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How to be private and individual when others judge me?
July 15, 2012 10:57 AM   Subscribe

How can I balance my need for individuality and privacy with human tendency to stereotype and judge based on external facts?

One of the things I really struggle with is that people can judge me based on facts they know about me. So they can judge me based on who I'm dating, what car I drive and where I work. And in my experience people do exactly that. In some cases the judgement is made with good reason - not many people become accountants if they hate working with figures, for example, so it is logical to judge that an accountant will like working with figures, even though it is technically a stereotype.
But I'm a private person and I don't want others knowing about me or judging me like that. I like to be the person that is uncategorisable, who defies the stereotypes or who is just invisible somehow. So I hate the thought that my job/car/boyfriend would reflect anything about me at all. Problem is obviously I cannot avoid the entire rest of the world, I am going to have to have a job/car/boyfriend and people are going to know about it.

I have one acquaintance who defies the stereotypes by being a real underachiever - he is extremely smart and personable, but based on his job and car and relationships you'd think he was a loser, because his outside image just doesn't reflect his abilities at all. But he has achieved this privacy by sacrificing money and a satisfying career, and I know that has cost him as well. Someone else might be able to be an overachiever and hang with the cool kids even though they aren't "one of them" really, but that person would feel like a terrible impostor, and in today's market wouldn't even get the job in the first place.

So that leaves me being myself. But if I am myself, then my job reflects who I am, so if I work as an Accountant at Z Co, then people can assume I am a "Z Co kind of a person", and I have to live with all the stereotypes associated with Z Co and with Accountants. Which is precisely what I want to avoid!

So, hive mind, what are some good ways I can balance my need for privacy and desire to be a stereotype-defying individual, with the practical realities of life, and the human desire to categorise and judge and box people?
posted by EatMyHat to Human Relations (37 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
You don't want to be judged. One way is to become invisible, like you say. But that's literally impossible. You will never succeed at this.

The better way is to work on that aspect of yourself that cares whether or not you're being judged and cares what the judgment is. This is what individualism really means.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:00 AM on July 15, 2012 [29 favorites]


Your question makes me feel quite old. A key to a happy life is to expel from your brain the real or imagined views of third parties or of "society" on your choices. Just live your life doing the things you want to do, without consideration of how they are viewed or construed. Easier said than done at the beginning, but easier with practice and experience.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 11:04 AM on July 15, 2012 [23 favorites]


There is a good reason that the advice people give is, "don't care what other people think-- be true to yourself," and not, "make sure people don't think anything about you that might not be correct."

But for the most part, I'm really not sure what you're trying to accomplish. You say you, "don't want others knowing about me." Ok. How to go about that? Not interacting with people and not talking about yourself will accomplish that. But is that what you want?

I have one acquaintance who defies the stereotypes by being a real underachiever - he is extremely smart and personable, but based on his job and car and relationships you'd think he was a loser, because his outside image just doesn't reflect his abilities at all. But he has achieved this privacy by sacrificing money and a satisfying career, and I know that has cost him as well

Given all of that, is there really that much worth in "defying stereotypes"? What has he gained, unless he wants to live the life he has. I am just not clear at what sort of privacy he's achieved and why this is something you think is something useful.

Perhaps you could clarify your question a bit.
posted by deanc at 11:07 AM on July 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, your acquaintance fits into the stereotype of an underachiever. Smart but doesn't apply himself or whatever. I think we all fit into stereotypes to a certain extent, and it is probably unavoidable because we all fit into multiple stereotypes and there are stereotypes about everything.

So yeah, work on the aspect of yourself that cares whether or not you are judged based on various things, because unless you actually live under a rock you will be judged by whatever people see of you. Hell, even if you live under a rock you will be judged because some people will know you're under there and will likely have an opinion about it.
posted by fromageball at 11:10 AM on July 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


To be honest, I'm not sure this is possible, because if you want never to be judged by anyone on any external facts, then what you're going to have to do is either live completely away from any other human beings, forever, or change human nature.

You'd also have to stop being human yourself, because don't YOU judge people by their jobs, their partners, their belongings? What's that whole bit in your question about accountants liking to work with figures, if not judging people based on a tiny fact you know about them?

Maybe instead of working really hard to be a mysterious, unknowable person, you might want to spend some time figuring out why the thing that matters most to you is what other people think of you, and not what you think of yourself.
posted by palomar at 11:10 AM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just live your life the way you want and stop caring so much about what other ppl think.
posted by violetk at 11:10 AM on July 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


CPB cuts to the heart of it right off the bat.

Presumably you have friends, and they know who you really are, and the extent to which your job/car/boyfriend reflect your inner self (which might be more than you'd care to admit). Then there's everybody else—they'll have a natural inclination to make snap judgments about you based on what signals you send out, which will also include how you dress, how you speak, etc. Regard that as an unfixable problem.

Some people are uncomfortable with the ordinary middle-class signals they send out, so maybe they get a tattoo. Or change their wardrobe. Whatever. Some way of saying "see, I'm not just a mild-mannered accountant at Z Co."

It sounds like you want to keep all that a cipher, not give people anything to hang a snap judgment on. It's not going to work. Better to let people have their mis-impressions and get on with life.
posted by adamrice at 11:13 AM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think that you just have to accept that you don't get to decide what other people think about you. People are going to think things about you. Sometimes they will believe something about you that is not true. Sometimes they will know things about you that you don't know about yourself. Most of the time it doesn't matter what other people think.
posted by mskyle at 11:21 AM on July 15, 2012 [12 favorites]


Even if you perfectly control external facts and appearances, your intentions and motivations will always be a source of speculation. The more opaque you become, the wider a range of possible speculations, and the greater the scrutiny. Unless you just stay away from others entirely.

In other words, it's a waste of time.
posted by hermitosis at 11:26 AM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Your desire to be someone who is uncategorisable is just a desire to be judged in a different way. You want to think that being opaque or invisible will somehow escape judgement. It won't.

You'll learn how to not give a shit. The more you realize what incorrect or irrelevant assumptions you make about other people, the more you'll realize how little they ultimately have to do with reality, and that applies to whatever people think about you.
posted by rtha at 11:30 AM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am going to have to have a job/car/boyfriend and people are going to know about it.

Well, you don't. But then people will judge you for being a single unemployed person on the bus.

I'm not clear if what bothers you is people assuming incorrect things about you, people judging you harshly, or people knowing anything about you at all. None of them can be avoided.

Though I do think that, while everyone makes initial assumptions about others, most people recognize that there's probably more to it. I would assume an accountant likes or at least is good at math, but I wouldn't be surprised to later learn that they actually hate their job, or they failed math in HS, or they're also in a punk band. I don't think anyone with half a brain would be surprised to learn those things.

The only way to avoid the most common forms of judgement or assumption is to confuse people intentionally. If you're an accountant, get a bunch of tattoos and piercings; if you're a girl, dress like a guy, but only sometimes; if you drive a fancy car, wear beat up clothes; if you look sweet and innocent, swear a lot. Etc. You'll still be judged, but people who like fitting you into particularly quick and easy boxes won't have the energy to do it, past maybe thinking you're just weird. Or a cliche of contradictions. And if you don't like weird/cliched, strive to be as bland and average as possible. There are definitely many people who seem so uninteresting that they're simply ignored most of the time.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 11:31 AM on July 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think you are on some level yearning to be what Paul Fussell called "Category X" (some write-up here) -- but there is no way to achieve freedom from...this class paranoia without simply rejecting it. You cannot expect to consciously cultivate a certain position for yourself and then suddenly become unaware of that cultivation.

Also:

I am going to have to have a job/car/boyfriend

...nonsense; you don't need any of those things. Yes, a reliable means of generating an income (while not necessarily a job), a companion, transportation are all good things for most people to have, but you have betrayed yourself a bit here. You are probably not an iconoclast or hermit; you do need these things, and you probably have lots in common with other people who work at similar jobs, drive cars, date, etc. This is a good, good thing. Once you free yourself from the nonsense of paying attention to what you are paying attention to here, you can enjoy humanity instead of worrying about it. You're a mammal, just like them! Hooray for you and your culture. Many of them -- as evidenced by many responses here -- are not paying any attention to your car or job or boyfriend, as there are many better things to pay attention to than other people's ~ .
posted by kmennie at 11:34 AM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


You can't do this. I'm sorry, but your only option here is to become ok with the fact that people are always going to form opinions and judgments of you based on what they observe. You cannot control what happens in other people's heads, and you will make yourself crazy if you insist on acting as if you can.
posted by Ragged Richard at 11:38 AM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I like to be the person that is uncategorisable, who defies the stereotypes or who is just invisible somehow."

Do you want to be thought of as a special uncategorizable snowflake, or just not thought of at all? I'm not clear from your question.

Do you really think of people's jobs as a reflection of who they are? I think that's weird. I think people's jobs are just what they do for a living, which they may or may not be good at and which they may or may not enjoy. I certainly don't impute the characteristics of the COMPANY they work for onto them, except in pretty rare circumstances; a company that's big enough that I've heard of it has thousands of people working for it who doubtless come from a huge range of backgrounds, some of whom love the company and some of whom hate it. A smaller company, how would I know enough about it to know what a "Z Co. person" is like? Also, I have to tell you, I have good friends whom I talk to constantly where I have literally no idea what their job entails. I mean, I know what their job IS, I just have no idea what that means that they DO. So no stereotypes!

Maybe you need to meet different people who don't spend so much time being judgmental. Or, in the alternative, realize that other people really just don't spend that much time thinking about you. The only time I bother to register what kind of car someone drives is when they drive like a lunatic asshole, or never shut the fuck up about how awesome their sweet ride is.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:46 AM on July 15, 2012 [8 favorites]


Well, remember if you don't want to be misjudged, you'll also have to be judging those around you. Do I have enough friends that are black to make sure that I don't appear to be racist. Do I know any Neo-Nazis so that I have a diverse enough council of insight? Jews? Anti-Semites? If I have male friends and female friends that are dating, how do I make sure that I'm not seen as the girl that is potentially flirting with her friend's boyfriends, yet still cool enough to be "one of the boys" and it be okay. What about dumb people, or people that are smart - can you converse with both stock clerks and scientists and bridge all divides of social caste?

Or is it that you only want to be judged by friends and aquaintences positively? "She's polite. She's thoughtful. She's a good listener. She's a goody-two-shoes. She's risk adverse. Her friends are amazing people. Her friends are nicer than her. I can't think of anything bad to say about her, but I can't think of anything positive to say about her either. I just feel judged by being in her presence. Does she ever cut loose?"

There is no such state as being unjudgeable - and if there were, woould you really want to be that person anyway? I mean seriously... "I don't know much about her. I have no idea what she's thinking. EatMyHat is sort of off putting with the way she doesn't ever commit to things. I don't really understand where she's coming from. Her unassuming nature is a bit alarming. If Dexter were female, is that what she would be like?"

Embrace who you are, what you like, what you don't like about yourself, and decide what you want. On occasion, if you find yourself saying something you don't like, or doing things you don't like, and the judgment you place on yourself is one that you don't like - then stop doing it. There are things you can't change. I'll perpetually be an a-hole, but I'm an a-hole that smiles, genuinely cares about people, is pretty smart, thinks differently, is generally funny, and (at least) a few friends like to be around. If I have alienated some folks - bummer - but I'm cool with that. I really like the ones I have (and am always ready to make more friends).

And just remember, there is always someone on the six o'clock news that is willing to say "I always thought there was something off about her." You may not even know that person.
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:50 AM on July 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm sorry to break it to you, but most people aren't as interested in you as you seem to think. If you simply close your Facebook account and limit your use of social media, 99% of your acquaintances won't know anything about you other than what you choose to tell them, since it would be too much effort to find out.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 12:01 PM on July 15, 2012 [23 favorites]


There are two fundamental problems with this. First: you are trying to control the uncontrollable on a massive scale. This is impossible. Society is not some sort of opponent in a chess game in which you can somehow come up with the right strategy in order to checkmate every other human being's thoughts about you.

Second: by letting other people's thoughts about you (even potential thoughts) determine your choices about what to do or how to appear, you are completely undermining your desire to live as an individual on your own terms.
posted by scody at 12:02 PM on July 15, 2012 [20 favorites]


Accountants might be good at working with numbers. That's not a stereotype. Saying that accountants must be dull, picky, narrow-minded and uninterested in anything except numbers might be a stereotype, but I truly doubt that many people actually think this way. If I see someone in the bus with pink hair and a nose ring, I don't immediately assume she's an unemployed slacker--she could be a lawyer who works for a record company. Or she could be a chef. Observing people and speculating about them is something most of us do, but I can't control what others speculate about me, based on my red car, pink platform shoes or my LL Bean tote bag. Individuality comes more from how you act, than what you wear or buy. And you're as private as you allow yourself to be.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:02 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Second: by letting other people's thoughts about you (even potential thoughts) determine your choices about what to do or how to appear, you are completely undermining your desire to live as an individual on your own terms.

Can't emphasize this enough. If you're an accountant and you don't want people assuming that you're some sort of boring person who only cares about numbers, you have a couple of choices: allow yourself to be more open, so that more people can see that whatever stereotypes they have about accountants don't all apply to you; or, act or present yourself in ways that you think break the "accountant stereotype", even if those things aren't really things you would do otherwise (get tattoos, for instance). Why allow other people - strangers! - to control how you present yourself?
posted by rtha at 12:13 PM on July 15, 2012


You've gone all the way around the circle. Living your life so that it doesn't conform to any stereotype is letting other people's stereotypes control your life.

Do what you want to do and fuck what other people think.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:19 PM on July 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


I loop back here and give you another angle. I still stand by my previous advice. But if you want to look at a perhaps healthy angle of what you describe, look at Cayce Pollard's style from the book Pattern Recognition.

That being said, the way she's written, Cayce Pollard dresses the way she does and still doesn't give one whit about how she's being judged. She's a powerful character in her own way.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:03 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


The only way to stop feeling judged and stereotyped is to stop judging and stereotyping. Your post is full of your own judgment of others "but based on his job and car and relationships you'd think he was a loser". "Loser" is a stereotype that is coming directly from YOU. You have created these categories for yourself.

Once you start letting go of your judgment of others, you will stop feeling as judged and stereotyped yourself. It is a hard thing to do (try to go 5 minutes without judging someone or something), but you will find yourself with much more privacy once you get even remotely successful at it.
posted by Vaike at 1:08 PM on July 15, 2012 [8 favorites]


job/car/boyfriend/clothes

Make each of these things clash wildly with every other thing. Eg. dress like a bum, drive a topless ferrari, date someone very boring, work as a secretary.
No one will be able to make sense of it or be able to categorise you (other than perhaps "eccentric")

But a better solution is to either allow people to see who you truly are, or to stop caring what they think.

I just do what I feel like, and a lot of people seem intrigued because they're often not able to categorize the results of that. Maybe you could settle for that?
posted by -harlequin- at 1:34 PM on July 15, 2012


You also might consider that other people don't think about you as often or as deeply as you might think they do.
posted by dawkins_7 at 1:41 PM on July 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


I did the homemaker thing for a long time, thus no "job" and largely out of the public eye. I currently live without a car and have for over four years. Most people do stereotype me because it and equate my lack of car to "poverty" (though sometimes I get mistaken for a tourist these days). That's not inaccurate but it's not really the crux of it either. I usually don't bother to argue it with people. It is possible to have very private relationships. My marriage was pretty private. We achieved that in part by living away from family and moving every few years.

I tend to not watch tv or read magazines, so I am largely unplugged from a lot of the expectations and assumptions that we can be inundated with via media. Instead, I spend more time online. To a large degree, I decide how much and what gets shown to the virtual world. There tends to be a big difference between my online life and my offline life. I have spent most of my adult life being as invisible as I could manage offline. I also spent a lot of years working on lowering my profile online. It can be done, if you so desire.

Larger companies or organizations and larger cities are good places to go more unnoticed without being an underachiever. People tend to be more up in your business in The Deep South and more stand-offish on the West Coast. I have found that being a big fish in a small pond is misery. I kept looking for bigger ponds so as to be less noticeable. So perhaps where you live or the type of people you are hanging with are part of the problem.
posted by Michele in California at 1:50 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


You can flip this on its head. Be the type of person who doesn't make judgements about other people because of their own job, boyfriend, car or style of dress. As you become that person, truly, and embrace it completely, you will start to embrace that people CAN be that way. Then, go through life assuming the best of others. That they are not judging you as you are not judging them. Maybe they are, but you are now free to do as you please.

I did this to an extent. I realized that I cared so much about what people thought about me because I was walking around making so many assumptions about people that it was reeeeeediculous. Take mental note when you make those shortcuts and judgements about others. Pay attention to how often you do it and commit to stopping. You'll be amazed about how much easier it is to stop caring what others think of you when you stop caring about whether or not you have their number or not.

If it helps, try to remember this awesome piece of advice I heard somewhere (maybe even here on the green): It's none of your business what other people think of you.
posted by pazazygeek at 2:28 PM on July 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


I like to be the person that is uncategorisable, who defies the stereotypes or who is just invisible somehow. So I hate the thought that my job/car/boyfriend would reflect anything about me at all. Problem is obviously I cannot avoid the entire rest of the world, I am going to have to have a job/car/boyfriend and people are going to know about it.

Invisible? Echoing one answer above, you should understand that you are not looming as large in the minds of others as you think you are. Most people you meet day by day won't be bothering to judge you on the kind of level which you seem to think they will be. It's not all about you; half the people you encounter wouldn't be able to properly describe you to a police officer, if questioned, the day afterwards. You don't need to feel so self-conscious; there is no spotlight glaring on you and picking you out from the crowd.
posted by jokeefe at 5:09 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


This may sound really stupid, but one thing that really helped me with this sort of thinking was the Rosanna Arquette / Madonna movie Desperately Seeking Susan. External categorizations of people are easy because... well, because they're easy. But just because many (or even most) people who exhibit attribute A also happen to have the personality A, doesn't mean that all do -- and the people in your life who will genuinely want to get to know you will be able to look past stereotyping and catch who you really are. As for the people who want to make quick assumptions, they will do that no matter what attributes you exhibit.

In your opinion, which would be better - that people snap-judge you and are right? Or that they judge you but you have somehow externally fooled them so they're wrong? It seems to me that even if they're right because of a stereotype, they're still right and one step closer to knowing the real you, so what's the downside? And on the other hand, if it's so important to you that no one know you at all unless you open up to them, then there are tons of ways to disguise yourself as someone you're not - wear overt religious symbols of a faith not your own, grow a handlebar mustache, drive a Camaro, etc - it's easy to leave a false trail for the gullible, if you're willing to be 'that guy'. But what will you have gained?

Unless I'm misreading your question and you just want no one to have an opinion of you at all. In which case, wear polo shirts or pocket tees and khaki chinos, drive a Honda Accord and tell people you're a consultant. Nowadays it's way easier to be generic than unique anyhow.
posted by Mchelly at 7:57 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


(and if I am putting you in the wrong gender box, substitute "beehive hairdo" for the mustache and skinny jeans for the khakis and you're still good to go)
posted by Mchelly at 8:00 PM on July 15, 2012


On average, most people don't notice much of anything about one another. A few are much more concerned than the rest: always judging and worrying about being judged. The two rise and fall together, they are different manifestations of the same habit.

You have some degree of control over whether or not you are like that. I recommend avoiding the habit; it's pretty toxic to your wellbeing.
posted by ead at 9:29 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think you worry about being stereotyped because you know you are more than the sum of your parts, and yet you feel unseen, because everyone just sees the parts. You can see others--the one who looks like a loser but really isn't, but someone else may instead see someone with a psychological problem that keeps him from succeeding. I know that would be my first guess but I could turn out to be wrong. There's always more to learn about a person and more to learn about yourself, but not everyone is interested enough to put in the effort. You would like to feel really seen (or, at least, that's how I'm stereotyping you, since I only know you from this question) so I suggest you cultivate friends who want to know you and show them who you are.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:33 AM on July 16, 2012


Some good answers here - thanks everyone ! I read through them all and had a think about it. A lot of people say I shouldn't care what other people think but here's the rub - I do. I think it is part of human nature to care what others think - after all we are social animals. Why else would we bother with laws against racism for example - we might as well say to the (for example) black people being told by racists they are less intelligent, "just don't listen to what those haters think!" But ignoring people who judge you is a really hard thing to do! I'm not saying I won't try though.

To answer some questions:
I don't mind if I'm not thought of at all. That'd be ok. I also don't mind if I am seen as some "special uncategorisable snowflake." I just a) don't want to be judged negatively (yes folks I am human!) and b) don't want people thinking they know everything about me just because they know what car I drive or where I live. I think Obscure Reference gets closest to what I meant there.

Talking about my friend was not meant to judge him. I said you would think he is a loser, but that is not what I think, because I see beyond the simple facts, admittedly because I know him quite well. Its true he hasn't reached his potential, but to me he has gained a sense of privacy and the ability to be an undefinable, a true individual, because you can't guess much about who he really is from the car he drives or the job he does. So in that sense he can keep something in reserve. He can surprise people, and that is a bit nonconformist I guess.

I guess I am quite shy so I like to feel some sense of control over how much people know about me, and it creeps me out to think that such easily available information such as what car I drive or who I'm going out with says things about me as a person, because they were not messages I was intending to send.

Anyway thanks for helping me think this one over!
posted by EatMyHat at 12:13 PM on July 16, 2012


Well, there actually are no laws against racism. There are laws against how you treat other people, but there are no laws on what you think of them. And when someone tells a [insert descriptor here] person they're less intelligent because of their [descriptor]ness, then yes, actually we do say "just don't listen to what those haters think!"

Because there's always gonna be a hater, and if you use up all your energy and creativity and intelligence trying to create a life that avoids the haters, you're not going to have any energy or creativity or intelligence left to take care of yourself when the haters find you anyway. Because they will. But who cares. Not you, because you just don't listen to what those haters think!
posted by headnsouth at 12:33 PM on July 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I shouldn't care what other people think but here's the rub - I do. I think it is part of human nature to care what others think - after all we are social animals.

Perfect. Then construct a self-presentation that conveys what you want people to think of you.

I guess I am quite shy so I like to feel some sense of control over how much people know about me, and it creeps me out to think that such easily available information such as what car I drive or who I'm going out with says things about me as a person, because they were not messages I was intending to send.

"I desperately care what other people think of me" and "I am upset that other people might think things of me and don't want them to think anything" and "I want to be totally undefinable" are actually impulses that are at odds with each other. If you're concerned about your self-presentation, create a public persona that conveys the impression you want to present to the rest of the world. Most people won't really care, and those who put such great weight on judging your personality based on what kind of car you drive shouldn't be the sort of people that are important to you.

Its true he hasn't reached his potential, but to me he has gained a sense of privacy and the ability to be an undefinable

And yet he is fairly definable, because as someone said above, "smart guy who is a slacker" is itself a widely known stereotype. I fail to see how he even has "privacy" unless you think there's some advantage to not being known as someone people would want to have an intellectual conversation with at work. The fact that this guy is your ideal model you're trying to imitate is difficult for me to understand.

But here's my point:

"Privacy" itself comes from careful self-presentation: you present only what you want other people to know about you at the time that you encounter them. So when you're going out to a party, and you don't want people to peg you as a "boring accountant", you dress for "going out" rather than for work. When someone asks you what you do for a living, deflect the question as, "you know, an office job. But I'm really more into [what you want to talk about]." When you're at work, you dress for work, to blend in, keep discussions at work to be about work, and don't get caught up in sharing your personal life.

What it sounds like you want is not so much "how to be uncategorizable", but rather how to present the category you wish to present under the right circumstances.
posted by deanc at 1:50 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


A focus on "privacy" is also sort of a weird affectation, like the eccentric person paranoid that people might find out she's buying a new car and has to "keep it a secret." I mean, who cares? It's one thing to be "a private person", which to me implies a sort of introverted nature of someone who doesn't overshare or burden others with TMI. But once discussions of normal everyday life result in evasion and such, you start to think that a person has a hangup about hiding stuff that really isn't as important as they think it is.
posted by deanc at 1:52 PM on July 16, 2012


I don't know how old you are, but, with age and experience, I have gotten better at gently correcting people when they make dumb assumptions about me. The gentle part matters. It helps avoid turning it in to some power struggle where they need you to be what they assumed in order to save face or something.

My last car said this about me: "I am a reliable employee who shows up on time, every day." It was the cheapest new car I could find on short notice when I got a job. My old clunker was breaking down too often and I could not afford to miss any work the first 90 days.

I picked the least objectionable color and style available of the cheapy cars in the lot that day, so I was happy it wasn't some cringe-worthy color. If it had been some cringe-worthy color, it still would have said the same thing about me. Anyone who discussed cars with me for two minutes learned that I didn't really know the make and model (I routinely had to look that up if I got the oil changed or something) because I could not have cared less. If they jumped to conclusions about my identity based on seeing my car, those assumptions tended to be swept away by any discussion that touched on my attitude that a car is only transportation.

People who make those assumptions generally figure they know why you did X. If it isn't true, it is fairly simple to correct them, assuming you know the real reason you did it, which sometimes takes a little introspection. With age, I have also gotten a little better about just letting people think what they think, even if I think it is wildly inaccurate. Sometimes, it does matter what other people think of me. Sometimes, it doesn't matter nearly as much as I once thought.
posted by Michele in California at 1:54 PM on July 16, 2012


As others have pointed out, you can't avoid people judging you on things like your car, job, or clothes entirely, but you can reduce it somewhat. To take cars as an example: people who drive Hummers, Mustangs, Priuses, or Jaguars are more likely to be perceived in certain ways based on their cars than people who drive, say, Toyota Camrys. That's not to say no one will make assumptions about you based on the fact that you drive a Camry, but I'd guess many fewer will than if you drove a Hummer.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:14 PM on July 16, 2012


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