Things aren’t as bad as you think. Whatever issue concerns you most, you are likely more sensitive to it. This results in false positives: Seeing evidence where there is none. We like to be the hero, valiantly fighting whatever oppressive forces we imagine. It’s a tempting illusion. Who wouldn’t want to be the Scooby Doo gang, with the bad guys cursing us as meddling kids? But sometimes, there is no swamp monster after all. I’ll give you two examples.
Number one: A friend had a child, born two months premature. She is now ten months old, and an adorable baby, the kind people love to swoon over. At dinner, an older lady approached, looked at her and said ‘Oh, she’s so tiny!’
I can’t read minds, but it seemed to me to be the standard comment people make whenever they see an adorable infant. Still, my friend was bothered, saying defensively “She was premature.” A false positive.
Number two: When I was in high school, I worked at Sears in the kids department. We had two registers, one on each side of the department. Policy was that at least one person had to be at each register. One day three of us were working, and things were very slow. I chatted with a coworker as we folded clothes and straightened racks near one register.
A second colleague called to say she was going on break, so my coworker and I moved toward the middle of the department, so that we could keep an eye on each register as we straightened.
“Just so you know, I wasn’t going to steal nothing.”
A customer we hadn’t noticed interrupted us. I felt bad, since we should have noticed her, but we hadn’t. All I could say was an ever-so-articulate “Huh?”
“I wasn’t going to steal nothing. Just because I’m black, you don’t have to follow me around.”
“Uh, we weren’t following you. We came down this way when someone else went on break.”
She left, and I looked at my coworker, who shrugged. Clearly, the customer had interpreted our actions as racially driven, when they were not. Believe it or not, Sears did not train associates to stalk suspected criminals – the security team handled that through cameras. Another false positive.
When something pushes your hot button, check again that things are really as they seem. Often you might find things aren’t as bad as you seem, and you can take the immortal words of Peggy Hill to heart, and take it easy, Parcheesi.
yes, I try to remember this general idea. It makes me less self-conscious about things.