Once Bitten, Twice Shy

Don’t live in the past, they say. Forgive and forget. But how? After all, we are primitively biased.

Suppose you were a small hare in the wild and for two days in row, when the grass rustled, a big lion would appear moments later, which left you running for dear life. On the third day, you hear the grass rustle again. Do you wait to see what it is, or do you take precaution and act as if your life was already in danger? On that third day it may have been a lion sneaking up, or it could have been another harmless animal passing by. However, once we recognize certain signs, we instinctively begin reacting to an event which may or may not occur.

If you were raised in an environment where every male who wore a white, sleeveless t-shirt, physically abused their spouse, what would you think the next time you came across a male in a white, sleeveless t-shirt in a new environment? (Not-so-fun fact: the nickname for white tanks, wife beaters, arose from this stereotype).

What about if all of your dark, curly-haired girlfriends in high school were always nice and generous to you and all of the straight-haired blondes were selfish and infidel? How would you feel about the curly-haired girls or blonde girls you meet in college?

Suppose you met someone who smelled and spoke like your mother, a warm, caring, loving woman. Would you feel safe and secure with someone like that before getting to know them?

All of these, whether taken positively or negatively, are biases we as people are susceptible to. We really should make the effort to reverse our preconceived notions and take a new experience for exactly what it is, and not what it seems to be. We should, simultaneously, make the effort to be astute, avoid vulnerability, and protect ourselves for survival.

How do we achieve that balance?

I don’t have the answer to that, unfortunately. Daily, I strive for a happy medium. Don’t let yourself believe everything, but at the same time, give people the benefit of the doubt is what I coach myself. Only you can determine how much optimism and realism you need, when and where, to suit your life. It will not be the same recipe for everyone.

Do you believe that you are biased? Why or why not?
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