Reserving judgement, appreciating identities and building relationships

Recognizing that everyone is extraordinary in their own ways

lf17-madelineseymour

Picture this — it’s springtime and a typical Thursday afternoon, if you will. There’s a light breeze in the air that tickles your cheeks and the sun’s beams soak into your skin for the first time in months. Through your $10 pair of earbuds, your favorite playlist is playing, and for just a moment, everything is right with the world. Now, imagine that there is an urgent tap on your shoulder. It is so unexpected that you jump out of your skin, dramatically and embarrassingly. But the worst part is when we remove our earphones, and a classmate utters, “What are you so annoyed about?”

Hmm.

I’ll admit I’ve become overly accustomed to this unappreciated, uncontrollable phenomenon over the years. In many ways, it’s the bane of my small existence. In these moments of contentment, my peers think that I’m seconds away from taking a baseball bat to someone’s car window. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the irreversible and socially-impairing condition known as “resting bitch face,” or RBF for short. If not, the snapshot above is certainly enough to give you a little glimpse into my world. Simply speaking, people that have this societally-manufactured condition appear miffed whenever they relax. By miffed, I don’t mean slightly irritated levels of angry. No, I’m talking full-on “hate-the-world” kind of angry.

Just as a public service announcement — if I look flat-faced and miserable, I’m just very deep in thought. Seriously, you can feel free to come and chat with me. I promise that I won’t bite.

That being said, I get it. I understand. It makes sense. If I was walking by someone, their eyes focused on a computer screen and an intense look of indifference on their face, I would not be in a chatty mood either. I would make a snap judgment. I would probably beeline for the closest exit or give them a wide berth. So, I do understand it. That being said, I also understand that these actions serve to limit me and to limit the social relationships in my life.

What’s my point then? Reserve judgment.

This concept is reminiscent of my days back in elementary school when our preppy, overly-caffeinated teachers would engrain the creed, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” into our malleable minds. If you were anything like me, you ignored the advice and still plucked the most colorful and artistic book from the shelf — for me, it was a knee-jerk reaction. While I don’t necessarily know what I lost by judging books, I know what I gained when I outgrew this habit and began ignoring these book covers — extraordinary and overlooked stories.

As I’m sure you can tell, I’m building to a groundbreaking discovery — judgment eradicates our opportunities to build relationships. We limit ourselves to an array of different experiences for no good reason. Obviously, this “don’t judge a book by its cover” creed extends well past actual books and into every single facet of life — to any situation or person or object that people have written-off, due simply to a snap judgment with little factual support.

As kids, we knew nothing about those picture books, just that they were colorful on the covers. Now that we’re adults, it is time for us to do better. It is time for us to look past these superficial covers and look deeper — to be inquisitive. Anything less, and we stand the risk of becoming divided. If we allow judgments to rule our actions, we will push people away. The evidence of this is everywhere around the world, especially in the United States. After all, deep-thinking and open-mindedness are much more likely to build bridges instead of walls. Inclusivity is key to fostering an atmosphere of positivity and happiness in people.

There is so much to gain from this open-mindedness. Just as my younger-self discovered extraordinary stories, our older selves are capable of discovering extraordinary people. When we take the time to shut down our preconceived notions and simply talk to people instead, we build relationships. We build our professional networks. We build our social circles. We build our support groups. This may push us from our comfort zones, but it is important to realize that every person on this Earth is extraordinary in their own ways.

People with unwarranted prejudices miss this.

Just as a takeaway message — if the facial expression of a person troubles you, I suggest that you avoid assumptions. And while I wish this issue was unique to RBF, we all know that it extends further and into the fundamental aspects of intersectionality. That being said — if the religion, race, gender or sexual orientation that someone identifies with bothers you, I suggest that you get over it and look deeper. I suggest that you learn to recognize and appreciate the true gains of diversity. I suggest that you make an effort to explore the person’s character before you write them off. Otherwise, you’ll be missing out on some extraordinary people and it will be your own loss. 

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