In modern culture and history, identity is everything to most. We all want to feel as if we as individuals matter to both ourselves and in the eyes of others – from our words and actions, to what it is we believe, to our physical appearance, to what we enjoy doing, and so on and so forth. The reason why it’s so important to us is our ego, when you boil it down.
We want to feel and think that we’re validated and justified not only to ourselves, but in the eyes of our peers as well.
Where it doesn’t jive well with others is when our behaviors, thoughts, feelings, and appearances conflict with another’s that may either feel differently and strongly in contrast with our own. We form opinions, make judgements, and accusations based on what we hear and see on the surface in order to both protect our own ego and to fulfill our own needs of being justified in what it is we do. And we tend to seek out like minds for said validation.
It becomes ugliest when we tend to generalize and stereotype one another, based almost solely on protecting ourselves, our groups, and making us feel better emotionally.
And it goes both ways, whether we may like to admit this to ourselves or not. Sometimes it’s subtle, and other times it’s very obvious. Sometimes it’s intentional, and other times it isn’t. Everyone does it, although we don’t like to admit it. Then again, some are proud of it and use it as an example as if to say “I’m SO glad I’m not like that douche.” But you are and don’t even realize it. And it sucks not only for the person you’re doing it to, but for you as well to satisfy your own ego and and emotions.
We say things about one another like:
“All Christians and Conservatives are hateful, intolerant, and religious bigots.”
“All Liberals are whiny, PC bleeding-heart socialists that hate America.”
“All rich/wealthy people are greedy and selfish.”
“Low income people on welfare are looking for handouts and expect society and the Government to take care of them.”
“Someone is (insert gender, race, class, physical appearance, religious, or political label here), so then that must mean that they’re (insert generalization here).”
“But you’re (insert label here). Shouldn’t you be (insert generalization here) instead?”
Or even simpler statements and ideas such as:
“So and so is so (insert negative adjective here). I can’t believe they said/did this…” leading to one’s own sense of superiority.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
Nobody likes to be generalized, no matter what walk of life they come from. To just accuse and jump to conclusions just because you met a few or even just one conservative, liberal, minority, person who is gay, white person, female, male, etc that had a view or opinion or behavior that might not have sat well with you doesn’t mean that ALL of them in this group are like this. And one person doesn’t necessarily speak on behalf of all in a group. There are those ones though that unfortunately do behave in what one would consider stereotypical and have the potential to give others similar to them a bad name. The ones that don’t, deserve to be heard out and not pigeonholed or judged so harshly based on a bad experience with another similar to them in the past.
And yes, there are people who do take their beliefs that seriously and will see the negative and opposition wherever they look…because they willingly look for it. They’ve been conditioned by their social group TO look for it. Thus we generalize, judge, and shame others for not seeing things our way. Which in turn just continues the never-ending cycle of hatred and misunderstanding of our fellow human beings.
So if we as individuals are either hurt or angered by how we’re perceived and judged by others, shouldn’t we have all learned by now that this gets us nowhere and makes us no better than others for doing the same? In the words of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” I think that before we decide to generalize, shame, or accuse another of fault, we should maybe take a look at ourselves and understand that we too have qualities about ourselves that can be generalized, judged, stereotyped, and shamed as well. And to possibly even correct what we may not like about ourselves based on what we see in others.