How many times have you made judgments about someone based on their looks? The gorgeous girl must be stuck up or gets all the guys. A pudgy or obese person must have no self-discipline, be lazy or have a jolly sense of humor. The foreign-looking person could be a terrorist. Blind people are saints because they deal so well with their challenges. The gray-haired gal won’t know anything about technology. The long-haired boy is a free spirit or does drugs. The child with glasses is intelligent. The old man in the wheel chair is decrepit. The muscular woman with short hair is gay. And so on. In a sense we’re all trapped by how we look because very intricate and subtle stereotypes exist and we all fall prey to them, without ever consciously realizing it.

Several years ago I was reading an article in a newspaper and the woman in the article was quoted saying, “IT’S WHAT I LOOK LIKE, BUT NOT WHO I AM.” I don’t recall the context, but her words felt like a sock to my gut so I wrote them down in a notebook I keep.  Long ago I recall being stunned when a friend told me that some classmates in high school thought I was conceited. In reality my aloofness was shyness. And now as I age, I find my looks shifting in many  unfolding ways, no doubt bringing new stereotypes into play to those who view my exterior and don’t know me.

Can we ever really know how people perceive us? What stereotyped thinking are you guilty of? How does what you look like differ from who you are?