As I Appear Before You
How do I know who you are? And what do you know about me by looking at me?
As I write this, I’m wearing clothes that need a good wash, my hair is in desperate need of styling, and any makeup I put on earlier today has worn off. I need some groceries, but I hesitate to head to the store. I don’t want to be judged by my appearance. It probably wouldn’t be complimentary.
Yet even at my best, my most cleaned up, there are going to be those who judge me in a negative way.
Just as so many make assumptions about others. We all do it to a certain extent, sum a person up with our first impressions. That quick assessment is based on our beliefs and previous experiences, and is likely to be limited and narrow.
You won’t know me until you talk to me, and even then it will take some time. You won’t know me until you see me in separate circumstances, and most people don’t have that opportunity.
We have our beliefs about others that are tidily summed up in stereotypes. The Germans are stoic, if you’re from Latin America, you’re passionate. There is some truth to those beliefs culturally, but not necessarily for individuals. Each of us has our life experience that shapes our unique personality.
In America, if you’re from the south, you’re a bigot, a racist. Yankees are rude. For that last one, I’ll tell you as someone who’s lived in both southern and northern states there is a more genteel, some might say passive, approach to manners in the south. So in contrast, those from up north do appear rude.
For example, the idea of mirroring someone’s statement to show you understand them is simply not done at the very Southern company I worked for several years ago. It’s considered rude, confrontational. Instead, you should… well, frankly, I never did figure out how you’re supposed to handle it.
And while I wouldn’t call all Southerners racist, there is a remarkable them/us view with many of the people I know born and raised south of the Mason/Dixon line. They don’t see it. In fact, they justify every word of their own beliefs. As do I, with my own beliefs.
There are times when I need to challenge those beliefs. For example, you might arguably say I have some prejudice against those from the southern United States.
We make broad judgments based on a person’s race, ethnicity, gender, manner, clothing, accent, and whatever else we take in during those first seconds of meeting someone. And those judgments stick with us.
Some stubbornly maintain their beliefs, while others are willing to challenge themselves. Some give others a second chance, some are one-and-done.
Some have seen me at my worst, and don’t want to risk knowing me any further. My disappointment at those times is a challenge for me overcome.
People who know me know I’m a caring person, compassionate and kind. They know I’d do anything for my family, and that includes my cats. They know I shrivel up inside at the thought of hurting my friends.
They know other things about me, too. Things I won’t list here, because why spell out my faults?
They have forgiven me my insensitive moments, my selfish moods.
Each of us is complex, even those who seem the most simple. We all can surprise those who think they know us with an unguarded moment.
So who you think you see is not who I am. Nothing is at it appears, no one is as she appears.