some countries. Most societies – especially the more developed ones- have developed a “what’s in it for me mentality?” This is because the media and advertisers have – either advertently or inadvertently- empower the consumers (in a bid to increase their purchases) up to the point where most consumers feel that they have a right to have some kinds of benefits whenever they consume something. If they purchase a car, they have a right to have a good driving experience. If they purchase a new house, they have a right to feel comfortable in it. If they purchase a book, they have a right to get a copy of great quality. Life becomes a series of (business) transactions, and unfortunately, marriages too (“if I get married, I have a right to feel happy in this marriage and it’s my partner’s responsibility”). This perception is further reinforced by Oliver James’s “Affluenza”, where people are now defining their survival and level of happiness by their wants and not their needs, which is indeed regrettable and devastatingly damaging to the well-being of a society, any society.
- Comparison: Dan Gilbert’s talk on the impact of “comparison” in our lives is indeed insightful. Indeed, we gauge the quality of most things in our lives through comparison. Any apple is a good and edible apple, until a fresher one arrives that is. Any car is a great car, unless a Rolls Royce or BMW comes along that is. Any clothes are wearable, until a fashion model comes to town to tell us about haute culture. Comparison is impacting our lives very greatly in our contemporary society. And unfortunately, negatively as well. In the classroom, a student is compared to other students and if he or she fails to live up to expectations (often of the parent’s or their teacher’s and not their own), they are often either ostracised or ignored. “Not cut out for great things” is what some educators/parents say. But look at the great people in this world. Some of them do not have great educations or have great personalities. But they achieve great things. In the workplace, an employee gets a bad appraisal for not getting great results as compared to another employee who achieves that. But the first employee has put in much more effort and to me, this is what really matters, what is really great. This is one of the primary reasons why the level of acceptance and appreciation is low in some societies, because they compare. And the more developed the country, the more likely that this is indeed the case (because people have more things to compare). A lady/ man is not good-looking because he/she is compared to a model. Cleaners are not wealthy because they are compared to the millionaires or the engineer next door. An employee is not good in his work performance because his/her colleagues have done better. If we were to look at each individual as a unique, distinct and special person, they are beautiful. We just have to accept them as they are. Duality reduces the level of acceptance and appreciation in us and we should strive in every moment of our lives to eliminate it. Once duality falls, we will have one less obstacles in appreciating and accepting others.
- Projecting our future based on our past rather than on possibilities: In Dan Gilbert’s talk above, he has mentioned that we tend to project our future based on our past and not on our possibilities. This is true since it’s easier to visualise something familiar to us or at least something we have experienced than creating something out of nowhere. We can do a little exercise. Let’s close our eyes and think of a beautiful lady or a handsome man. Now, after you have visualised this, examine the faces that you have imagined. Does that look familiar to you? It usually does because what our mind can conceive often remains constricted within our life experiences through our five senses- what we have seen, heard, smelled, tasted and touched. I will like to add the element of thought as well. Whenever we experience something in life, it creates positive/negative imprints on them and they are often indelible. Although in recent years, through the integration of science and spirituality, scientists are beginning to realise that we can somewhat rewire our “neuro circuits” in our brains, but it takes time. Sometimes lots of it. And since this endeavour requires tons of resilience and determination (considering that we are creatures of habit and creating a different “neuro-pathways” requires consistent effort), many of us thus choose to do what the masses do: projecting our future on our past. Along a similar vein, we also project someone’s future based on their past. This explains why most ex-convicts encounter issues integrating into society. Some members of society consider the convicts’ future as somewhat bleak because of what they have done. They thus experience a strong reluctance to accept or appreciate the convicts’ efforts to rejoin society. Thus here is an opportune time to highlight this: People can change, for better or for worse depending on their lives’ circumstances. If we were to accept others’ past and appreciate their effort to do the greater good to make this world a better place, then these individuals will strive to fulfill your positive expectations. While personally, I am not one who supports the imposing of expectations, this is one of the instances where I support it since it enables someone to be a better person because there are people in the world who believe in them and expects them to do great in this world.
I believe that we are all able to identify with the abovementioned points and I believe that all of you have the abilities to identify other underlying causes behind the low level of acceptance and appreciation in society based on your personal experiences. The purpose of this article is not to list all the causes but rather, to use the identified caused to highlight the negative effects of not appreciating and accept someone when they are trying their best to be good.
We all do not like others to see our flaws, so why do we not start by looking at others’ strengths instead, appreciating and accepting them?
Only then can we love others as a person.