We mostly find ourselves living in our own heads, with our social, cultural and environmental backgrounds shaping and forming our values, beliefs and biases. The fact of the matter is, we actually live in a vast world with people -with endless combinations of characters- people who see the world through different eyes, and therefore have different sets of opinions than yours.
The term ‘open-minded’ reflects one’s ability to detach from their own beliefs and opinions and immerse themselves in those of others to understand their viewpoints. It means not letting your biases stop you from considering other people’s thoughts, which may be completely different from yours, as perhaps thought-provoking or worth pondering over.
As is our habit, we, Egyptians, tend to cherry pick the aspects we want from supposedly western ideologies and leave out the rest, and the term ‘open-minded’ has come to be synonymous with a certain set of stereotypical behaviours and lifestyles. Here’s what I, as an Egyptian who thrives to be open-minded in our society, believe the term ‘open-minded’ does and does not entail:
Being Open-Minded Is Not Synonymous With Promiscuity
Whereas many seem to think that being open-minded equates being licentious or immodest, I firmly hold my ground that it does not. One can be promiscuous and close-minded, simply because they cannot accept the opinions of others about certain subjects as respectful viewpoints.
The general notion or stereotype that is prevalent in our Arab society seems to be that being open-minded means that you’re ‘up to no good’. It seems to entail negative assumptions and associations, for some reason.
I believe that part-taking in any deviant behaviour, however you might define what deviant behaviour is, does not mean you’re ‘open-minded.’
Clothing and Appearance Have Little to Do with Open-Mindedness
Your choice of attire can never be a stamp of approval, or your easy way to be labelled as ‘open-minded’. One can be either close-minded or open-minded whether they choose to wear as little clothing as possible, or be covered head to toe. It’s all about how you train your mind to function, and not about your clothing preference.
Just Because I’m Open-Minded Doesn’t Mean I Will Agree With You
Yes, I will listen to what you have to say, and yes I will consider things from your point of view, but does that mean that I will act as a sponge, taking in all your opinions and being 100% convinced with them? Nope, not at all. Open-mindedness is about showing readiness to listen and understand but not to necessarily agree.
Being Open-Minded Does Not Mean You’re Naturally Always Mindfully Flexible
Being open-minded requires constant training, and allowing yourself to step outside of both your mental, and sometimes physical comfort zone. Open-minded people are not born that way, it’s a quality that is nurtured and not naturally given. Yes, I will sometimes struggle to understand other people’s judgements and choices, and yes I may sometimes be overwhelmed by others’ thoughts and feel the need to take a step back. It’s all about practice.
It’s Okay to Question Your Own Values At Times
I personally see us, humans, as infinite works in progress; constantly learning, growing and changing. Therefore, it’s completely natural that when you open your mind to infinite possibilities and view points, to question things you felt were concrete before. It does not mean you’re weak or that everything you know was built on cracked grounds; it means that nothing in life, especially human thoughts, is set in stone.
All in all, being open-minded starts and ends with how much you open up your mind to new possibilities and how receptive and understanding you feel towards perspectives that may contradict your own. It does not, as many people in our society seem to believe, entail certain clothing choices, or a certain set of behaviours.