Finding Comfort with the Grey Zone
Black or white. All or nothing. Right or wrong. Left or right. Yes or no. Republican or Democrat. Rich or poor. City or country. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The world is full of dichotomies, situations, and labels in which there appear to be only two options available, where we feel we have to pick one or the other and stick to it. But in reality there is a whole spectrum or range of options and possibilities that fall in the middle and most often it is not possible to commit to one or the other completely or all the time. Most often people will only look at the two ends of the spectrum when making a decision, fail to consider all the possibilities that may lie in between, and assume that they have to pick between what appears to be the only two options. Yes, many decisions and situations would be a lot easier if there were just two options, but more often than not, it is not that simple or even possible.
So why do we feel that we have to pick one side or label and ignore or avoid the middle grey zone or feel uncomfortable there? It’s simple, we want things to be easy and comfortable, and probably most often, we go with what is “right” or popular. It is easier to decide between only two alternatives rather than several, go with the option or situation that society deems “correct,” chose the one we know what the outcomes or consequences will be, or be set in our ways and opinions. It is human nature to be drawn to what is easy, familiar, common, or has worked well in the past rather than take a risk or chance, which might make you different, uncertain, unlabeled, worried, or worst of all make you feel like you failed. There is often fear or anxiety of the unknown, trying something new with the possibility of failure, going against the mainstream, or being in the middle undefined grey zone. But when you really think about all the decisions you make, all the situations you are in, all the possibilities you have, are they really ever black and white? Are you ever really completely set one way or the other? Do you really want to have a set of labels attached to you forever, unable to change them? Is it really always possible to stay fixed on one end of the spectrum and not change your opinions, beliefs, or values over time? The answer on most occasions is likely “no.”
If you aren’t able to feel comfortable in the undefined or middle grey zone, take risks and chances, being different, being yourselves, you will miss opportunities for new experiences, learning, growth, and opportunity. You could potentially be missing out on life in general, trying to adhere to what society, media, family, or friends tell you, you “should” decide or who you should be. It is okay to not be be on the end of a spectrum all of the time, have a label, or have it all figured out. It is better to live a fluid authentic life than a fixed unauthentic one.
Understand that life is always changing and you are unique. There is no one else out there like you, and that is a great thing. People are change, situations change, environments change, YOU change, change is inevitable. So even if we were able to make the black and white decision at one point, chances are something is going to change and that will no longer be the case. Living in the grey zone, being more flexible and adaptable, being true to ourselves, having a wider range of options and possibilities will only help when challenged with change, something new, or figuring out who we are. Learn to embrace change, think about alternatives, and how you consider yourself and who you want to be. When presented a choice or defining situation, look at the options and determine if it really is one or the other, all or nothing, if you have to be defined. It is hard to be different and follow the beat of our own drummer, but being in the grey zone is where all the magic really happens. Be you, be grey!
Written by Kara Thompson-Miller, Licensed Clinical Social Worker: January 2023 “Why is it so hard to like my body?”: A unassumingly complex question that has been asked by many clients in many different variations, but one that, nonetheless, tends…Read More
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