Some days on the train another rider stands up to offer me a seat. How polite! Then it dawns on me – they think I’m old. I smile and decline their offer, noting to myself, “I’ve already done my pull-ups, push-ups, and squats this morning at the gym, so I’ll be just fine, thank you, standing up for this train ride.”
While trying not to dismiss good manners, I wonder, do I look tired? Am I out of breath? Are my clothes woefully out of date, or does the mere color of my hair make me look like a fossil? Were they just being nice, or have they made an assumption about me?
I am the culmination of all my years and experiences. I can’t be summed up as one thing. Sure, I’m a baby boomer, but I want to be known and understood for all of the different things I am. I guess people have been making assumptions about me my entire life, though I wasn’t always aware. Those assumptions don’t pinch when they’re positive, but quickly become uncomfortable when they’re negative. Is it because I’m a woman that people may think I don’t know how to buy a car or drive one? Is it because I sound southern that people think I’m unsophisticated?
As quickly as I jump to deny false assumptions about me, I also need to consider the assumptions I make about other people. Leaping to conclusions based on very little information may be expedient for some broad generalizations, but it certainly isn’t fair. The woman in the grocery who has lost her patience with her toddler isn’t a bad mom. The man in the car who nearly mowed me down in the cross-walk may have a legitimate emergency. I try to remember this quote: “Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” (attributed to John Watson)
I’m new to my work team, conscious that they don’t know me, but hoping I can replace any initial assumptions they have with real examples of who I am and what I can do. I think about what I want to be known for, and choose actions that support that positive personna. I’m not inventing a new me, just trying to deliberately demonstrate those qualities. And I want to extend the same courtesy to others. Don’t let one bad day color my impression of that person – look at all of the things they do. Be generous. I hope others can see that in me.