Do You Express Yourself with Bumper Stickers?: Thoughts on Expression and Judgment
After a refreshing mind and body experience with yoga, do you ever find yourself in the local coffee shop, sitting at a table, slowly enjoying the seasonal latte? I do. I love sitting there and contemplating life’s many questions, knowing that I alone have all the answers (if only someone would ask me). The last time I was there, I caught myself glancing (OK, staring) at the stickers adorning another latte-lover’s nearby laptop. “COEXIST” was plastered diagonally and partially on top of the “OM” symbol. The local university field hockey emblem held a space in the upper left corner. A sticker shaped like a T-bone and read “Steak Lovers are not Anti-Vegan” rested in the bottom left corner. Laying side ways along the right side I saw “Metaphors Be With You”.
I saw those stickers and I smiled.
Why? Because, I instantly felt a kinship with the owner of that laptop. You see, I have stickers on my laptop too (to be discussed later). And I’ve had bumper stickers on my car. Why? To silently express myself.
We all do it in our own ways. Think about. Do you do it with bumper stickers? Is your water bottle covered with all the cool places you’ve been or does it have stickers endorsing the latest yoga clothing line or healthy drink. Are you the “Apple person” that has “Tree of Life” on it’s lid, or is it enough to let the world know who you are just by sliding that shinny silver MacBook out of your back pack? Do you have a tattoo, or maybe sleeve of tattoos? Have you colored your hair to match your attitude? Or are you none of these people? You might express yourself by being the non-expressive type that is content letting everyone else wonder about you. Your daily actions and personality may be just the right way to express who you are.
The point is – there are many ways to express thought, attitude, and life.
There is a caution that often accompanies expressiveness though. You must to be aware that people will make assumptions about you directly related to how they interpret your expressiveness. Be it laptop stickers, green hair color, or tattoos. If the ways you express yourself are truly who you are, there will be few, if any, issues. But if you are using your expressiveness as a mask, or if your outside expressions no longer match your inside personality, don’t be surprised if you are misinterpreted.
You see, we humans, even knowing that’s it wrong, have a habit of judging “a book by its cover.” I have fallen into the trap myself. As I mentioned earlier in this essay, I assumed this person was a kindred spirit just by looking at the stickers on the latte-lover’s laptop. And I know I’ve been on the “other” side of interpretation too. I have been the person that had so many bumper stickers on the car that everyone knew exactly my stances on politics, knew what radio station I listened to, what beaches I’d taken a trip to, how many miles I had run, and what my kids did in school (ok, I admit, I’m still a little bit this way). But I’ve also been the quiet one where it was really hard for anyone to know where I stood in life, yet my stickers told of someone else.
If there is a lesson here, it is to be aware that it’s possible for all of us to be judgmental.
It takes a lot of effort not to be. If we are willing to have others interpret our expressiveness, we must know that every once in a while, we may be misinterpreted. And when we view others by their laptop stickers, by their hair color, by their age, or by any other outside visual cue, we must be aware that there is always more on the inside of that person than we actually see.
So what do I try to do? Personally I try to use people’s visual cues as a reason to wonder. They may lead me to ask questions of the other person. They give me the opportunity to meet a new person, another member of the human tribe.
So…..back to my laptop stickers. What do they say about me – “Minion”, “Bad Yogi”, “Not All Who Wander are Lost”, “the emblem of my fire department”, “Hiking” and “Wilderness Medicine”. Hmmmm …… Who am I?
So, who are YOU? How do you express your beliefs and opinions in the world, and how do you look for others’?