Tag Archives: perspective

Perspective on labels, and fixed mindset thinking

I have posted in the past about fixed vs growth mindsets (ie how willing are you to believe things can change and be improved), and recently the topic of fundamental attribution error has been popping up a lot.

What is fundamental attribution error? Well, I have found an article that helps explain it in a really good general, easy-to conceive way. Psychology today has a post “The Danger of Labeling Others (or Yourself)”.

When you say that someone is a bully, you not only mean that they tend to bully other people, but also that—at their core—they are the kind of person who bullies others. I have a cartoon on my office door of two prisoners sitting in a cell. One says to the other, “You’re not a murderer. You’re just a person who happened to murder someone.” This cartoon works, because being called a murderer feels like it carries something essential about the individual.

If you use terms to describe people—and you believe that they cannot change—then your life can be stressful. Every time that someone treats you badly, you take that as evidence that they are a bad person, and not just that they are a possibly good person who just happened to do a bad thing.

If you are able to think about people’s personalities in a less fixed way, perhaps that would decrease your overall stress.

This comes up most often in the case where someone takes offense to something that someone else said, and the person who said the offensive thing might retort “why are you  being so sensitive?”. Why this is flawed, is because the person saying that is implying that their level of tolerance is the correct one and anything more sensitive is wrong. As in, “if it doesn’t bother me then it shouldn’t bother anyone”. And that’s flawed because not everyone agrees on where this point is, and we can’t satisfy everyone, so we have to agree as a group on a point where something is unacceptable.

This is also why it is flawed to make sweeping generalizations like “all women are too emotional” or “all men are too aggressive” (or “you’re being too sensitive”). They are demonstrably false, and while it’s easy to anecdotally think of several experiences that prove this belief, we much more easily forget the experiences that don’t support our claim. Everyone behaves in a certain way some of the time, but no one ever behaves in only one way all of the time.

Listen to a Conservative Republican mother tell the story of her transgender daughter

You know, often the most compelling and convincing stories are ones that are truly personal and genuine perspective changes. I’ve been fortunate enough to have several in my life, and when I come across them, I try to share for the benefit of others.

Here’s a really beautiful story from a mother defending critics of her Transgender daughter. Politics be damned, the phrase “unconditional love” comes to mind.

For your convenience, I’ve typed out the transcript as well:

I’m the mom of a little girl called AJ, who was recently profiled in the Kansas City Star. As surprised as I was to find my family in the paper, I’m also incredibly proud.

My daughter is six years old. She transitioned, which means she changed her outward appearance from male to female, and started living full time as her true gender, when she was four.

Until that point, she was quite a rough and tumble little boy with a buzz cut and a shark tooth necklace. But when she was three, she asked her dad and I if we could buy her a princess dress.

We didn’t buy the dress.

We thought she might be going through a stage of liking bright or sparkly things, and didn’t want to waste money on something she would grow bored of in a week. But she kept asking, and I found out that she had a favourite princess dress she wore at daycare.

What the heck we thought, and we took her to the store to pick one up. Things didn’t stop there. Over the next few months she started to wear that dress every single minute that she was at home. And then she asked for more. Dresses, nightgowns, headbands, sparkly pink shoes. And eventually, even girl’s underwear.

We allowed some of those things, but we drew the line at the undies. There were just some things we weren’t comfortable with during this phase.

But then I noticed her pushing down on her genitals a lot, and I asked her what was wrong. Not having those parts, I assumed she might have a rash and was itchy, but her answer shocked me.

She said that they bothered her, and were in the way. She wanted them gone.

Thank god for google, because I immediately jumped on the computer and typed in a search “four year old boy says genitals should be gone”. What came back was a very short list of results, but they all pointed to one thing. My child might be transgender.

I had never even heard the word transgender before and really didn’t know what to think. We made an appointment with our pediatrician. She recommended a child psychologist. But before we could even get an appointment, my daughter, then my four year old son, said these words to me: “Mom, you know I’m really a girl right? I’m a girl on the inside”

That moment changed my life.

In the following months she became more insistent. We saw the psychologist and an endocrinologist just to make sure there wasn’t a hidden medical issue. She became more determined to express herself by wearing those pink sparkly shoes to daycare. She wanted to go out for ice cream in a fairy dress and wings.

Eventually we couldn’t hold her back. She was showing signs of depression and refused to leave the house dressed as a boy. The day I let her go to school in girl clothes she was happier than I had seen in a very long time. The kids were great, and the teachers were awesome.

But then the kids went home and told their parents, and they weren’t so great after that. Adult bigotry had influenced them.

We lost most of our friends and some of our family. We basically went into hiding for about a year while my daughter grew out her hair to look like the girl she is. When we emerged again, it was with a very happy and confident daughter.

When I share our daughter’s story, I hear the same uninformed comments over and over again, so I’d like to address a few of those now.

One. We are liberals pushing a gay agenda.

Nope, sorry, I’m a conservative southern baptist republican from Alabama.

Two. We, or at least I, because they always blame the mom, wanted a girl, she we turned our child into one.

Again no, I desperately wanted boys. The idea of raising a girl in today’s world scares me to death. I’d *much* rather be responsible for raising a good boy who knows how to treat girls well, then to be responsible for raising a girl who might only be interested in dating bad boys.

Three. Kids have no idea what they want or who they are. My kid wants to be a dog, should I let him?

Well, that’s up to you but I wouldn’t. There’s a profound difference between wanting to be something in imaginary play and declaring who you are insistently, consistently and persistently. Those are the three markers that set transgender children apart, and my daughter displayed all of them.

Four. Kids shouldn’t have to learn about sex at such a young age!

Well, I agree, so it’s a good thing that being transgender has nothing to do with sex. Gender identity is strictly how a person views themself on the inside and is completely separate from who we are attracted to.

Five. Transgender people are perverts and shouldn’t be in the bathroom with “normal people”.

I don’t know what you go into the bathroom to do, but I know what my daughter goes in there for and it isn’t to look around. It’s to go into a stall, lock the door, and pee where no one else can see her.

Six. God hates transgender people. They are sinners and going to hell.

My God taught us to love one another. Jesus sought out those who others rejected. Some people choose to embrace biblical verses that appear to say transgender people are being wrong. I choose to focus on verses like verse Samuel 16:7 which 嘉盛集团 says “what the lord said to Samuel, do not consider his appearance or his height for I have rejected him. The lord does not look at the things that people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the lord looks at the heart.

My daughter is a girl in her heart. She knows it. God knows it. And that’s good enough for me.

Advice for single people to do what’s right for them

I can’t really think of a good title for this one, and I don’t want to just rip off the title of the original. It comes from HuffPo writer Susan Rosenzweig, “3 Lies And 1 Truth About Why You’re Really Still Single”.

Being single isn’t inherently a bad thing. However, there is a lot of social pressure on people who are single, and to be “OK” with that state of being almost seems insane to most people. Why would you want to be… alone? Sure, companionship and affection are great, no argument there. But the amount that society pushes us to pair up, for the weaker willed or weaker of personal conviction, can potentially push us into relationships we don’t actually want or are not actually happy in, just for the sake of “not being alone”.

For the people who feel overly pressured, I like to share articles like this one here to help you find the right answer or counter-argument or reason to justify what you want, whether that involves being single or not. My family pressures me, and I mostly ignore them.

So, what are the marvelous points that this article makes?

Lie #1 – “There are no good men/women left”. Statistically and demonstrably false. As patronizing as “you just need to get out there more” can be, there’s some truth to that. Sure, there’s online dating, but if you’ve got the social skills to woo people in person, I personally believe you’re far better off. A glowing personality can win over people who were unimpressed with you on paper (that seems to be my problem). But for those who aren’t as comfortable socially, I think there are more people than ever doing online dating.
From the article:

Are there lying men and women out there, just trying to get into your pants or wallet? Absolutely. But there are also a whole bunch of nice alternatives that are looking for you.

Lie #2 – “You’re too picky”. This one hits really close to home, it’s something I’ve fought against for years and have made progress, but I’ve definitely got so called “high standards”. That includes for myself though, which is part of when led me to push myself to improve my social skills, hit the gym and be proactive about doing the things I want in life, with or without company. I’m building the life I want to live, to hopefully attract someone with similar goals, values and interests. The problem isn’t necessarily pickiness, but moreso what you are picky about. That’s why it’s usually more successful to pair up based on mutual goals and values, than purely based on what you’re physically attracted to. From the article:

Here’s the thing about this one: I don’t think anyone really chooses who they fall for. You can tell yourself that you need a guy who is six feet tall, devastatingly handsome and drives a Porsche all you want. Then one day, you find yourself head over heels for the 5’8″ balding but oh-so-charming bartender at your favorite restaurant. Think Charlotte and Harry in “Sex and the City.” You can’t help it — it just happens.

I would not have agreed with this when I was younger, but I do now. I’ve found myself really drawn to women who weren’t my usual type, because they were an absolute delight to be around. And that’s again part of why I say, if you’ve got the social skills – use them. Someone can be “devastatingly gorgeous” but if I can’t talk to them or we don’t have values/goals in common, it’s not going to last.

Lie #3 – “You haven’t made it a priority”. While the author of the article pretty much completely rails against this notion, I do believe there is some truth to it. I feel this way off and on, where I’m just so focused on achieving personal goals and trying not to burn myself out, that the last thing I am thinking about is meeting someone. That is a sharp contrast to how I was even just 5 years ago, where I spent considerable time on dating sites and craigslist trying to meet someone. It was the only thing I felt was missing from my life. Now my life is quite fulfilling, and I’m more leery of bringing someone into it who might not understand or respect the balance I want to maintain. But I guess what the author is actually getting at is that if you are looking, that you could always be “looking harder”. Our friends and family can mean well but some people just get lucky and find what they’re looking for with a short search. I do envy those people who found their partner early in life. Susan writes:

There is nothing I cannot accomplish if I set my mind to it. Overcome an eating disorder, check. Move to NYC, check. Get my first job in advertising at a global agency, check. Compete in ballroom dancing, volunteer, become a creative director, write a blog for Huffington Post? All within my control. But love — love is not.

Notice I said love, not just get married or have kids. I have the audacity to want real love, great love. Or nothing at all.

And there’s another great distinction. I also totally agree with her on this:

A real connection is beyond rare. And if you know (or even just long for) what that feels like, it’s impossible to settle for less.

All I’m saying is, finding real love is hard enough without the voices within and without that make it worse. It happens when it’s meant to happen.

You have to do what is right for you, in the end, no matter how hard it is. It’s a fight we all fight every day, and again, that’s why I like sharing these sorts of things, they give me great perspective and help me keep “the voices without” at bay. I think I’ve gotten pretty good at listening to the voices within.

Hope that helps you. I don’t remember to say this enough on here, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one readers. We can learn from each other’s experiences 🙂

If biology is software, is prejudice faulty code?

I was watching a video on YouTube the other day, where Ray Kurzweil was being interviewed. He made a comment that got me thinking.

He says (just after the 19:00 mark) “all of biology is now understood as basically software”, which seems accurate what with sequencing the human genome and DNA being a set of code/genetic instructions. Ray says that technology is moving towards “patching” human biology software.

This caught my attention because I remembered seeing a news story not that long ago about a pill that can reduce in-built racism. People largely complained that it relieved a person of the personal responsibility to have to work on themselves and to get over their racism by coming to understand why racism is wrong in the first place. If you can just take a pill, you don’t learn anything, you don’t grow as a person.

This got me thinking, what if bigotry and prejudice stems from essentially faulty biological software? Continue reading

13 Cracked.com articles that I highly recommend

There is a reason that I cite cracked.com on the resources page. Say what you will about some of their more frilly, fluffy content, they actually do a really good job of being like Jon Stewart, without the video component.

So, here are 13 articles from Cracked (in no particular order) that I have read and loved over the years, and I will include samples from most of them (in case you need convincing):

1. “5 Famous Actors Who Hate Their Most Iconic Roles

While you might be most interested to read the admittedly very amusing comments by Robert Pattinson about the Twilight film series, or Sean Connery’s comments about James Bond, this is the part of the article that got me: Continue reading

The importance of perspective (experience vs observation)

Over the weekend a friend of mine alerted me to something she found in an OKCupid profile. One of the (many) questions the site uses to match you with potential mates, is “would you consider dating someone who hasn’t been in a relationship?”.

She found a guy who had answered “No, at this point my peers have been in a relationship, I’m not interested in coaching a newbie”.

I was taken aback by this response, which seemed short sighted and selfish to me. So I ran it by some other friends, and was kind of surprised by their responses, which largely agreed with him.

BUT, the interesting thing that I think is missing both in his response and in theirs, is perspective. Why? Well, on one hand yes – having a lack of experience can be problematic, but only if the person in question hasn’t learned anything on their own.

To tell you the truth, I have very limited “formal experience” in dating. But I know that I’m capable of it, for the same reason that I know that there are people who have lived twice as long as me, but are less mature – because I observe and I learn from the world around me, not everyone does. Same as you don’t have to go to college to be able to work or start a business. There isn’t only ONE way to learn.

So, my stance is, if I meet someone and I like them and they tell me they haven’t been in a relationship before, there are other questions I can ask (much like they ask you in a job interview) to find out if they understand the key concepts and best practices regardless.

My parents are divorced, both have remarried but one runs a healthy, communicative relationship, and the other just yells at and argues with their spouse all the time. From that alone, I have learned healthy and unhealthy relationship behaviour, even without being in one myself. Of course if both my parents were in the latter kind of relationship now, I would lack the perspective that there is a ‘better way’.

So I think this person’s answer to me speaks more of impatience and is short sighted in that it ignores this fact. While there are absolutely some things you can only learn how to deal with in the context of a relationship, most of what you need is just human relations 101 and some decent self-awareness. At least, that’s my bullsh$% opinion.

What do you think? Agree or disagree?

I don’t think it means what you think it means

Have you ever had one of those moments where you realized that you think about a particular word or concept in one very specific way, even though it has multiple meanings or possibilities?

Two examples come to mind for me.

The first is extinction. When I say extinction, what is the first thing you think of? Probably dinosaurs, right? Me too. But dinosaurs are certainly not the only species that have gone extinct (or are close to it), they are just the most popular, best known example. It occurred to me that we often think about dinosaurs and talk about the time when they lived and how they perished. Yet there doesn’t seem to be a lot of talk, or sufficient awareness of species that are almost extinct right now, or what we can even do to remedy this. So, while I stop to take a second to consider this, why don’t you as well.

The second is “technology”. Again, what is the first thing you think of? Probably your smart phone, your laptop, or maybe your car. But technically, “technology” is “the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry”. A hammer is technically “technology” (it is a rock attached to a stick that can be used to bash things). It’s considerably “low tech” at this point, but it’s still technology. So is a pencil. I lose perspective on this often because we have come so far with creating cool gadgets and devices. But don’t forget, if we got hit with an EMP, suddenly our smart phones and tablets and laptops would become glorified paperweights, and pencil and paper would be “high tech”.