I was driving my son to daycare today, dressed in gym shorts and a t-shirt, my hair and makeup undone. And I caught myself worrying about what the daycare teachers would think of me.
As I got back home and was walking my dog, I was contemplating how we do this all the time. We make snap judgments about people based on their appearance.
And those judgments are clouded by our own life experiences and biases.
We look at another person and size them up [literally] based on their body size, shape and what they're wearing. Now, sure, all of this might say something about the person — but we don't know what it says without getting to know them.
Maybe the fat person in the waiting room at the dentist office has a family history of larger bodies, or has an eating disorder, or has yo-yo dieted their whole life – which is a known predictor of weight gain, or has lost 100 lbs. through bariatric surgery and despite still being in a larger body is smaller than they used to be. Maybe this person feels terrible about their body because of the stigma they encounter every day. Or maybe this person is a body positive fat activist.
Maybe the extremely thin person sitting next to you on the airplane is traveling to MD Anderson Cancer Center for treatment, or just has a really high metabolism, or has an eating disorder, or is an athlete whose sport keeps them lean, or has a genetic disorder, or is suffering from severe depression and has no appetite.
Maybe the disheveled mom dressed in shorts and a t-shirt had a rough morning, or is going to the gym, or is going home to get dressed up and head in to the office, or is going home to mow the lawn. Or maybe she's just comfortable in that outfit.
Maybe the homeless person on the corner used to be a successful businessman who lost everything, or is a war veteran, or suffers from severe and untreated mental illness, or was born and raised in poverty, or was crippled by medical debt (the most common cause of bankruptcy BTW).
Maybe the tattooed guy walking past you on the street is a surgeon who will someday operate on you and save your life, or maybe he's a tattoo artist, or an IT worker, or a drug dealer, or a thug, or the father of 3 kids, or the pastor at a church.
The point is, we don't know. Not without getting to know the person and their story. So be curious about the judgments you make, and take some time to contemplate alternate scenarios. You'll start to see that there's so much we don't know about each other.
When we make assumptions we limit ourselves to the opportunity to truly get to know someone. People all around us have something to offer the world if we just give them a chance. Snap judgments dehumanize others around us. How about humanizing each other more often?
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