My senior year of high school, my only year on the basketball team, we were scrimmaging in practice.
In the Philadelphia Public League, it was common for the “big men” — the tallest players on the rosters — of varsity teams to be 6’4” or so.
(There were plenty of taller boys living in Philadelphia — those kids got recruited to play at private schools.)
I stood at about 6’3” in the 12th grade; five of us were about that height. There was only one guy taller than that, at 6’5”.
My role on the team was as a backup “big man.” That’s how Coach Brown saw me. Back then, big men didn’t dribble or shoot from the outside. We rebounded and hung around the basket area.
Coach Brown didn’t know, nor did he care that my reputation on my neighborhood rec teams was as a deadly outside shooter. To him, I was a rebounder and screen-setter.
On this day in a practice scrimmage, the ball found me open on the wing. I let a 3-point shot fly.
Coach Brown smirked and gave me a funny look that said, “YOU??? A three pointer???”
A teammate spoke up to Brown that I was indeed capable of making that shot. Brown said nothing. We kept practicing.
I attempted only one three point shot that entire season, a late-game shot in a home blowout win.
Being creatures of habit, we humans like to know what we can expect of other people.
Putting others in boxes, categorizing them so we can rest assured of who they are and will be, what they’ve done and will do, is the automatic way our brains work.
It calms and relaxes us to know what to expect of people.
This is why some people don’t understand when you change — or, when you show another side of yourself that’s always been there, but they didn’t know about, which registers with them as a change.This is why some people don’t understand when you change — or, when you show another side of yourself that’s always been there, but they didn’t know about, which registers with them as a change. Click To Tweet
Doing that draws the kind of looks that Coach Brown gave me that day in practice.
Sometimes the looks are accompanied by comments.
Advice for you to not change (even if this is not actually a change).
Ridicule or maybe even attack for not remaining in the neat box someone had you in. “How dare you be something other than what I thought you were!”
Going against the categorization that others put on you — even when it’s completely inaccurate — isn’t always easy. We’re social creatures, after all; who wants to have the whole tribe telling you you’re wrong?
But, if people’s perception of you is wrong, then dammit, it’s wrong. And sometimes you’ll have to make yourself (temporarily) unpopular to get your point across.
As soon as you prove your point, people will happily, quickly and quietly adjust their views of you.But, if people’s perception of you is wrong, then dammit, it’s wrong. And sometimes you’ll have to make yourself (temporarily) unpopular to get your point across. As soon as you prove your point, people will happily, quickly and quietly… Click To Tweet
But you have to move first, and let them catch up. Don’t wait for them to give you permission — it’s not coming.
Have you ever been in a space where someone had the complete WRONG idea about you? How did you deal with it, and what might you do differently now?
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