I have always thought that if I had a boat, I would name it preconceived notions. It has struck me how much they shape our view of the world. Mostly, I have considered this from the perspective of others looking at me and having some idea of who I am without really getting to know me. Why would someone do that? I have at least one answer. It occurred to me the other day that what I don’t like in others is something I have been doing my whole life.
I am not sure if any of us can help but to have our preconceived notions. I am a firm believer that our perspective shapes our reality. Our experience is shaded by the lenses we look through and those lenses were formed in a large part by our experiences. Two people with different backgrounds can see the same thing entirely differently. One may see an opportunity and the other may see a risk not worth taking, for example. Another thing I am sure of is that outward appearances do not always give you an accurate picture of what is going on.
I have tried to live a safe life and fit in to the labels I thought I should fit into. My dad called me a chameleon once. I did a pretty effective job of fitting into my environment. I was able to get along with a wide variety of people by adapting my behavior. I have met some very interesting people throughout my life because of this. I have managed to get to know people ranging from top business people, a burlesque dancer, struggling actors and artists, award winning musicians and even a few members of a motorcycle gang. I am sure I developed this skill for a reason that served me well at the time but maybe that time is over now.
What I have very recently seen is that, while this skill has led to some interesting times in my life, it also leads me to have those preconceived notions about others. Just the thing I don’t want others to do when they meet me is the very thing I have to do in order to try to “fit in.” I must form a quick opinion about someone based on looks and maybe a few words or a little bit of background in order to change who I am to get along with them. I don’t even realize I am doing this most of the time. My judgments of them are based solely on my perceptions and past experiences. I am using my lenses to color them without ever getting to know them.
I am thankful for my awareness of this. Awareness allows me to change. I realize that this survival skill is not as necessary in my life now as it once was. As I move towards a more genuine and authentic me, I don’t need to change who I am to suit the situation and company. That means I don’t need to make these snap judgments of people either. I can throw out my preconceived notions and find out who someone really is, not based on appearance or job or financial status or spiritual beliefs or anything else. This is how I want people to approach me and I am going to make a conscious effort to approach others this way now. I will not be surprised if that changes the color of the lens I see the world through, either. As I change, my perception of the world changes, too and that is pretty cool.