Why We Hate What Is Different

I've never been good with criticism from others. Giving. Receiving. Hearing it, reading it, processing it. 

For me, constructive criticism wasn't ever about constructing; it was about tearing down. 

And maybe this isn't criticism because it's not a response to work, but a direct response to who I am as a person. What would we even call that? 

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Today, and many days, I've had a boss I'm contracted with, offer his opinion on who I am as a person -completely unrelated to work. This, unfortunately, is a commonality in the working world. 

"You're pretty out there," he said.

We exchanged niceties at the beginning of a conference call; he went to a movie, I went to see longhorn cattle. It's astonishing how just a few words can make a person want to crumple up and over-explain themselves to seem less "out there." 

The words, "You're weird," have occurred a LOT in my life. It's a tough phrase to refute, because I am different. And I've loved that about myself since the first grade (as far back as I can recall standing out of the crowd). Sometimes, like today, I forget that it's a gift. To see and do and create...differently.  

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People criticize what they do not understand. Think about this. We criticize people, things, places, traditions, religions, marriages, and even food, because we "don't get it." Have you ever been fully educated on something and still criticized it? 

The same happens between us as coworkers and friends and family and strangers. We ridicule one group of people often times because we do not fully comprehend them. What they do, why they do it, their story, the DNA that makes up each identifying person. 

We tell each other, "He's weird," or "They're weird," as a jerk reaction to differentness. 

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"You're pretty out there," he said. I followed it up with a piece of my heart, because I was desperate and sure he'd misunderstood me. "I went to see these longhorns because they were the biggest I'd ever seen. I'm used to seeing these sort of things back home: a pen of sheep or cattle grazing in the fields, horses flicking their tails back and forth and baby goats springing around like slinkies do down a flight of stairs."

I didn't say it like that at all, actually. But that's what I felt. And that's why I went. "I went because I'm used to seeing that sort of thing back home out in the country. I'm from the country," I said. I thought it'd make me sound less "out there." Those words just fell flat over the phone. 

"I mean you're out there geographically," he said. 

"Right. I'm sure that's what you meant," I said. "Don't pretend like you didn't mean it the other way." 

We criticize what we do not grasp. 

And that matters to me. Because that hurts. We shouldn't care what others think about our lives, but we do because the words stick with us sometimes. They can become part of who we are and what we think of ourselves even. 

The thing to really remember is that we can't convince others that we're "normal" or up to their expectations. We can be exactly who we are, unapologetically (as hard as that is). No matter what race or creed or heritage or neighborhood we live in. It's not YOUR job to make sure your boss or your father-in-law or the lady at the gas station approves of you. 

It's THEIR job to get to know you, your story. Just like it's OUR job to get to know them instead of just labeling, judging, out-casting, shaming. If we learned about each other, with genuine love and grace, we'd gain understanding. A background. Reasoning, friendship, acceptance, even if nothing is agreed upon. 

Maybe we'd hate less people. Maybe we'd stop calling each other names.