Assume less. Accept more.
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
There’s this standard set of norms that we’re all expected to fulfill to some degree. At least from the perspective of strangers. For me as a 23-year-old, these can include going out and partying on Saturday nights, drinking a lot of alcohol, etc. When I was out for a run at 8PM last Friday night, I couldn’t help but wonder what the passerby assumed about me.
“She probably has no friends to go out with. Poor girl. ”
“She’s probably getting some exercise in before going to the club. Cool.”
“She’s got a race coming up and needs to train at every chance. Ok.”
“She doesn’t like to be social. Weird.”
However common, none of those really reflect why I was sweating outside on the sidewalk as opposed to inside the club. Now, this isn’t some segue into my “hard battle” as per the opening quote. I simply find it incredible how often we make assumptions based on our own personal values, and how often those assumptions fail to match the truth.
I’m very aware that drivers making independent assumptions about my jogging has no negative effect on either party — so long as they don’t yell them at me or something. But what can seriously harm us (and others) are assumptions that we create based on limited personal knowledge, and that depict how we treat others. It’s how we blindly let these assumptions guide our actions and opinions that leads to misunderstanding, which ultimately prevents us from fostering true connections.
Example 1: At work, it’s tradition to drink on Friday afternoons. I usually don’t partake. My main reason for this is I can’t justify the health:enjoyment ratio of alcohol in the first place. That’s really all. A primary assumption from others may be that I’m kinda lame and “anti-fun” (not that people actually say that — I’m just speaking generally). But what if part of the reason was because of a brain tumour for which I take medication on Friday nights and can’t mix with alcohol? OK, sorry, that was a little dramatic — the tumour part is true (but it’s not gonna kill me or anything, don’t worry), but there’s not actually anything on the bottle that warns about mixing drugs. But what if it was all true?
Example 2: A friend wants me to come to their birthday party and I make up a lame excuse about how I’m “just not feeling it tonight”. The friend replies with a passive aggressive mix of statements assuming I don’t like them, or don’t care about their birthday, or don’t value our friendship, or I’m just (yet again) lame, etc. etc. What if I were at home with my mom, helping her care for my dad who can’t care for himself anymore? What if I needed to put family first for a little while, but the whole backstory is more than I’m willing to share?
The practice of assuming everyone is acting in a certain way because of your initial instinct or what you believe to be normal is not okay.
Every single person has things going on behind-the-scenes that aren’t talked about in everyday life. Often, these personal difficulties and individualities are overwritten by excuses and reasoning that can be more easily digested by the public. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t present and influencing someone’s behaviour to make it different from our own. When someone’s actions don’t match our expectations, we make an assumption, and it’s only downhill from there. We can never be accurate without the full story. We can only risk making a fool of ourselves.
Everyone has opinions, and most of the time, these are justified based on personal circumstances. Maybe some people ARE just lame and no fun. Maybe they ARE dealing with a personal crisis. Either way, let’s let everyone decide what is right for them (within reason, of course), and avoid expressing judgements on what we assume to be true based on our surface knowledge. This is something I can work on, which is partly why I’m writing about it.
Let’s replace our assumptions with acceptance and support one another through whatever sculpts our actions, remembering that the full story is often written in a book not meant for our eyes.