The title of this blog may be a bit ominous. Perceptions? What the hell am I talking about? Perception of what?
Not of what, but of who…and I’m talking about how people perceive each other.
Sometimes I look around at the world today in childlike wonder of some of the beautiful things that I see and people I know. But every now and then, something that saddens me slips through. One of the things that leans more toward the depressing end of the scale is that, despite all the amazing things humans have accomplished, we are still no less superficial than when I was in high school. In fact, I believe the general populace might be MORE superficial than ever!
Now by “superficial” I don’t mean concerned only with someone’s physical beauty. I just mean “quick to judge others.” It happens a lot, and the reason I notice is because it happens to me!
Let me give you a quick example. When I was attending the CDL School, there were a lot of guys in my class who were your typical loud, ball-busting jokester types. You know the type: the chest-thumping alpha male wannabes. There are two ways to take those kind of people: either they are loud like that because they really are THAT confident, OR deep down inside they are scared shitless like the rest of us, and this peacock-like showing off is a way to mask that fear.
Whatever the case, my point is that I am nothing like that. I don’t like showing off or being loud because, to paraphrase an old proverb I heard somewhere, the largest tree in the forest is the first one to get cut down. Being loud and outspoken like that can make you a target. Therefore, I prefer to keep to myself. When the instructor would get on our case and bust my balls because I was doing a maneuver wrong, I wouldn’t say anything back; I would just let him be his ball-busting self and correct the errors he said I was making.
So one day I’m standing in the yard during a break, and this instructor comes up to me. He said, “How are you doing, Grogan? How are those maneuvers coming?”
I said, “I’m doing good. Things are coming along.”
He said, “Good. Get that shit down, son. If you can’t get it down here in the yard, you won’t make it out there in the real world. The strong survive, and the weak get cut.”
For a few seconds I stood there looking him silently in the eye, and then I slowly said, “Yeah…I know it.”
After a few more exchanges he walked off, but he left me wondering why he felt like he had to come up to me and say that. There were lots of other guys in the class. Did he pass the message on to them? (I brought it up with some of them in the form of a question: “Did he ever say to you…,” and the answer was always “no.”)
It didn’t take me long to figure out what he meant. My quiet demeanor has always given people this impression that I am a pushover, a wimp, a victim, easily dominated, etc. The story was the same with this instructor. Apparently all the times when I kept practicing the maneuvers (no matter how frustrated I got or how much I got yelled at) did nothing as far as proving to him that I am NOT a pushover, a wimp, a quitter.
I really don’t understand it. In the past I used to hear about how certain actors portrayed characters in movies that were described as the “strong, silent type.” Well, in real life, I don’t think such a thing has ever existed. There is only the WEAK, silent type. People feel that if you are quiet, you are trying to avoid being noticed. While in the past that may have been the case with me (because I WAS bullied in school if the bullies took notice of me), that certainly isn’t anymore.
These days I maintain a silent demeanor simply because it suits me. I don’t believe in doing the loud, bellowing voice and chest-thumping that a lot of guys do. I just like to stand back and watch those kinds of people run their mouths because I know there is usually nothing behind that kind of talk; they are just showing off, and I am content to let them. After all, how does their alpha male behavior affect MY life? It doesn’t (unless they try to bully me). So I am happy to let others live their lives as they please.
That is what I did with that instructor: I didn’t challenge him about the fact that he had the wrong impression of me, that I really AM self-confident, etc. I just let him speak his mind and walk on because no amount of talking would prove I am confident; only action would display that. And not for nothing, but why should I feel like I have to prove anything to him anyway?
Honestly, sometimes this perception does irritate me, and I wish I had a way to prove people wrong about me. But what kind of test could do that? What am I supposed to do…try to out-alpha the other showoffs, or goad them into a fist fight and pummel someone into the ground? Well, those solutions won’t work: I HATE showing off, and I have too many responsibilities hanging over my head to do anything stupid like starting a fight.
In this case, I DID prove myself to that instructor…to a certain extent: I passed my CDL road test. However, I don’t think he was referring to just the test; he was talking about me surviving when I am out there on the road actually doing the job. Again, in my mind I already know I won’t have any problem with the demands of the job, but what good would saying that to him prove? None. The only way to prove it would be to come back six months down the road and tell him about the success I’ve had with my company.
But as I said above, why should I feel like I have to prove myself to anyone anyway? If they want to think I am weak or a pushover or whatever, that’s fine. Let them have that impression of me. I can’t be worried about them not knowing the real me.
I know who I am and what I am capable of. I have no doubt about myself being able to reach deep down in my gut and find the strength to do whatever it is I need to do. Even if the whole world doubted me, that fact would NEVER change.