Flying out of the Pigeonhole

pigeonholedIt’s come to my attention in the last few days that I get bothered – really bothered – when it feels like someone is pigeonholing me. As in, someone apparently only seeing me a certain way or with certain qualities, and then me presenting evidence that goes against how they see me, and these people expressing some kind of disbelief about it.

It could be “since when did you get so happy?” or “I thought you said you didn’t like avocado” – based on a conversation from 15 years prior. “Since when did you get interested in this God stuff?” Or some theme of “oh, don’t worry, I know you … I’m sure you’ll change your mind.”

On their side, I realize I don’t have true insights into another person’s thought patterns, but I’m guessing they’re uncomfortable with “change” in general. If I’m not the assumptions and reality they think they know, what does that say about their reality? Is it possible they could be … wrong? Maybe they’re doing they’re own version of “if you are ______, then I am ______.”

On my side, I know the fact this bothers me is that (1) I’m perceiving this as criticism, and (2) I’m feeling as though this person isn’t accepting me. In reality, I guess they’re not, but it’s my piece to own … they didn’t “make me” feel that way; it’s my own perception of the situation. I also know that in the past, I did a lot of compartmentalizing to only present myself as a certain way to certain people. Whatever I thought would make you like me, that’s the person I’d try to be. Ergo, this pigeonholing, in some cases, could be fallout from my past emotional limitations.

I think it gets to be very limiting when we can only see people through a narrow scope. If you only encountered me on this blog, you’ve maybe formed an opinion about what I’m like “in real life.” Maybe you think I’m always happy, gracious, accepting. I can tell you that is NOT the case. I have rough days. I can be judgmental. I have a sarcastic and biting sense of humor. I get angry. I swear. Sometimes loudly.

But these are pieces of my overall being. No single element makes up the whole of who I am. Human beings have a richness about them that is deep and multifaceted. To interpret people so rigidly is restrictive and unfair. And to be sure, I know I’ve done this myself. I make assumptions about how certain people are going to act/react before I even encounter them. I’m working on that.

How do you feel “pigeonholed”?

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5 responses to “Flying out of the Pigeonhole”

  1. BJ Hessler says :

    This is a really tough one. I feel like pigeonholing is a quick tool for our quick lives that we resort to in order weed out rif-raf, bottom feeders, assholes, addicts, and potentially dangerous people from our lives? I don’t want to miss opportunities for deep connection with good peeps but does one not need some sort of filter in this day and age? I know when i’m in this vulnerable “working on myself” mode, i don’t want to over-extend the limits on my judgments and ignore my gut by questioning too deeply my generalizing and grouping of people I meet. How does this not turn into “ignoring the red flags” instead of “seeing the good in each person”? Good question and glad for your clarity on it. I fail to see what I’m doing when i do it, so seeing a bird’s reaction is super helpful. Thanks Penny!

  2. theeditrix says :

    That’s a great point, but I’m not trying to say we should put up with someone’s crap if they’re known to put out crap, y’know? In this case I’m talking more about people who’ve known me for a long time but only seem to see or accept certain parts of me. And actually the whole point was to highlight my struggle with this … that it bugs me that people would only see a small piece of me without taking into account that there could be/is more. So, it really boils down to a lack of confidence on my part, or putting too much stock into someone else’s opinion.

  3. Peacemagnet says :

    Don’t take anything personally, esp. jellyfish “stings” and “assumptions.” All perception is projection. Or, so it appears to ME! 🙂 Enjoyed your post!!!

  4. John C Dias (@cdiasmd) says :

    I’m pigeonholed when people just start speaking in Spanish to me….
    as a rule I tend to not look at the cover of the book but let someone speak first and let me make my make a decision on their personality from that interaction. I also try and ascertain if there are any self erected barriers in place for social interaction that I have to peel back before i can meet the real person.

  5. Katie says :

    I would like to think I’m happy to see something different in a person. It means they are growing and changing. However, there is something to be said about BJ’s view of weeding out the rif-raf.

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