I once took a "sensitivity training" seminar at work and I remember the speaker asking a really interesting question:
What is it that you fear other people assume about you?
Where is the disconnect between what you believe yourself to be, and what others perceive to be true? If you were to pick one quality in a person and hope that others don't think that about you - what would it be?
I've been thinking a lot about this lately during some soul searching and the realization that now in a new city, I've got to put myself out there and make friends. I have to go through all of the uncomfortable meet and greets with other preschoolers parents and my neighbors and even the staff at the closest grocery store.
All the while, as we are trying to make good first impressions, other people have already made assumptions about who we are based on our clothes, families, race, gender, facial expression, car; it goes on and on. Some of the choices we make are based on putting out a certain image and some choices project something completely against what we truly believe ourselves to be. It's like buying a luxury car because it is top rated for safety... but everyone that sees you driving it thinks you are a pompous superficial jerk. (Not my situation though, although the Honda minivan is pretty luxurious to me.)
Personally, it always drives me insane when a friend later tells me that they thought I was an indulged Sewickley snob or a primadonna. Why, when everything I feel and believe goes against those attributes, would anyone think those things about me? Okay, growing up in Sewickley - I'll give people that one. It's a beautiful,safe and overly wealthy community. Does that mean I've ever lived without a concern for money? No way.
Is it my blonde hair, female body (and the assumption that I only obsess about shoes and handbags), relative youth or preppy clothes? I just like to wear classic stuff! And I either bought it at the thrift store or 75% off at Target. I hate when people give me a hard time, assuming that I don't know what its like to go through bad times. My life has been blessed in many ways - but I've also seen some pretty horrible shit. Just because I have it relatively together, does not imply that I have lived a flaky, easy, superficial or materialistic life.
What bothers you? Do you hate it when someone says, "I never pegged you for a Republican/Democrat/accountant/artist/chef/mother/father/whatever."? Do you wonder what they thought you should be?