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Our everyday superficiality

Vladimír Záhradník
July 21st, 2021 · 4 min read

When I published a post about a month ago about superficiality and the power of first impressions, I had no idea that I had only hit the tip of the iceberg.

In the last few days, a number of insights have come to me that have not been easy to listen to. They are fundamentally changing my view of the people around me and it will take me a while to process them. You may have noticed that you haven’t seen a new video from me in a couple of days. Well, I can’t smile when I feel sadness inside. But let’s get this out of the way…

In my blog, My Privacy Boundaries, I talked about how I learned years later what my former colleagues thought of me. They addressed my clothes, they just joked that I was gay… A few days ago, more snippets came to me. Once, when I was still working there, I revealed to them, in between talks, what my dream woman was like. I know she doesn’t exist, but you have to dream. She’s Anne of Green Gables. An introvert, a dreamer with her head in the clouds, but also a fierce and ambitious woman who speaks her mind. And a redhead to boot — she was nicknamed Carrots.

Anne of Green Gables

I had no problem talking about such personal things. But as I have been shown many times, I misjudged the people around me at the time. They smiled at me, pretended to regard me as a colleague, discussed my work with me, and so I revealed myself to them. Now I learned that behind my back most of them were rehashing it over coffee somewhere. When I left work, they said they wanted to give me a picture of Anne as a memento. I would have taken it as a nice gesture, but now that I know they didn’t mean it sincerely, but rather took it as a cruel joke on my behalf, it makes me sick to my stomach.

Those people don’t even reach my ankles, and I’m glad I’ve cut off contact with most of them. In my new company, Ness, I am still open, but I keep a much greater distance from my colleagues now.

On Saturday, I heard from another friend. He had seen my last Toastmasters speech, which I also recorded as a video.

Networking: Every Introvert's Nightmare (in Slovak)

He told me that it was great and that I should definitely keep on creating. I guess he sees the potential there too. And he also gave me advice to consider changing my wardrobe. Apparently, many people don’t even listen to me just because my clothes look drab and unfashionable. That saying “clothes make the man” is probably more apt than I thought.

I mentioned this feedback to another friend yesterday between talks.

— Vlad, it’s good that you’re finally starting to realize it too. I didn’t want to say anything because it might have offended you.
— Offend? Me? I can take any criticism. Even if it’s unpleasant, if I learn of a flaw, at least I can address it.
— Really? But you weren’t always like this, were you? You must have changed in this regard…
— I don’t think so, I’ve always been direct and welcomed feedback.

As it turns out, even my closest friends don’t know me well enough. They’d rather be quiet than have to tell me that something bothers them about me. And yet honest feedback is the best gift they could give me. I was thinking about this yesterday… How many more people are there who have a problem with me but won’t tell me to my face? And what else bothers them about me?

Today a friend texted me that if I’m looking for a relationship, it would help a lot if I wore perfume. Apparently, women like men who smell of perfume. Up until now, I thought being decently dressed and wearing deodorant was enough. I guess I was wrong… Apparently, according to her, I only need to wear perfume when I go out. What a relief… Because I can’t imagine putting perfume everywhere I go, even at home.

I naively thought people valued reason and wisdom more than the rest. But I guess my values are completely different than the values of most around me. I appreciate those who have had the courage to want to help me, and have told me what can help me. But that is secondary now. I realize now more than ever that people don’t look beneath the surface. They won’t watch my videos because I’m dressed differently than they would expect. They refuse to have a debate with me because I’m too honest and I say unpleasant things too. And my blogs, where I write so openly, they might even read, but they rave about what a naive fool I am and that I’m putting it all out there. And maybe they tell other colleagues and acquaintances about them. Fortunately, I know there are many of you who are genuinely interested in my stories. I’m glad you are.

I know that the world is not as I would like to it to be. But I have found that the level of superficiality is much higher than I had previously thought. Everything bad that is piling up in my head at the moment is personified by the following video.

The Expert (Short Comedy Sketch)

My only comfort is my friends, whom I know intimately and know they say things honestly. It has taken me a lot of effort to build up that circle of people and I appreciate them.

I need a few days to think about it. I need to sort out the thoughts in my head. I’ll probably start being more careful about what I say in public, though. Inwardly, I’ll still be just as honest and open, but I’ll save my honesty for those who really want it. Outwardly, in front of people I don’t know, I will be much more careful.

Findings like this hurt, but I’m glad I at least know how things really are. I can work on that. And I’m not giving up on people. I still believe that even when the world isn’t working well, I can create my own microworld with people who like me just the way I am, and who don’t play games in front of me. We are in a deep social crisis. I wish we would start listening to people, regardless of how they appear to us on the surface.

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