Opposite you, an exhausted-looking man glances at his phone persistently. To your right, a woman glides a slender brush across her eyelids, creating two charcoal wings that flick out towards her temples. Next to her, a well-dressed man flaunts an expensive-looking watch as he negotiates with a caller on his iPhone. Two tattooed women behind you talk passionately in hushed voices, you can’t hear what they are saying, but it sounds significant. A young woman sitting nearby beams at a giggling baby girl. A man sits alone in silence, gazing vacantly at the space between his shoes. A couple looks agitated, they hold hands, but they are clearly eager to arrive at their destination.
The exterior of a person is something that, within limitations, is able to be changed. This alteration of appearance means the opinion others have of you is subject to change based on the actions you decided to take; you are in control of the message you craft and you can be very strategic about it. If appearance can be changed so easily, why do we put weight on appearance at all?
If you don’t really know what’s inside someone, how could you realistically make an estimation of what those qualities might be? Until you truly know, both possibilities exist simultaneously. In physics, this is called the quantum theory of superposition. You’ve all heard of it; it’s Schrödinger’s cat.
In the instance of the cat, the cat is both dead and alive simultaneously, while it is inside the box. We do not know the condition of the cat until the box is finally opened. With humans, it is the same. We can make all the guesses we like, but we do not know whether a quality exists in a human, until we get to know what is inside the person before us.
Speaking of physics, let’s talk about Stephen Hawking. If he had never been given a speech synthesizer, and we were unable to know his genius, would you judge him as being unintelligent due to not knowing definitively whether he was or not?
This notion applies to all people; you really do not know whether a quality exists inside a person until you get to know them.
The man opposite you, consistently checking his phone, might be the father of a boy on life support in ICU. The woman applying winged eyeliner expertly may be doing so in order to avoid being told she looks tired, because she does double shifts to bring in enough money to support her family.
The well-dressed man flashing his expensive-looking watch may be deep in debt and trying to find a way to keep his head above water. The two tattooed women behind you could be talking about the tech startup they are planning.
The young woman smiling at the baby girl may be a bereaved mother, having just lost a baby of her own. That little smile may just help her on the darkest of days. The man sitting alone in silence, staring at the floor, may just be wondering when his car will be fixed so he can stop taking public transportation.
The agitated couple might be going to their 12 week scan, to find out if their latest IVF round was a success or another failure ― which would break their hearts.
You just never know.
All people have something unique within them that can only be found once you get to know them. A person may appear to have it all, but this does not indicate what they have. Conversely, someone may appear to have nothing material, but on the inside they feel full of gratitude for their immaterial possessions.
The problem today is that we’re scared to show the things that make us truly human. Behind carefully constructed appearances, we all hide in plain sight.