Why do people perceive you differently?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Some of it’s from personal experience and some is just observation, but I remember thinking during my Dark Teenage Years that I’d really enjoy getting past 18. For some reason I had this idea that 18 was the age when you’d be treated differently… not so much that your ideas would be right, but at least they’d be listened to before being shot down. I suppose it was all the fuss about turning 18, having rights to drink and vote – you’re an adult, so you’d be treated more like one.

I was naive, I know. Of course nothing changes when you turn 18 – you can vote, but you’re only a day older. The reason it bothered me then wasn’t because I felt downtrodden or anything, but because I’ve always felt more mature than my age. I wanted to be involved in social discussions; I’ve always been interested in mature topics, so being dismissed so callously annoyed me.

Over the last few years I’ve tried to change how people perceive me; people who know me (family, friends) I’ve never had a problem with, they know the things I think and write about… but amongst others, socially I’ve been careful to talk about topics and not get emotionally involved. I thought I’d built up respect, that age and experience didn’t matter as much… and then today I experienced a u-turn so abrupt I almost got whiplash. I felt ill yesterday, like I couldn’t breathe for an hour, so I thought I’d better go to the doctor. I’m someone who goes very rarely; I know my body well and I only go if I think it’s something new. Well, he didn’t find anything, but what I didn’t like was being told I was 22; I should be going out, being 22 and not worrying about these kind of things. I wasn’t worrying; I just go so rarely that I had hoped he knew I thought it needed checking out, even if it was nothing. Instead I was left feeling stupid. I hate that.

I wouldn’t say it was an eye opener, but it was a reminder. In the end it doesn’t matter how old you are, or who you are – it’s easy for anyone to be dismissive of you and it happens all the time. Someone might take offence at something you’ve said, or think you’ve presented it in a juvenile way; or there might just be something about you they don’t like. The way people tend to have conversations doesn’t involve debate as much as feeling – if someone’s wrong, they’re crazy. It’s easier to dismiss something you disagree with than to try and explain why you don’t agree.

Anyway, this has just been on my mind, so I thought I’d get it out. I’ve replayed the scene a thousand times and I honestly can’t think of anything I might have said differently, how I might have been clearer… probably it didn’t matter. I just hate the feeling. But that’s one difference between the real world and being online which is interesting; there’s more of a clean slate – people aren’t more tolerant by any means, but they make fewer assumptions unless you give them reason to. Ah, if only that were true in real life… 😉

One thought on “Why do people perceive you differently?

  1. A 36-year old friend of mine had much the same experience when talking to her gynecologist about getting pregnant. My friend was in the midst of planning her wedding. The doctor (also a woman) had the gall to tell her basically not to worry her pretty little head about it until after all the wedding hubbub had died down, as if my friend’s brain wasn’t capable of handling more than one thing at a time (despite the fact that she has a PhD and is a respected scholar in her field).

    Needless to say, my friend found a new doctor. You might want to consider this yourself.

    CJ: Thanks for the comment. That’s terrible what happened to your friend. It just goes with what I was saying, it can happen to anyone; perhaps someone has too much power, or it’s for no reason at all. In the end there’s not much you can do, except not put yourself in that situation again… I’ll definitely be thinking about a second opinion if it happens again.

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