How do others see us?
Do friends, family or co-workers perceive the complexities of our personalities, values and interests?
What conclusions do you tend to draw when meeting someone new?
Our personal experiences and approach to life tend to influence our impressions, whether we are aware of it or not. Many people learn to be fairly perceptive and openminded. But it’s nevertheless common for a person to be assigned a box or given a label:
“Corey is one of those geeky gamer guys.”
“Andrea is an artist.”
With that label, I’ve found that people habitually expect me to be dreamy, emotional, and ungrounded, unlikely to care about business, problem-solving, and the world at large.
When I present myself as as a productive individual with an objective, rational approach to life, much more than simply a woman with a creative career and craft-related hobbies, they can be startled or confused.
At times it’d be easier to just portray characteristics of the assumed stereotype, so that people are at ease, as I meet their expectations. Instead of going that route I like to spend more time listening than talking, to figure out where they’re coming from and why they see me as they do.
These days, being viewed primarily as an artist isn’t extremely important to me. This was not so when I was in my teens and early twenties.
My efforts to dress as a “dramatic artsy type”, and to be associated with aspects of Goth culture, almost made me into a caricature back then. I’d go about campus in my long black coat and beret, ostentatiously carrying my portfolio and Artbox of tools. Eventually I realized that my attempts at conforming to this narrow image were exhausting and silly.
As I try to avoid putting people into boxes myself, to instead discover the unique facets that we all have, I’m comfortable displaying a complex identity to the public. I can be wildly creative, practical, businesslike, fun-loving, serious, and mysterious. I’m a writer, a boater, a gardener, a nerd, a project manager, an adventurer, and an artist.
So, what do you think when you hear that someone’s an artist? Setting aside stereotypes is not easy, but I’ve found that it can lead to better interactions and deeper relationships.