Smashing Stereotypes

Photo: Creative Commons

Photo: Creative Commons

We all do it. Sizing people up, making nanosecond judgements about the people we meet, based on various unwritten criteria floating around our heads. Brainy. Boring. Mumsy. Geek. Chav. Fun-loving. Hippie. Mean. Tarty. Snob.

Last week, someone said that I didn’t look like a mother, I didn’t seem the type. Yikes, is that a good thing (as in, I don’t look all mumsy)? Or is that a negative thing (do I look like a self absorbed person who wouldn’t possibly want children)? Or is it simply that I look too young to have kids (I know I often look far younger than my age)?

But then I just chuckled to myself. I don’t look like a lot of things. I’m sure I don’t look brainy – yet somehow I managed to clinch a first class honours degree. If I want to appear intelligent I opt for glasses rather than contacts but it doesn’t always work! I probably don’t look like a poet or guitarist, yet I’ve penned quite a few poetic lines and have been strumming tunes for quite some time now. I don’t look like a teacher (yes, people used to be surprised when I told them back when I was one) – since I often seem laid back and totally not authoritative. I admit it, I’m no scary teacher, but I can certainly step into ‘Mrs Carter, teacher mode’ if the occasion so requires. (I no longer teach, but am still involved in educational settings.)

I’m pretty certain I don’t look like I could be fluent in German, yet I am (well, used to be), having studied German and European Studies for four years. Now I’ve written a children’s novel (as yet unpublished), I’m wondering whether I look like a writer or author. Maybe on some days, who knows!

And finally, apparently I don’t look like a Christian. That one made me smile. A year 8 pupil once made this announcement after the topic of church came up and I mentioned my interests in this area. “Really, you go to church?” he said. “But miss, you don’t look like a Christian!” Again, I really wasn’t sure at first whether this was a positive or negative thing. But then I quickly determined that it was, in fact, rather a good thing. Who says that a Christian has to look a certain way anyway? I certainly wasn’t wearing anything outrageous to class that day, just my pretty average teacher-y gear, perhaps my cool brown boots, though I really can’t remember.

It just goes to show how wrong we can be about someone, based on first impressions. It’s funny how in the Old Testament, no-one thought that young David looked like warrior or king material. In fact, he was the least likely candidate. Yet he went on to defeat the fearsome menace Goliath and reigned over Israel for 40 years. And who can forget Susan Boyle, star of Britain’s Got Talent show a few years back? No-one expected her to sing with such power and capture the hearts of the audience.

Has anyone ever been surprised to hear what your roles or skills or interests are? Or have you ever been way off the mark in your judgements about someone?

As for me, I’m all for surprising people and smashing stereotypes. 

People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart: 1 Samuel 16:7

2 thoughts on “Smashing Stereotypes

  1. I once had, ‘Are you a geek then, Miss? You look like you spend a lot of time in libraries…’

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