Preconceptions and judgement

20 Apr

It’s strange how your preconceived ideas can reveal so much about your personality, your defences and your worst fears.

I work in PR and a couple of days ago, I made my way to a media briefing with an editor of one of the publications we try and place some of our clients in.  So, as expected, the room was full of fellow PR flacks and I found myself scanning the room, a delightful breakfast sausage canape in one hand and one of those embarrassing badges they make you wear in the other, seeking confirmation for the stereotypes of people working in PR that I clearly still harboured.  Given that PR is notoriously female-dominated, the room was representative of this although the fact that this was PR specific to the financial services meant that there were a few suited and booted men swanning around.

What it made me realise is that I have an irrational fear of ‘rah’ women. This is of course not a technical term but please bear with me while I try and explain.  In my opinion, ‘rah’ women belong to a certain ‘elite’ group; they are the by-product of Higher Breeding Programme.  They are predominantly Caucasian and tend to have long locks of tousled hair that they like to run their hands through every few minutes.  They are not just well-spoken; they are downright posh.  They exude an innate confidence and possess a genuinely unwavering belief that they are amazing, most probably instilled when young and they won a competition at Lacrosse or the like.  Anyway, I digress.

What I mean to say is that I have, quite unknowingly, categorised girls and women into this category and they have come to represent something that I find painfully intimidating.  During my one and only term studying English Literature, it was these kinds of girls that I was in tutorials with and I could not have felt more out of place.  Heck, even on my first day at Cambridge, I was given my  University card, which had the wrong picture on it – instead of my scared face, there had been some mistake and it had been usurped by the  girl before me in the register, a glorified ‘rah’ girl who could never be bothered to talk to me.  This led to problems in Freshers Week when I was denied entry to a club everyone else in my Halls was going to because the bouncer took one look at my card before laughing and shooing me away.  (Weirdly, fast forward a year, and my roommate at LSE was a former classmate with the girl in question and let’s just say, I don’t think she was the nicest of people).   Anyway, this all contributed to me feeling completely unsettled and out of place, being the only non-white English Lit student in my college.

However, five years have passed since then.  I know I’ve grown stronger and become (more) self-confident, yet why am I still fazed by women who come to remind me of a time when I was more vulnerable and depressed?

I guess I have categorised people into a group to try as they spark thoughts about all my insecurities in myself that I try not to think about: my intelligence, my looks, the feeling that no matter how hard I try, I will never truly fit in.  Perhaps these are things that I will just have to live with to some extent but I realise that by trying to force people I don’t even know into some narrowly-defined container implies a sort of snobbishness – that I am some kind of superior individual.

I have always hated arrogance and people who think they are superior to others so this has really made me question the way in which I view people.  However, I think I understand why I categorise people.  It’s a kind of defence mechanism; if I put people that I think can potentially hurt me and make me feel inadequate in a box, then I can avoid these kinds of people and this only serves to perpetuate all the preconceptions I adhere to.  But this way of thinking is incredibly limiting.  It means I might miss out on all sorts of relationships with people just because I think (because let’s face it, it’s always me thinking as I don’t truly know these people I’m judging) that they wouldn’t be my type of person.  I dismiss people, having made a swift initial judgement, and then pride myself on being intuitive and able to ‘read people.’

This is something I need to change.  I suppose being aware of it is a first step.  I have been proved wrong so many times in the past, when I am pleasantly surprised by so many people after hastily writing them off after the first meeting.  Indeed, if I switch sides, I dread the first impression I must have given to my peers at Cambridge; I was erratic, emotionally unstable and full of self-hatred.  So, how could I expect anyone to look at me beyond all of that if I don’t do the same?!

The PR media briefing was of course fine once I became aware of my tendency to revert to the scared adolescent I once was and I chatted to some lovely people that I would have avoided previously.  Not as scary or alienating as I once would have thought.

Thus, I resolve to judge people a lot less.  It makes sense seeing as I hate it when people judge me, so I should really practise what I preach.

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