No one is immune to feeling misunderstood, and the relief for its symptoms varies from melancholy to motivation.
Adversity can actually inspire remarkable courage and outstanding change.
Once we enter adulthood, we have the maturity and emotional intelligence to produce positive energy from a place of fury and frustration. Or, as rappers tell us, “Let your haters be your motivators.”
It can also lead us to treading dangerous waters.
We have all seen friends and public figures alike overcompensate for their insecurities by spiraling out of control, falling victim to depression or, you know, dry-humping a foam finger when trying to shed skin they no longer or never felt connected to.
To further ourselves from whatever misconceptions or inappropriate adjectives we feel people identify us with, we make efforts to supersede them. At times, we make too many efforts.
I have recently questioned how much “good” misconceptions do for us and our self-awareness.
Is determination more or less just a derivative of oppression?
If we dared to give the amount of time we spend proving others wrong a percentage, would it be higher than the number reflecting how often we strive for excellence simply because it would make us happy?
So, I went out and asked several 20-something, professional women, “What is the biggest misconception about you, and how does that influence your behavior, if at all?”
"People’s greatest misconception about me is that I got stuck with my jobs, when in fact, I have chosen what I do and love it. When people give me that ‘don’t worry, you'll find a job’ look, it just makes me appreciate what I do even more." - Ellie M., 24, Administrative Assistant/Promotional Model/Casino Dealer
“People's greatest misconception of me is that I'm always trying to compete with or outdo them. I'm the kind of person who just feels better when I have my stuff together, so I try to always look nice, be kind and do my job or any task to the best of my ability. A lot of people mistake that way of doing things as me thinking I'm better than everyone else. Sometimes, that makes me want to shrink back and not put my all into everything I do, but for the most part, I try to just keep doing my thing and be nice to everyone until they get to know me and see me for who I am.” - Paige M., 25, Writer
“The greatest misconception about me is that I don't have what it takes to be a journalist, more specifically, an international journalist. Since my deportation from Lebanon, I continue to struggle with my place in the journalism and media world. Because I don't have a job in the media yet — even after over 35 applications — people assume my time abroad was just a stint and a time to find myself, and I didn't really do journalism there. Also, the industry judges you on the amount of articles you have published or "at risk" locations you have reported from. I try not to let these things get me, but when it comes to professional development, it's hard not to. Also, aside from journalism, I constantly get remarks about my figure from friends and strangers saying, 'You're too skinny. Go eat some fatty foods. Why are you working out? You are already skinny.' 'Wow, and you're a vegan? How do you get all your nutrients?' What people don't understand is that calling someone too skinny is derogatory and has the same insulting effect as calling someone fat. A body type is a body type. I work out not to get skinny, but to get toned and be healthy. It seems to be working, but I will let society keep thinking a certain way.” - Kaylyn H., 24, Freelance Journalist
"I surround myself with friends, and others believe I have a fun, animated social life. And I do, but only when I can. My depression (combined with loneliness) can be so debilitating that I don't have the energy to go out on weekends and join the nightlife most other single people in their mid-20s enjoy on a weekly basis. I have the greatest friends, but no one to come home to every night and be intimate with or share dinner. It's a void I try filling with so many other things, like food and alcohol. To the future love of my life: I haven't met you yet, but I miss you." - Lauren A., 26, Account Executive
"The biggest misconception people have about me is that I am super upbeat and energetic 24/7. The truth is there are some days I don't feel like talking to anyone, but because most people see me as outgoing, I just have to put on a smile and play the part!" - Megan H., 28, Creative Advertising Copywriter
“I think the biggest misconception people have about me is that I am just a fun girl looking for a good time. I have feelings, and they are valid even if I don’t like to show my softer side. Yes, I like to make jokes, go out and party, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love or want anything deeper than sex. This insecurity causes me to just hide my emotions even more.” - Gloria C., 24, Graduate Student at Università Bocconi
And I can’t ask you to show me yours and not show you mine:
"My greatest misconception or insecurity is that people rarely take me seriously, or they think I am incapable of fulfilling a task that requires ambition and intellect. I think my happy-go-lucky attitude, sunny disposition (and love for pop culture) and my silly high jinks overshadow my character, my humanitarian workmanship and my accomplishments, such as being a published author and Victim Advocate. In fact, people just see me as a basic bitch when I’m kind of a BAMF. Because of this, I am constantly trying to prove I am smart or that I am accomplished by boasting accolades and downplaying other 'shallow' attributes at times." - Jazmine R., 24, Writer and Marketing Consultant
I found the results interesting, humbling and comforting.
Clearly, we all feel we are combating preconceived notions of ourselves. We all believe that either despite or in spite of our actions, we are more than them.
Each of us embodies vast dimensions.
The tragically ironic twist is most of us feel misunderstood or misrepresented, and yet, we continue to mask our faces with smiles, nods and murmurs claiming to be fine.
I can faintly recall my mom telling me something about not judging books by their covers. She was smart to dispense such advice, and it would have been wise to listen long before.
But, more than the cracks in our hearts, I see the strength misconception inspires. Because of it, we have stories, we have empathy, and we have a reason to get up and kick some ass.
I suppose the advice I would give is this: See the bigger picture. You will always be misunderstood or underestimated. And, if you try to abolish the misconceptions people have about you, you will always fail.
You cannot mirror a thousand different reflections. The truest reflection is the one you see of yourself.