one of the blogs i follow had this title to her blog for today and her topic really intrigued me. well, not so much the topic, but the comment that it spawned from me. very basically, her post was about how people have misconceptions about how/who she is because of her personality (being shy around strangers) and being surprised when she really opens up and shows a different side of herself. that got me to thinking about common misconceptions have had about me in the past (though it really seems not so much anymore). i wanted to elaborate more on the question in my comment to her, but thought i would just blog about it instead.
so the question i posed to her was: if people are going to misjudge who you are anyway, is it better to be thought of as a “judgmental, teetotaling, humorless prude” or an “obnoxious, rude, loud-mouthed, brash, aggressive butch (yes, butch is intended there, though bitch could also be adequately substituted as well)”?
the obvious ‘i don’t want to take sides’ answer is that i’d rather that no one has misconceptions about me, that they always understand who i am and what i’m about from the very first time we meet and that they either like me or don’t like me because of who i ACTUALLY am and not who they THINK i am.
i’m not going to leave it at that ‘i don’t want to take sides’ answer, but you all knew that already.
to be thought of as the first, obviously, has positives and negatives. the upside, people think that you’re basically a good, sweet person who’s nice and pure and all that. the downside, though, is obviously much larger and MUCH less pleasant. because you don’t engage in any questionable behavior, you believe that no one else should and therefore, you look down on them building up your superiority as a better person than they are. you also don’t know how to have fun, even if you wanted to, and if you DID want to have fun, you probably think that fun is playing a game of ‘who can count their hair the fastest’ or ‘how long can we sit here without saying anything’ or some equally lame-duck game. in addition, you have no sense of humor, everything is taken at face value and smiles are produced only when people do things pleasing to you or accomplish something great (as long as it’s not under the table or takes time away from your family or means you have to lie or anything like that because people should only be successful if they’ve really, really earned it). you also don’t like sex, talking about it, thinking about it, nothing that brings physical pleasure is good, so you also take GREAT care to stay away from the opposite sex.
now… it’s entirely possible that i’ve blown this way of out of proportion and made it sound really terrible. or, it’s equally possible that this is how some people are perceived because they act in a manner that might put it off. it’s possible that shy (or otherwise socially inhibited) people are judged to be like that. because they’re shy. they’re not sure how to act. they don’t want to draw attention to themselves. they don’t like being the center of attention. somehow, something that is a personality difference or personality style becomes a character defect.
to be thought of as the latter, of course is equally bad and unflattering. you don’t know how to watch your mouth or hold your tongue, everything you say is intentionally offensive to people. you purposely try to push everyone away or at least to push their buttons because you find it to be humorous. you talk too loud because you feel that everyone should be able to hear you at all times since you have important things to say. you speak insensitively toward everyone because you could not possibly care less about their feelings. you try to take too much, ask too much from people, push subordinates too far, expect too much from people, get in people’s faces, demand explanations, expect perfection. you also don’t wear dresses or heels, so you must be an angry lesbian*. the upside is that you know what you want, you go for it, and you don’t let garbage and insignificant things (pettiness) get in the way.
again, it’s possible that i blew this out of proportion. it’s possible that i’ve read too much into things. it’s possible that a personality style or difference has once again been labeled a character defect.
i’m not saying that people who misunderstand are the bad guys, either. we ALL have done it. we ALL have misjudged, mislabeled, and misconstrued something someone has said. we ALL have come to a faulty conclusion about someone, either for the better or for the worse. we as human beings all try to figure people out, to respond to social cues given out by others. we all know scripts that we should go by and when someone doesn’t follow that script, we take the clues we’re given and categorize them according to our experiences. maybe the last ‘shy’ person was actually a judgmental, teetotaling, humorless prude. maybe the last confident person was actually an obnoxious, rude, loud-mouthed, brass, aggressive, angry lesbian. the truth is, we never really know who someone is. humans are incredibly complex beings. we are constantly learning new things, even about those to whom we are closest. to expect to be able to understand someone based on a few social cues is unrealistic. to expect to know all they are in a year is equally foolish.
so if i’m going to be misunderstood, which would i prefer? i guess, if i had to pick, i’d rather be misunderstood as the one that is closer to who i am in reality. if my self-confidence comes off as arrogance to someone, i’d rather be thought of as arrogant. i’d rather be seen as someone to not mess with, to not drag through the mud. i’d rather be seen as someone who will stand up for herself even if that means i get mistaken for an angry lesbian. heck, or even a crazy radical, man-hating feminist. but of course, they’re all lesbians too, so…
through this ‘verbal’ processing, i’m realizing how important it is to try to limit the judgments and labels we place on people who don’t know. at the very least, it’s so important to remember that each person is that, a person. they are just as complex as i am even if they come off as very simple or naive or stupid. it’s important to remember that everyone has value – everyone is EQUALLY valuable. even when personalities differ, when values differ, when opinions or beliefs differ, mental or physical ability, anything that makes people different. maybe instead of seeing them as defects, we should see them as the things that create value in people, the things that make them unique and valuable. to see them as positives and not negatives. everyone has been misjudged and misunderstood. maybe the most effective tool to fighting this is not to get angry but to become educated and knowledgeable.
what are some ways that people have misjudged or misconceived you?