Don’t judge a book by the first page

We usually make judgements about a person from our first meeting – one moment of their life. It might be that first outfit of clothing we see that tells us about their financial status or their heritage. Or that first interaction when we decide that they’re quiet, or lazy, or timid, or kind, opinionated, cranky or argumentative.

Psychologists call these first impressions “implicit inferences” and studies show that our split second judgements can last for months, if they change at all. The consequences of these judgements can be quite significant. We will avoid people who we feel are difficult and spend more time with people we’ve deemed safe. Our behaviour towards them changes depending on that first analysis we made, based only on a single moment of their life. But, we can’t really tell about someone’s history simply by reading the current page or even chapter. Life is a complex story with plot twists and character changes. Remember that your first impressions aren’t always reliable. We’re going to get it wrong sometimes, and that’s okay. 

Don’t rely on the judgements of others when they have only read one chapter of your life.

The same thing is happening in the minds of others. It’s so important to remember that how other people perceive us, isn’t an accurate reflection of who we are. No human can have a complete understanding of our history and experience. Friends, acquaintances and even our family are not the best sources to fully understand ourselves. Even you haven’t read every chapter of your own book. Who you are today isn’t who you were 10 years ago; and who you are today isn’t who you’ll be in 10 years. Your Creator, who knows every page of your book, is the only source for understanding your whole story.

I often tell people that I would be a rubbish psychologist if I didn’t truly believe that people can change. Psychological studies have shown that the brain is constantly learning and adapting across the lifespan. Your brain structure actually changes with your life choices! So whatever your current hurdle or challenge, whatever you’ve heard from others, I can promise that there will always be a plot twist. You’re built to keep learning and adapting. We don’t need to rely on, or fear, the judgements of other people who haven’t really understood us in context or who happen to see one of our poor choices. This chapter of life will come to an end and a new one will begin. So, be wise in who you listen to and who you allow to speak into your life.

When you start your next chapter, just make sure that you’re levelling up as a person. Develop a new skill or build on your character strengths. Write your story according to your values and who you want to be as your chapters progress; because your history doesn’t define you and neither do the perceptions of others; it’s your choices that will shape your future story.