We Only See The Surface Of People’s Lives

Daily Thoughts


Have you ever walked in the underground subway, stood waiting at the red light or passed the streets of the city and felt as if everyone’s face looked blank and emotionless? Sometimes I wonder how each person sees the world around them. The video below shows how in the hard times or small moments, we have the choice on what we focus on. It reminds us to think about how every person is going through something in their life, that we cannot possibly imagine, assume or judge. Everyone feels. We have the choice and decision to how we see a situation and how we feel about it in our own life. That’s the real freedom.

There are so many things happening all around the world every second of the day. Every person experiencing those moments in different ways. There are people who are truly going through heartbreaking and painful times, but you would never see it. There are those who complain and get angry at people, but have so much to be grateful for in their lives. But they don’t see it. The truth is, with most people that we aren’t personally and deeply close with, we barely scratch the surface. No matter how many hundreds of photos someone may have online or the way they appear, we can’t really imagine what each person is going through. We are therefore reminded to have empathy and awareness.

“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?” ― David Foster Wallace, This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life. He explains “The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about….The fact is that in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance.”

We don’t often hear about empathy, and we don’t see it talked about or expressed. In that sense, we really see the world from ourselves, and place ourselves at the centre of our world by prioritising how we feel or what we do in our life. It’s a natural human behaviour. It’s the truth in so many ways, yet this video explains it very well, while reminding us of how to look at things differently. There is much more to it beyond the surface. The person that accidentally bumped you on the street might be rushing home to make dinner for their child. The person who is being very slow at the cashier while you wait in line, may have recently felt a personal loss. In our lives, we get to consciously decide how we see things.

Art by Yelena Bryksenkova

7 thoughts on “We Only See The Surface Of People’s Lives

  1. Very well-written. When times are bad, it is easy to think that everyone’s life is going well. Everyone except ourselves. Often, many people hide behind their smiles and we don’t know the story behind that smile. Thanks for this piece.

  2. This post is really introspective, and the video… it’s a great way to say “hey, you are not the center of the universe, and you CAN look at every single thing in a positive/different mindset even if you feel that you’re stuck in this eternal rat race”.

    1. Thank you Misty. It’s such a great talk isn’t it. A reminder that we all have a choice in our thoughts, feelings and actions in life. There are so many things we can learn from it.

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