So for the last year and a half, I’ve heard and even joined in on a lot of conversations about being open-minded and what it even means. However, I come from a background where nobody even knew what being open-minded was. We simply developed our beliefs, stuck with them, and fought tooth and nail (literally, if we had to) for them.

But moving out of that setting into one which houses people from over 30 countries, conversations​ around diversity, inclusion, and the need for open-mindedness could not be escaped. Don’t get me wrong. These are conversation which we needed (and still need) to have. In spaces were people have differing backgrounds, personalities, paradigms, and perspectives, it’s essential for one to have an open mind which would allow one to fully and truly interact with others non-judgmentally.

However, I’ve come to see a difference between open-mindedness, and jellyfish-mindedness.

P.S. for those who don’t know, a jelly fish is a fish (duh?) which swims in whichever direction the water current swerves it in.

Jellyfish-mindedness is the mindless absorption of differing opinions, beliefs, paradigms, ways of life etc.

Yes, I came up with the compound word: ‘jellyfish-mindedness’

Recently, I began to question the concept of open-mindedness until I realised that the problem was not the concept itself, but the twisting of the concept by confused people.

How have we misunderstood open-mindedness?

Open-mindedness is not a tool which facilitates our “fitting in”

Very often, we tend to be ‘open-minded’ as we entertain new ways of thinking, new beliefs, new ways of life in our minds and in our lives, but for the wrong purposes. From my observation, most of us do this to simply fit in and not to openly learn about ways different from ours and reassess ours for the purpose of becoming better versions of ourselves. In our scramble to ‘fit in’, we mindlessly adopt beliefs that are popular in our present setting regardless of how unpopular they are in the places we were raised. But that’s jellyfish-mindedness. Open-mindedness occurs despite, not as a result of, peer pressure.

Open-mindedness requires critical thinking, not mindless absorption

In most settings, we strive to be seen as open-minded just so that we abstain from “rocking the boat” too vigorously. In the process, we consume whatever we are fed with and completely obliterate our preexisting values, beliefs, and ways of life without even thinking. But again, that’s jellyfish-mindedness. An open-minded person would typically entertain such differing opinions, beliefs, ways of life and measure them against his/her values before accepting them, or even adopting them. In being open-minded, one’s values are the only true yardstick.

Ego is the biggest enemy of open-mindedness

In reassessing our paradigms, ways of life, and so on against the new ones we come across, there’s always that tendency to believe that our own beliefs are superior. In this case, we are simply large masses of superiority complexes strutting about aimlessly blinded by our own fear of shame at the admission of the inferiority of our prior beliefs. We cannot be fully open to entertain differing opinions and beliefs if we let the egocentric voices in our heads convince us that, no matter what, our beliefs are always right. We need to let go of our egos to be fully open-minded.

Open-mindedness is not linear

Open-mindedness is a not a journey. There isn’t a final destination. It’s an unending process of confrontation, analysis, iteration, and change. But more importantly, it’s a way of life. It’s a way of life. For me, it’s a value. Why? I know that my upbringing raised me to see the world through a very tiny pinhole. What open mindedness allows me to do is to widen that hole and selectively choose the lenses with which I view the world. It’s a constant process for me because as I immerse myself into more cosmopolitan settings, I’m constantly forced to reevaluate my paradigms. Sometimes, I do. Sometimes, I don’t. But that does not in any way alter my degree of open-mindedness.

In summary:

  1. Jellyfish-mindedness is the mindless absorption of differing opinions, beliefs, paradigms, ways of life etc.
  2. Open mindedness is the lifestyle of constantly reevaluating ones opinions, beliefs, paradigms, ways of life, etc. against one’s values as one is exposed to various situations which challenge the preexisting ones.
  3. Open-mindedness should not be used as a tool we use to ‘fit in’.
  4. In being open-minded, we must weigh new ideas and beliefs against our values and not simply adopting them because they “make sense.”
  5. We can’t be truly open-minded if we do not let go of our superiority complex.
  6. Open-mindedness is a way of life, not a journey.
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