To seem or not to seem… is that the question? (A digression on appearances)

Since the early stages of history there are a consensus that appearances can be deceiving. Aesop warned us that “appearances often are deceiving” and he was not alone. It seems that this statement is part of a general knowledge and still it seems as well we fail to interiorize it.

Appearance matters

I try to go over the first impression we have when we meet someone for the first time, not to categorize the people by their looks or studies, clothes or economical situation because I truly believe these things don’t make a person. They are just circumstances that might influence but never determine the person itself. I’m trying to run away being inserted in a group, nationality, education… whatever thing is susceptible of create a group and, when at last I feel comfortable with this “not belonging” I try to go to the next stage, the most difficult one, to not make people belong.

Right now it’s all about breaking the stablished rules and see what happens, see what goes with me, what I feel comfortable with.

“Attitude is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than what people do or say. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill.” Charles R. Swindoll

So, that’s why I feel so at unease right now. I’m trying not to categorize people and the people approaches me labeling themselves. This morning I had the last experience that made me write this post. As I was having an iced green tea in a coffee shop a very good looking guy approaches me to ask me my name, nationality, if I’am a tourist… a regular beginning of conversation. He seemed nice so I invited him to take a seat at my table. I didn’t know his name yet, I was about asking him when the first thing he blurted out about him was “I’m a lawyer, can I have your telephone number?”. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me but I think in terms of introductions the first thing one says about oneself is the name, which it’s probably most useful when we are talking about calling each other… What is he going to say when he calls me: “Hey, I’m the lawyer”? Wouldn’t it be easier to give me his name?

The thing is that he’s not the only one that introduced himself by the professional group he belongs too. Since I arrived here I have been receiving regular invitation to have coffees and dinners and the thing that amazed me the most is that all these guys introduce themselves by the status they belong to, whether the profession or studies. The pictures of all these guys are very artificial, like they are wearing their best clothes, they are posing, those pictures seem to me being very far from natural.

Although appearances might be deceiving, they can be revealing too. And that’s true too. You can learn a lot about the appearance of someone, about what he/she wants to show.

Don’t judge the others by the appearance

The main point is to find a balance trying to collect useful information without fall into creating false conclusions when we lack of knowledge and experience about the circumstances of others as well as their culture. And now I’m addressing mainly to myself because I found myself drawing assumptions about the society and people I’m surrounded now after a week of stay, which is clearly nonsensical, reason why I’m determined to control my hasty conclusions by dedicate more time to an educated and thoughtful rationalization.

“Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.” Herman Melville.

Before ending this post, I can’t but ponder about this concern about appearances. Sometimes, people are more interested in correcting their image than they are in correcting themselves. What is it that we want? To seem or to be? Socrates did give us the answer: “The shortest and surest way to live with honor in the world, is to be in reality what we would appear to be.”

7 thoughts on “To seem or not to seem… is that the question? (A digression on appearances)

  1. Holy Douchebags! Where is this place where guys introduce themselves as their professions?

    Fantastic article to read by the way. I found your blog after you left a very interesting comment on the daily muse.

    The story was about “Cleavage in the work place.” You were the only commentor that “disagreed” with the writer and I thought to myself I wonder what else she has written…


    • I’m in Delhi at the moment and whether I’m very unlucky or all the guys that have approached so far have told me their professions before their names… true story.
      Glad you enjoy the reading. Yeah, I remember that comment. Am I the only one that disagreed? Really? Well, what can I say? I’m a rebel 😉

  2. First, my best respects to your blog, it speaks to me.
    In cases as such I usually use to not introduce myself by title or position. Though if demanded I escape in describe it as something unsophisticated, giving the impression of a simple occupation. e.g. Architect becomes a bricklayer. It is a great way to save a lot of time and emotional energy as the majority of people will not care about somebody “lesser” then themselves and only those how are able to look behind the facade are worth my time. This may, however be different for women as appearance plays a much bigger role and can’t be hidden like the the handle to your name.

    But then, “trying not to categorize people” maybe well intended but aren’t we, humans, composed to categorize? Isn’t that what our brains are made for after all?
    Let’s not arrive at this thought, shady shoals are just to close.

    • Thanks for you comment.

      It’s interesting what you do when asked your occupation in order to know what the other person is looking for. However I must disagree with what you say about women being more interested about appearances. My own experience has proved me some men and women are interested about appearances in the same way.

      I don’t think categorizing is something inherent to humans, I think we have been trained to label us since we are children but I think is a problem of the education and the society we live in mostly. Would we categorize ourselves in the same way if we were educated to think we are equals?

      • Thank you very much for taking the time to respond to my thought.
        I was, maybe a bit unclear in regard to the appearance of women. I referred to the way this is perceived by the environment. From a man’s perspective I can’t help but acknowledge that there is strong preference in terms of looks. I haven’t come across any culture yet that would not put a strong emphasize and women’s appearance while that holds of course also true for man it appears to be to a lesser extent.

        You are of course right with your second assessment and it redounds to your honor. I tried to take a more anthropologic approach by making the point that human brains are nothing short of pattern recognition machines (labeling devices?), which is how we try to make sense of our surrounding. Any language for example has many words to describe things. Every verb functions as a drawer, the description of everything is the sum of verbs and adjectives and therefore categorizing. The way of labeling is of course trained as you say but labeling itself is inherent.

        Maybe we can just differentiate between the ways of labeling/categorizing as you experience it in India and labeling/categorization as you may got accustomed to in Europe where your sentiments are commonplace.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s