Why People Treat You Like You're Incapable

When some people keep criticizing you when you do certain things, it may be because they don't want you to do that thing, period.
They don't want you to be proficient at it, or gain confidence in your ability.

John goes down to the ball field to practice. Several other kids are there practicing too, with a couple adults. When Bill gets up to hit, everyone says "go Bill, you can do it, nice job", whether he gets a hit or not. When Jeff gets up to hit, everyone says "go Jeff, nice swing, good job", even if he doesn't get a hit. When John gets up to hit, only a couple of people say "go John". John has an excellent swing and gets a hit on the third pitch, but instead of saying "nice hit, John, good job", one of the adults tells him what he did "wrong". The other kids hear this and chime in too, giving John all kinds of criticisms about his stance, his swing, even the way he runs. They call these "pointers", and "constructive criticism". Reality is, John is one of the best hitters, and the adult is jealous. John is a better hitter than his own child, and seems more skilled than he was at the same age. With enough of this focused, contrived "constructive criticism", John will eventually stop coming to practice, lose interest in baseball, feel like he doesn't fit in, or stop believing that he has any reason to believe he could be good at baseball.

When Susan picks up a hammer and a saw, she's in Heaven, she feels creative and at peace. She loves to build things. Every time one of the people in the neighborhood see her building something, either another kid or an adult, they try to pick out something she's doing "wrong", even if they know very little or nothing about carpentry. They give her all kinds of advice that she doesn't ask for, and they "assess" her work. They compare things she builds and makes to things their uncles, fathers, or grandfathers have made. The only person who does not constantly try to pick her apart is her brother, but his friends all do it every chance they get. Eventually Susan starts trying to hide her projects, but when someone hears her sawing, banging or drilling, they will either make a comment or find her and comment on what she's doing. If they can't find something wrong with what she's doing, they will pick on her clothes or her hair. If that doesn't work, they'll say what she's doing is dangerous. If that doesn't work, they'll try to criticize the actual equipment she's using. Every criticism will be denied, or called "Constructive criticism". The invasion of her space will be denied and laughed off, and if she stands up for herself against their behavior, they will criticize her for that, too.
Really it's a campaign to stop Susan from doing carpentry, because everyone in the neighborhood wants carpentry to be a "male" thing. They don't care about reality, or Susan, obviously. All they care about is trying to force her into fitting into their stereotypes that comfort them. Susan's proficiency and enthusiasm destroy their illusions about males and females, so they target Susan and try to make her STOP. (Hopefully, her brother will remain a solid friend to her and keep supporting her and seeing her for who she really is, and not give in to the peer pressure from his ignorant and immature friends. She will need his friendship and support, otherwise she will probably give up due to the stress of the constant harassment, and give up the very thing that brings her peace and confidence.)

First Impressions

Many people will think they KNOW YOU based on a short list of little things they think they noticed about you.

Have you ever heard "I didn't know you had it in you!"
or "I didn't think you could do that!" or "I had him/her all wrong". Those statements reflect that someone had believed they knew "all about" someone, and had no doubt, even after several years.

They may have met you 5 minutes ago, or 20 years ago. Those who met you 5 minutes ago will often think they've accurately assessed you based on about 5 superficial things that can't possibly reflect who you are, like your size, your sex, your appearance (clothes, hair, makeup, jewelry), the sound of your voice, and most importantly, how you "make them" FEEL. They will probably assess you as "nice" if you seemed friendly to them; they will probably assess you as "not nice" if you did not give them the feeling that you were paying enough attention to them.
If you are dressed conservatively, they will see that as your personality. If you are wearing an Armani suit, they will think they know why. If you are wearing torn jeans, they may think that's what you always wear, and that you don't have any other clothes. If you are dirty from working, they will assess you as a "hard worker" if you're male, but if you're a woman, they won't, they'll just think you should be cleaner (even if they saw you working.) If you are very well groomed, they may instantly assess you one way if you're a man, and another way if you're a woman. (It's not actually about YOU, it's about THEM.) If you are very tall or very small, their assessment will be focused around that, and they will often believe they are either stronger and more experienced than you, or weaker and less experienced than you. If your skin color or hair color is different, they will focus their assessment around that. "She's nice for a white lady" or "He's nice for a black guy", etc. These "assessments" are not based in reality or logic, they are based only on reactions that developed in childhood and adolescence. (There's hardly any actual intellectual activity going on, and very little awareness of personal bias, prejudice, or assumptions.)

Those who met you 20 years ago did that same assessment after 5 minutes, back when they met you 20 years ago. Since then, they have built their impression of you STILL on the way your behavior makes THEM feel. They may not know that you're an excellent cook, or that you rescue animals on a regular basis, or that you used to own your own company, or that you race motorcycles, or that you are a sculptor, etc., even after 20 years. Why? Because they think they already knew everything about you a long time ago. They created a "profile" of you in their imagination years ago, and that's what they believe about you. Their profile of you is most likely pretty far off the mark, and are missing large chunks of the reality of "YOU".

Humans do this kind of assuming that they "know" much more than they actually do all the time. It's our subconscious's way of protecting us from our own anxiety, which lets us move through life without constantly getting STUCK. But without the awareness that our brains do this, we tend to believe our assumptions fully, and don't remember that we DON'T KNOW everything about a thing, a subject, or a PERSON. (If we know how to make an omelette, we might think we're an excellent cook, and that we are Omelette Masters. We think we know basically everything there is about making Omelettes, so we don't seek more information, and we don't want to hear someone TELL US how THEY make an omelette. We do this with everything, sometimes just a little, and sometimes to a ridiculous degree. Some do it less, some do it more.)

When people meet you, what do they see?
Picture what the world looks and sounds like when you are wearing a helmet with a face shield. What can you see and hear? It's not even close to what's really around you. You can't see much, and you can't hear much, compared to when you're not wearing it. If you see a bird, you might not be able to tell what kind of bird it is. If someone is dancing 10 feet away from you, you can't see them unless you turn toward them. Sounds are muffled, language is unclear. Vision is limited. Your mind ADAPTS to the limitation of the helmet, and you learn to drive your motorcycle or your race car with less information than you would have normally. When a person meets you, they might as well be wearing a helmet. Very little information gets through, but they believe they got most of the picture anyway. Many will believe they have learned more than enough to know "what you're about". They're not aware that they're wearing a mental helmet. Many will even FILL IN their imagination about what you do in your spare time, how smart you are, how physically strong you are, what you are CAPABLE of or NOT capable of, HOW you grew up, whether you're rich or poor, your VALUES, your BELIEFS, and what you think about THEM.

Many people who have known you for 20 years will also FILL IN their imaginations about you, and believe they are right, and never question their assumptions. They will continue to treat you as if YOU ARE the pretend-person they have created in their imagination. Your pretend-profile in their minds is actually about THEM, not you. They build it in accordance with what makes them feel okay.

For example, many people will subconsciously attribute parental qualities to those who are taller then they are, and attribute child-like traits to those who are smaller than they are. This is magnified with people who are very tall or very short. They will asses the exact same behavior DIFFERENTLY when a taller person does it than when a shorter person does it. This is NOT about the other person, this is about THEM.

They don't know to separate their own feelings from who you are:
>Many will assess you as stuck-up, or even sexually promiscuous, if THEY find YOU attractive (even if you're wearing a turtle neck).
>Many will decide you are fragile as glass, or solid as a rock, just from one look at your arms, hands, maybe your shoulders.
>They may decide that you're a drug-user from something as silly as looking at your shoes or your hair.
>They may decide what you do for a living, or what you CAN'T DO, just from looking at you for one second.

And they will often BELIEVE these assessments, without ever finding out ANYTHING about you in reality. They may never doubt these assessments at all.

Another example, if they have identified themselves as a "great cook" or a "spiritual healer", then they may imagine that you are NOT a great cook, or ignorant about "spiritual healing", so they won't feel challenged or outshined. If you actually ARE a great cook or have experience with spiritual healing, they may try to dismiss anything you do or say that shows that you are. So in their pretend profile of you, you can't cook much, and you're a novice/beginner in spiritual healing, so they can be the expert.
If you received your degree from the top chef school in America, they may still rationalize that you're not "really" a chef, or that you probably barely passed, or that you must have had help.

The REALLY WEIRD thing about this common habit of extreme over-confidence in assessing others and believing these imaginary profiles is this:

When you do something that proves one of these assumptions WRONG, the ASSUMER may become UPSET, as if YOU DID something to hurt their feelings or disrespect them!!! They can actually feel OFFENDED that you are NOT what they wanted you to be. So if they had you pegged as someone who CAN'T use tools, and you go and change your own oil filter, they can actually get MAD AT YOU, and maybe not LIKE YOU anymore.

If they want you to be a person who is AFRAID of reptiles, because it makes THEM feel "tough", and you catch a snake that's on the path in front of you, they can actually get MAD AT YOU, as if you've just done something TO THEM by not playing out their imaginary profile they made for you.

Relationships with those who create imaginary profiles of you can be difficult, confusing, and dramatic. They are not operating in reality, so you can't build a REAL friendship with them based on REAL things. They will continue to treat you according to their imaginary profile of you, maybe forever.

As far as "first impressions" go, understanding that a very large number of humans will believe they know all about you in the first 5 minutes of meeting you might help explain why people talk about that and try to teach youths why it's important. OF COURSE it's silly that people assume things about you in the first minute of meeting you, but that's what they do, so being aware of that fact can help make life go more smoothly. If you actually want that job, dress to look more like a conservative person, and don't worry about the interviewer not "seeing" who you really are. They probably don't have the ABILITY to see you for who you are, and they can't anyway in that small amount of time, even if they were a genius. They are looking for very basic superficial signals that might not even make sense, they might be TERRIBLE at assessing other people. But you want that job, so give the interviewer what they are looking for, even if it feels alien to you. First impressions are MORE important when dealing with those who are LESS ABLE to understand that there is much more to a person than whatever they assume in the first 5 minutes, and your awareness of this is even more important.