A matter of perspective

When accused of looking at things narrowly, step back, broaden the frame, and zoom out

April 13, 2020 01:01 am | Updated 01:01 am IST



“You’re blowing it out of proportion!”

This is something we often get told, when we are very upset or angry about something, or when we are focusing too hard on what to others seems a small matter. As children, we are disappointed easily, heartbroken when a favourite toy breaks, and miserable when we can’t get what we want. As teenagers, we take losses hard and think it is the end of the world when one’s best friend moves away. It is not easy to see beyond our own immediate experience and context, and what you are going through at that moment seems to be all-important.

As we grow older, we develop the capacity to see beyond our individual circumstances, and are able evaluate events and issues on a broader level — or at least, that is what we should be able to do. In practice, this is easier said than done. And it is easier to do with some things than with others. We may not cry over broken toys any more, and we may recover much more quickly when friends part ways after college or when we move to new jobs, but it is still difficult to deal with deeper cuts — such as failure in a course or physical injuries or getting fired from a job.

Cope with disappointment

Developing perspective is about trying to see beyond the present moment, and to place your immediate experience against the broader landscape of your life. It gives you a way of moving on from the intensity of that disappointment or grief, and gaining strength from the notion that things may not be so bad after all, or that things could have been worse.

Let’s say you have applied for a particular programme and you did not make it. If this is something you have worked really hard for and had set your heart on, of course you are going to be disappointed, and there is nothing wrong in feeling bad about it... for a while. Then, you need to pick yourself up and think about your next course of action. This is where it helps to take the long view. Think about where you are in life, and what other opportunities exist, perhaps not in the next week or month, but in a few months, maybe even a year. In your late teens or early 20s, a year may seem like a lot, but in the full expanse of your life, it is not a long time. In this case, perspective is about seeing your life and the full possibility of opportunities, in the span of years, not weeks or months.

When you are faced with choices that seem difficult too, it helps to apply a broader perspective to help you with your decision. Will choosing a particular option work, in the long run, or is it going to give you short-term satisfaction? What is more important to you at this point in time? Thinking about things from multiple angles can help you enter into a decision with a clearer sense of the consequences.

When you are accused of blowing things out of proportion, it is a suggestion that you are giving things more importance than they deserve. It means you are thinking too narrowly, that you need to step back a bit, and look at it differently. That is what perspective is about — broadening the frame, and zooming out.

The writer teaches at the University of Hyderabad and edits Teacher Plus. usha.bpgll@gmail.com

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