When we see a person for the first time the majority of us make assumptions about them. A person’s clothes, shoes, disposition and appearance mean something different to different people. There are the select few that are not phased by a person who looks out of the norm but for most of us we naturally jump to conclusions.
Understandably, many have made assumptions about me. I asked people on my social media to recall when they first met me and what was their first impression of me based solely on my appearance. I’m so thankful for the honesty in the stories I received. I found it interesting.
The majority acknowledged my difference and were curious. Others thought I was a special needs child. There were some that were nervous to approach me.
Imagine how people reacted after my major surgeries. Most people go through the awkward stages with bad haircuts, goofy clothes, crooked teeth, etc….My awkward stages were major reconstructive facial surgeries that left me with a swollen head ( the size of a watermelon), eyes that were swollen shut for nearly three months, and one resulting in the loss of many permanent teeth. If it weren’t for my curly red hair I would say I was not recognizable by many of my peers. Some even asked if it was really me because I looked so different.
One person I went to school with said they were nervous to say anything about my difference. They felt sorry that I had to go through my struggles but did not know how to approach me to say anything.
A member of my cohort in college says the first time she saw me I looked closed off and shy. She said that she could tell from my disposition that I was not confident with the way I looked and I had been treated negatively because of my appearance.
The people with the best reactions are children. While doing missions in Haiti, the children have never seen someone like me before so they are asking questions about my eyes being crooked and motioning me to take off my glasses to get a better look. One of the best reactions that I have ever received was a young child who asked me if I was attacked by a bear. This child was just curious and obviously had a very good imagination.
I asked my best friends the same question, what was your first reaction. All of them said that they didn’t notice and it never phased them. Maybe because they were on this journey with me. This blog post reminded me how amazing my friends really are.
My facial features are not something I can hide. Most people are going to notice. But it is how you react to your difference that will determine how people respond to you. A lot of people say once they talked to me and got to know me, they realized that I was normal.
I think this is the power that we give to appearance. One look and we create assumptions that will stick with us if we don’t choose to further our interactions with people.
I challenge you to look at people without judging them based on their appearance. I am not saying pretend not to notice, but don’t allow that difference to alter your perception of that person. Until you’ve walked in their shoes, you have no idea of the substance within their story. Chances are that person is so much more than meets the eye.