“People can’t put me in a box; they make some judgment about me, ‘he’s an athlete’ or ‘he’s black’ and then they learn something new that fits outside of that mold & they have to put a new label on me, ‘he’s a creative?’” I was at the gym and overheard an athlete on ESPN saying this in an interview. It was candid to say the least. It made me think about how in life we’ve created dozens, maybe hundreds of archetypes of people. Whether we acknowledge it or not, these archetypes have predictable qualities and behaviors that help us make sense of humans we meet. Why do we do this? Because fitting people into categories makes us feel at ease and more in control of our reality. However, when we run into scenarios where people catch us by surprise and we can’t puzzle them into one slot, this creates cognitive dissonance.
If humans are by nature social beings, than I think many of us take pride in being able to make snap judgements. I know I do. That way we can figure people out quickly and in turn know lots of things about them: what they want, what’s important to them, how to interact with them…We humans are more dynamic than we give ourselves credit. And when we’re right, this confirms the assumptions we’ve carved out. It feeds our ego!
So how can you use this to your benefit? By not settling to one archetype, you can become boundlessly more interesting. Some of the most fascinating people you’ve ever met have caught you by surprise. In high school a stalky, football player named Mike ended up being a fervent book worm and science geek. No not a jock, but an intellectual. A sorority girl ends up being a law geek, a model a comic book lover, a meat head a secret history buff, and an introverted writer a devout Laker’s fan. Don’t let one category define you; embrace the interesting, whimsical side that few know. What fascinates you fascinates others.