He smiled understandingly—much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five time in a life. It faced—or seemed to face the whole external world in an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It would like to believe in yourself and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.
-F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
How powerful it is to be truly seen—seen as we see ourselves, our pain, our issues, our challenges, our gloriousness. Yet, all too often we allow the impressions of others to cloud our images of ourselves. And often as well we are guilty of projecting our biases on others.
It’s time to change this unhealthy dynamic! First of all we need to stop surrounding ourselves with people who don’t see us as we know we are. We need to ask ourselves if our friends—and even some family members—see us. And we might have to make some hard decisions, but we’re worth it!
And we need to be honest with ourselves about our own biases and how we might be allowing certain implicit group stereotypes to affect how we see individuals. Generalizations are helpful only up to a point; they lose their efficacy when they keep us from seeing the humanity in individuals.
Perhaps we should adopt the philosophy with which Nick Carraway, The Great Gatsby’s narrator, begins the story:
In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. “Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone”, he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”