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Hidden filters and the other ways we simply get people wrong
The two layers of hidden filtration between us and authentic relationships.
Hi everyone -
This week is a personal reminder and perhaps a new interpretation of one of the most fundamental aspects of the human condition. Let's get into it!
One From the Not So Distant Past
From Max Ehrmann’s 1927 poem, “Desiderata”
“Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”
One From Today
Author Anne Lamott on how we see others:
“Almost everyone is screwed up, broken, clingy, scared, and yet designed for joy. Even (or especially) people who seem to have it more or less together are more like the rest of us than you would believe. I try not to compare my insides to their outsides, because this makes me much worse than I already am, and if I get to know them, they turn out to have plenty of irritability and shadow of their own. Besides, those few people who aren’t a mess are probably good for about twenty minutes of dinner conversation.
This is good news, that almost everyone is petty, narcissistic, secretly insecure, and in it for themselves, because a few of the funny ones may actually long to be friends with you and me. They can be real with us, the greatest relief. As we develop love, appreciation, and forgiveness for others over time, we may accidentally develop those things toward ourselves, too.”
One From Us
At this stage of the social media era, we are all now aware of the detrimental effects that it’s having on our mental health. We’ve all noticed how we’ve become less focused, calm, clear-headed, and generally content than we were a decade ago. Worse, we can also see the developmental effects that this has had on young adults who do not know a world without this influence.
While the easy access and pervasive notifications from social media offer unprecedented access to the dopaminergic reward system that drives addiction, the real issue is as old as time. We compare our real life to someone else's highlight reel. Social media, for all its other benefits and pitfalls, encourages and almost demands that we compare ourselves to others. Why else look at what thousands of others are doing or share the daily details of your own life?
This trap is nothing new. Teddy Roosevelt said that "comparison is the thief of joy," although this quote is also attributed to many others. Comparison is a natural tendency and something that hurt us long before we could do it digitally. Comparison has always skewed our perceptions. Social media has only formalized the process. Author Anne Lamott says this best in the quote above. We compare our internal world to everyone else's external presentations.
In judging another person, either to denigrate to deify, we always see an obscured version of the truth that has passed through at least two strong filters. Before we can even begin our own interpretation of a person, they have curated the image that they wish to present. This is obvious online with the social media image filters and other features, but we all do this all the time. At nearly every moment, we choose how we want to "present" to the world. We put on a positive face or hope to give the impression that we are logical. We also might make ourselves seem weak, ignorant, or victimized if it suits the interaction or scenario.
We further obscure the "truth" of a person as we build our perception of them on top of their already curated image. We can get them wrong in almost infinite ways. As logical as I believe myself to be, I will inevitably judge another person through my previous life experiences, my personal tastes, and perhaps even my current mood. Should I detect traits that I already find attractive or admirable, I'll be primed to focus on these. But I might just as easily conflate minor shortcomings into larger character flaws, particularly if they align with the behavior that I already find peevish.
Growth and relationship-building require us to eliminate as much of this filtration as we can manage. We must show vulnerability and authenticity as we “present” to the world and grant others the charitable assumption as we form our view of them. In our current political and technological landscape, creating a better world requires that we celebrate what’s unique about others and focus on our common humanity.
Where and with whom have these filters clouded your perceptions? Not an accusation but an invitation to bring more authentic relationships into your life.
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Thanks for reading today and remember…life is too short to be normal!