The U.S. seems obsessed with superficiality. How we look and what our appearance says about us means too much to too many. Whether it’s your weight, your skin color or how you dress, you are not your appearance and you are certainly more than the genetic traits you’ve inherited.

For me, it’s your thoughts, beliefs and experiences that are important indicators of who you really are.

It’s that diversity that fascinates me and makes me want to get to know someone. I like to be around people who:

  • can get me thinking about topics I’ve never contemplated before
  • make me challenge the way I perceive issues
  • offer different perspectives and
  • are open to others’ ideas as well.

It’s when we civilly debate that our similarities surface, revealing our shared humanity. But the insight gleaned goes even deeper: we gain a glimpse of how others view life. How some label them without ever trying to get to know them.

Stereotypes hold us all back by confining us in a prison of false assumptions.

A coworker, who is a Shia Muslim, came into the office one day with a drastically different look. Gone were her stylish dresses, replaced by loose, long, boxy clothing. She announced she was now “covering herself.” A voluminous scarf hid her shiny, thick tresses. My first reaction (that thankfully I kept to myself) was that someone in her congregation had guilted her into this. I was angry that anyone would do that, because surely, this had to be a sign of Islam’s oppression of women.

A few weeks later I discussed with her her change in appearance. She told me that she saw covering as an outward declaration of her love for God. It was a decision she’d not adopted quickly, but one she’d considered for some time. No one had pushed her into it. As we visited, I relaxed and we started laughing like we always do. I then realized she was my same friend despite her newly adopted look.

None of us should model ourselves after anyone else. We are compilations of our backgrounds, cultures, spiritual beliefs, triumphs and challenges. To be inauthentic, because we fear the judgment of others, is an insult to our true selves and to the Great I Am.

In the same way, to view others based on their outward differences sends negative energy that reinforces the hostility we see in society today.

Probably the greatest benefit of my job at the community college and through working on the Nevada Ghost and Paranormal Series is that I’ve been exposed to those who think outside the mainstream. Those who’ve taken the time to figure out who they are and embrace their truths without imposing them on others. They honor their own individuality.

Let’s not allow appearances to separate us, drive our perceptions and keep us from getting to know one another. Instead, reach out and thank God that we aren’t clones.

For more, see my post on Labeling Others is Fruitless.