My teenage niece Emma just posted something on Facebook (yay! she is old enough to use it!) that got me going… She shared a story about another teenager from the Australian North who upsets all expectations in a singing competition. You have to see the video to understand, as no words can describe what everyone thought would happen and then what actually happened.
It tapped into one of my greatest pet peeves – time and time again, we see examples of “what we see is not what is” and yet, we are all too often guilty of judging a book by its cover and going with our own assumptions.
Her video recalls the story of Susan Boyle, the 47 year old sensational singer that rocketed to international fame on Britain’s Got Talent. If you have seen the upheaval she created, it’s not a surprise that her initial video has 147 millions views on Youtube alone. The judges honestly admitted that their own cynicism colored their expectations, and yet we all go with our assumptions again and again.
We also judge capacity based on gender – study after study shows these biases alive and well… for example, if people can’t see but can only hear the applicants to a job, women stand a better chance at being hired. Similarly, if a person reads a work situation about overcoming an obstacle and the “main character” is described as a woman instead of a man, readers assume the chances of success in the situation are slimmer.
And over 50 years after the “I have a dream” speech by Martin Luther King, we might have a US president of African-American descent, but race remains an issue.
I was actually watching Martin Luther King’s speech with my second daughter, as she is studying human rights in school right now. And I do sincerely share his dream, that people are no longer judged based on their appearance, but rather on the merits of their abilities and the “content of their character”.
We need to help each other recognize when we miss opportunities to be amazed because we are set to assume otherwise. I think sharing these stories and videos that remind us to keep an open mind will help us collectively become better at that. Many children’s stories are also centered on teaching kids that the beautiful prince or princess may be a heartless jerk and happiness lies not in the most perfect offering, but in one’s own preferences – just look at the success of the Shrek and Megamind movies.
myBestHelper is also doing something towards that too - Alongside the profile photos of helpers and families there is a “personal catchphrase” that allows each person to describe in their own words who they are and what matters to them.
I will end this post with my favorite quote on the subject:
Alexandra T. Greenhill, mom of three, CEO founder of myBestHelper, woman, human