The other night a drunk classmate of mine proclaimed his dislike for me. He joined my friends and I as we walked back to campus from Blondie’s and gave an uninvited discourse about how much my Economic Analysis of Policy class hates me. Citing my (nonexistent) belief that I am better than everyone in the class and the fact that I do not hang out with people from that class, he explained that nobody likes me. (He went on about this for about five minutes. He also told me I don’t have any friends.)
I felt like I had been transported back to high school when it was far more common for me to hear that people think that I think that I am better than everyone else (that’s an annoying sentence to say). The thing is, I have never had the thought, “I am better than everyone!” I do not have a superiority complex. As far as I can tell, people are projecting their own insecurities on me. I sit in the front row, do not know a lot of people in the class, and happen to have a very good grasp of the material. People assume this means I believe I am better than they are.
In high school, I encountered this sentiment in people who had never met me or talked to me. I was valedictorian of my high school class, but I never introduced myself as such. Nevertheless, I had a reputation as “1st in the class,” and people assumed I walked around bragging about it all the time (as I recall, I had friends that bragged about it for me). They also assumed I had a superiority complex. Once they met me, though, they discovered they were wrong. I can recall at least one individual telling me, “I always thought you thought you were better than everyone else, but you are actually really cool.”
I know we all judge each other, sometimes on the slightest of evidence. I wish I could say I do not judge others too quickly, but I can be quite judgmental at times. Nevertheless, I do my best to keep my mind open and allow my perception of people to change. When there is a person in class that answers incorrectly all the time and asks too many questions, I do not assume they are stupid and worthless. I assume that for whatever reason said class gives them trouble, and I do not really like being in class with them (when you understand the class, numerous questions are boring). Extending my judgment beyond that would be irrational and pointless. I only wish others would extend me (and everyone else) the same courtesy.
You may know someone as the “girl who walks really fast,” the “kid who runs,” “that atheist girl,” or “that awkward, weird boy,” but if you assume that person is not worth knowing because of a quirk or because they are different than you, you could be missing out. If you assume that person has a monolithic personality, you are missing out.
No one is so simple that they can be defined by one phrase, and everyone is worth more than a simple reduction to a few words. There is nothing wrong with nicknames if you entertain the idea that a person is always worth more than that name. Often, secular individuals forget to apply rational thinking skills to all parts of their life; I think this is one of those times where we need to consider what rational thought and behavior looks like in terms of interpersonal relations.