Whether we like to admit it or not, most people are critically aware of other people’s perception of us. The lucky few can cast the opinions of others to the side, while some spend their lives trying to overcome the preconceived notions people gather from just looking at us.
I would like to say, in recent years, that I care a whole lot less about what people think of me. I won't be obnoxious and say that I have achieved the top level of ‘no f**ks’, but I really don’t think anyone truly resides there.
For me, the list of people whose perception or opinion matters to me has been narrowed down to a short one. If your name is on it - trust me, you matter.
The thing is though, absolutely everyone you encounter will garner an immediate perception of you. Whether it is a woman who admires your highlights, or a guy who oogles at your ass - it is a part of human nature to note these things about the people we encounter, filing it away for future evaluation, or simply using it to identify those we saw. I may be odd in that I find it fascinating which key feature people choose to use when trying to identify someone. Like if I said “oh you do know her, Emma from our Dickens lecture”, and if that wasn’t enough to trigger a memory in my confidante, then it would lead to a long guessing game in an attempt to identify this person. This is usually where the interesting stuff comes out; where the person goes "oh is she the one with that red backpack”, or “is she the one who is dating…”.
This. This is what I find interesting.
How do we decide what the defining feature of someone is? What is that feature that we possess which makes the whole room exclaim “ohhhh HER"!!
I want to know what my defining feature is. I want to know what it is about me that people use to denote me. I have no idea why I find it interesting, but, in the hopes that you might too, I thought I would excavate this apparent obsession with you all.
Despite my personal wonderings about the concept of ‘love at first sight’ and all that lark; I do believe that first impressions and the hereby assumptions do say a lot about a person. When I introduce a friend of mine to someone, or a boyfriend to a parent… I’m stupidly interested to hear what words are used to relay this interaction back to me, possibly hoping that it will give some insight into the same assumptions people might make when they meet me.
Considering our eyes make the first evaluation of those we meet - a person’s looks ranks high in what we use to rate and rank those around us. Oddly, maybe it’s because I’m twenty now and all wise, but this one actually bothers me the least. If I am denoted by looks, I usually get stuck with being the “blonde friend”, and considering the amount of money I drop in the hairdressers, it’s one I can live with.
I’m not ignoring the fact that sometimes the comments made regarding one’s looks can be the most offensive, but it’s usually such a surface level connotation that it probably says more about the one making the comment than it does about you. Most of the things related to appearance which get assigned as one’s ‘defining feature’ are quite basic; ranging from the simple ‘blue eyes’ to ‘no eyebrow guy’… (A personal favourite identifier I’ve heard)
Other identifiers which people use are often related to personality, but I think this strays a little beyond the defining features which I am concerned with. As if someone vows to know you well enough to comment on your traits as a human being, then they don’t fall into the wide majority who make the instant connections and assumptions whom I’m largely more interested in.
I know that the identifiers which arise from one’s looks or personality can be the most hurtful. I mean no one wants to hear a group of lads simply refer to you by a number or a group of girls to call you out on your dress sense or physique; these comments, although usually not meant to harm, can sting. In 2019 though, everyone is entitled to be whoever they want to be and someone’s snap decision ranking who you are as a person really should not be entertained when regarding your own self worth.
(Damn, maybe I should be a motivational speaker for that one.)
On a personal level, the defining features which people choose to label me with, largely do not bother me. However, it is when my defining feature is intertwined with someone else - like if I am to be known for dating someone, or being a fan of someone - that I tend to protest.
To a certain extent, we can control the way we choose to present ourselves, or we can choose to be true to our own personalities; but we cannot control the associations we have with people, or have had previously had with people.
This lapse of control can be destabilising - particularly when people are using things or people who we do not believe represent us, as the key feature with which we should be identified by.
I mean people are automatically going to make connections between you and other people, and it is probably the most common feature which triggers that “oh HER” moment, but it never fails to bother me.
I may be alone in my distaste for it, but I personally don’t want to just be known as someone’s ex or someone’s friend, as it is probably the identifier which is most disassociated from the person themselves.
I realise that I’ve probably made myself sound all bitter or something, but my concern with these associations go beyond my desire to be viewed separate to my decisions in terms of love and friendship. For years, my identifier stemmed from the fact that I wrote a blog, or the fact that I like Taylor Swift; and my distaste for such identifiers grew so strong that I largely separated myself from anything which could identify me in such a way.
Despite my obsession with what someone believes my ‘defining feature’ to be, it is largely a fruitless endeavour to overanalyse such associations because you simply can't control how others choose to perceive you. In a way, hearing what others perceive you to be can be quite comical, as the identifiers they choose to label you with can be so far from the truth. My attempts to combat such labels have led me to try and never be ‘too much’ of anything, fearing that anything which spilled out over the boundary lines would then become what people would know me for, and later associate and identify me with.
I now question if there was ever a need to be so cautious. I can’t really see why any of us should need to trim the edges of our personalities in the hopes that it will garner us a more pleasant identifier with the masses. Trying to reign in the various perceptions that people have of us seems to be a largely futile endeavour, and one that I’m going to try and avoid.
Even though I am BEYOND interested in what you identifier you may associate with me…. I humbly suggest you do the same.
P.S. Hi, it’s nice to be back… I’m Zoë x