More Than What You Can See: Coping with Anxiety and Self-Perception

Tribune News Service

Stacie Larsen
Managing Editor
@SLarsenWriting

The statement, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is a popular phrase, but how often is it actually practiced?

It’s safe to say that the prevalence of physical image is often a defining factor in deciding who a person is overall—despite personality traits or characteristics.

It’s common sense that judging a person by his or her outside appearance is wrong, but it happens both intentionally and unintentionally in day-to-day social interaction.

Is it natural or unethical? Is it unethical even if it is unintentional? Can you truly see a person by simply observing?

No matter how long you stare at a person, it’s impossible to truly know who he or she is.

A fleeting look doesn’t tell you a person’s name or how old they are.

It can’t tell you their likes or dislikes.

It can’t tell you what their favorite food is or what kind of movies they like to watch.

Do they like dogs or cats?

Do they like to read or go for long strolls in the park?

Do they even like who they are?

Do they need a friend?

The only way to answer these questions is to talk is to the person without judgement.

Judging someone by his or her outside appearance shapes our expectations of who they are on a personal level.

It keeps us from seeing things objectively.

Just because someone dresses nice doesn’t mean that they think they are better than everyone else.

Looks don’t determine intelligence and shyness doesn’t classify personality.

If someone were to look at a childhood picture of me versus a picture of me today, they most likely wouldn’t recognize that the images are of the same person.

I wore whatever my mom picked out, including highwaters, bell-bottoms, and short shorts with socks pulled up to my knees.

I had big clunky glasses that covered half my face and hid by blue eyes.

I was anything but invisible — and bullied often.

On top of what I wore as a child, I was quite small in stature.

When my mom was enrolling me in the third grade, the school official thought I was going into kindergarten.

By the time I reached the eighth grade, I was awkwardly quiet.

I didn’t know how to act. I was afraid.

In the beginning of my ninth-grade year, I began to care about my outside appearance.

I started wearing makeup and caring about what I wore to school.

However, I didn’t see much of a change in how others perceived me until I moved to Germany in the middle of my ninth-grade year.

I began to get that second glance from boys my age.

I’ll never forget the moment when I overheard a boy, who was standing in the school hallway, tell someone that I was cute after I walked by.

Needless to say, my confidence began to grow.

I had more friends that year than I ever had before and finally felt accepted among my peers.

But the effects of the bullying have stayed with me and continue to affect me on a personal level, as I still struggle with anxiety, self-esteem issues, and depression.

If someone simply utters the wrong word or looks at me wrong, I revert back to the shy girl who was once laughed at in the girls locking room while she was changing or told that she was so ugly the boy would have rather kissed his dog’s butt than her face.

The effects of judging others can leave a lasting impression and lead to anxiety, depression, and violence.

When meeting someone for the first time, it’s impossible to know what they have been through.

This past summer, I got a new job that required me to work in one room with approximately twelve other employees.

It didn’t take long to start hearing judgments made about me.

Was I “classy,” one girl asked.

She said someone else thought so.

She also asked if I was “crazy,” which turned out to be a judgment pretty quickly.

From what I heard, the same person who thought I was crazy also thought I might be good with computers, which I’m not.

Then, my boss said he wanted to start training me for a more challenging position.

He suggested I could handle it because I am an editor for the school paper.

Shortly after I began training for the new position, I understood why my boss was reluctant to train just anyone, but I struggled to remember some of the necessary tasks.

After making a mistake, the same girl who thought I was crazy told me that I shouldn’t have made the mistake because I was supposed to be a prodigy.

I became quiet and unsure of how to reply.

Eventually, I broke down in tears.

Despite the fact that I am now an adult, I was overcome by feelings of inadequacy.

We shouldn’t judge others by how we perceive them; the effects can be life-altering.

I learned over the years, even if I forget to remind myself most of the time, the way someone looks at us or treats us, intentional or not, is a reflection of their character, not ours.

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