First impressions should not dictate final judgments


Allie Pigg

I don’t like to admit it, but I often judge people based on their first appearance. It’s difficult trying to force myself out of the habit, but the premature perception always seems to come back in a society dictated by appearances.
In a Huffington Post study, participants assumed that people whom they deemed more attractive were in a higher social class than those they considered less attractive. So, I’m not alone in my habit, but the compulsion is dangerous because I know my initial thoughts aren’t always right.
In elementary school, a girl my age moved in across the street. I was looking forward to seeing a girl get out of the car with pretty, straight hair and a bright pink outfit on. Instead, she lazily stumbled out of the car, for she had been traveling all day. She wore old pajamas and had a bird’s nest of tangles on top of her head.
Despite feeling more reserved than I had originally intended to be, I went across the street to introduce myself. Her name was Maddie. She was kind and knew more about the world than you’d ever expect for a third-grader. Maddie and I became great friends, and when she moved to California five years later, it felt like part of me was missing. I had learned that my first impression of her being unkempt was completely wrong. But even after experiencing an incorrect first impression, I find myself worrying about how I will seem to other people.
Before bed every night, nothing stresses me out more than what I’m going to wear. Maybe I don’t have my priorities straight, but it’s more likely that I want to make a good impression on my classmates and teachers. I want it to seem like I have my life together, and that I’m happy to be there.
As much as I’ve tried to teach myself not to judge people based on my first impression of them, I cannot control that I live in a society that values appearances. The “dress for success” mantra says it all. It teaches us that if we want to be respected, we have to dress lavishly, and often uncomfortably, to achieve success. Is that how we should be represented?
I don’t think so. As a society, we stress the idea that we only have one shot to make a good impression. I have spent too much time trying to decide what I should say or wear to an interview in order to seem like the perfect candidate. Our individual personalities are so complex and unique that we should give each other days, weeks or months before we judge because time and experience is the only way to learn who a person truly is.
Even if someone’s appearance did reflect their personality, it wouldn’t scratch the surface of what they have experienced. During the summer, I learned the meaning of discovering someone’s story.
In July, I attended a mission trip in Denver, Colo., where I served an urban homeless community. The locals were unhealthily skinny, and they hadn’t showered since the last rainfall. But as we sat down with them and talked for several hours, we discovered how bright their personalities are despite how dark their living situations.
My biggest takeaway from serving in Denver is the same message I wish our society would encourage: we need to focus on the importance of learning about and embracing other people, cultures and beliefs. Everyone experiences life differently, everyone carries his or her own burdens, and everyone is important on this earth. The world would be a better place if we knew how to meet someone new. Judgment should not just be about someone’s name or their outfit; rather, it should be about their personality and the beautiful details that create their story.