Put Yourself in Somebody Else’s Shoes

I am neither a professional writer, nor am I somebody qualified to take advice from. But there is a principle that has been dawning on me lately more than ever and it never fails to amaze me how effective it is if applied mindfully and consciously.

We live in a world that is built upon the foundations of social interaction and consequently we are dependent on one another. The basis of social acceptance is subject to many factors and unfortunately, quite often, social ties are predicated on factors that are discriminating and sometimes rooted in a massive lack of awareness.

But what if I told you I have a solution for anybody whose intent is to get rid of pre-judgemental tendencies, a method that potentially eliminates ones biggest vice?

It’s quite simple: Put yourself in somebody else’s shoes.

It sounds so obvious, yes almost self-evident, but in reality, almost nobody makes use of this method. You can see the lack of it’s usage in every aspect of life, from politics to consumer behaviour and most importantly, social interactions.

“Put yourself in somebody else’s shoes.”

Let me expand on that by providing some examples.

I recently became a vegetarian. Don’t freak out now, I think by applying the aforementioned method you’ll understand exactly why I chose this path.

See, animals are like humans, they have emotions, they have feelings and just because of the fact that we are not able to communicate with them in a way that makes us aware of their emotional intelligence, we have accepted the fact that they are nothing else but a means to provide us humans with food. We have become emotionally detached from our immediate surroundings and often times we don’t give our actions second thought, mostly because we have grown so accustomed to the workings of life. We try to satisfy our own wants and needs, after all, meat makes our taste buds go crazy, it feels good, that’s all we care about. From a meat-eater’s perspective, the one and only argument for consuming animal products is that they simply taste good. Of course they are a source of nutrients, but those nutrients come at a huge cost.

We have become emotionally detached from our immediate surroundings.

Now, if we were to apply the PYSES (Put Yourself in Somebody Else’s Shoes) method consciously, we would see that our excessive consumption of meat truly is a purely selfish behaviour. I challenge you to put yourself in a cow’s shoes. Let me help you with that: You are born in a barn, stuck into a box that you can barely move in and fed stuff that you aren’t even supposed to eat on a daily basis. You have no freedom, there is (quite literally) no room for your personal endeavours and the stuff you are fed makes you magically grow out of proportion. You are born into spacial confinement and who the hell cares what you have to say, we don’t understand your primitive sounds, moo as much as you want…

Does that sound like a worthy life? I guess not.

See, putting yourself in their shoes makes you see the world in a different light. In order for this to be effective, try to really live through their situation in your mind including the feelings and emotions that they go through.

If you ask kids where their meat is from, they tell you where it’s obviously from — the supermarket. Little do they now, those meatballs actually originated in a business, one that lives off of animal cruelty and the goal of maximising profits.

Here is another example:

Let’s assume I had the opportunity to interview Mr Trump. Here’s how it would go:

Me: What boxes did you tick shortly before you were born Mr Trump ?

Trump: Eh… what?

Me: You know, the short questionnaire everyone is presented with shortly before they pop out…

Trump: What are you talking about ?

Me: Oh, you must be one of the few who did not have the opportunity to voice their preferred way of life, how unfortunate. I ticked the box that said “white” and just to make it a little more interesting, I chose parents from different continents. Did not want them to be wealthy. It’s more fun that way. And here is the kicker: I also chose them to marry in a completely different country, just to add some spice.

Trump: Where are you going with this ?

Mr Trump has been in the news quite a lot lately about his views, there is no question about that. But what exactly drives his ongoing antisocial and discriminative remarks ? I’d say he doesn’t know or is just incapable of applying PYSES. The hypothetical interview I conducted illustrates the fact that Donald is not aware of the fact that you cannot choose where and how you are born and the subsequent circumstances you grow up in.

The recent refugee crisis is a prime example for that. Those who are fortunate enough to have been born in a first world country are never faced with the horrendous circumstances third world countries have to endure on a daily basis or they simply don’t care. We are not only physically detached from them, but also are we not aware of their struggles at all. We focus on our personal “first world problems” and we have become numb to external stimuli. We take our tap water, daily meals and nice fluffy beds for granted. Yet there are millions of people who would die to have just one of the aforementioned luxuries, all while we are busy complaining about delayed flights and shitty wifi on planes. Shitty wifi on planes… Seriously?

If Trump were able to apply PYSES he would see and acknowledge the fact that people and their actions are massively influenced by their circumstances and thus have a more understanding stance. Anybody who applies for a position of power should be able to make use of this principle even if it obviously won’t work in every single situation.

PYSES does not only apply to entities with a pulse though, we can also apply it to our very own planet. Why ? Because planet Earth is our host, and I think we all know that hosts should be treated with a special amount of respect. It’s not a coincidence that we often refer to Earth as “Mother Earth”. Yet we treat her like a garbage can, our selfish needs to be faster (transportation) and stronger (finance & power) are taken out on our beloved planet.

For now, we only have this one place that is willing to host us, without her we wouldn’t even have come into existence and therefore the well-being of our host should be in everyone’s interest. Now imagine being the planet, providing your guests with the essential resources they need to survive, how would you feel? Put yourself in your children's shoes and those of your children's children.

I could go on and on but I think by now you get it.

To conclude, PYSES is a powerful, underused but crucial tool for our personal development as well as a means to achieve more personal awareness. I truly believe that championing this method would make this world a much better place.