Four years ago, I went to the ophthalmologist, and my diagnosis was precise. I needed glasses. My blurry vision was bothering me at work, and I also had trouble recognizing faces from a distance.
As soon as I received my first pair of glasses, I put them on my face and didn't take it off anymore. I've always heard that people bother to use it, but that wasn't my case. I used it every day. Whether at home, at work, or wherever I went, I didn't think about take it off my glasses.
In the beginning, a lot of people commented about the way I looked with them. Many said I seemed smarter. I didn't think much about the comments, and they never got any real attention from my part.
However, after quitting my job, my routine changed profoundly. The glasses became more and more sideways. And it was on a long trip that I realized that using it all the time was more trouble than good.
I stopped using it and noticed a very different reaction from people. The glasses help me see the world a little better. On the other hand, they seem to influence the way people see me even more deeply.
Traveling alone and wearing glasses
I spent three months traveling alone, jumping from one city to another, staying in tons of hostels, and not remaining in the same hostel for more than four days. In this short period, I had to introduce myself and say goodbye to several people — almost every day.
In this kind of situation, it becomes more evident as we quickly create opinions about others. And of course, they do the same to you. Since at the beginning of the trip, I was used to wearing my glasses. It took me two weeks to realize that I was ruining them, and they were giving more trouble than helping me. I was mainly outdoor, which made it easier for me to lose them, and sweating. The best option was to keep them safe in my backpack.
In these two weeks, the people I was meeting ended up talking about their first impressions about myself. They said I seemed to be smart, well-mannered, serious, shy, and they certainly didn't speak, but they might find me the typical nerd.
I remember that I met a Canadian guy that, out of the blue, told me that. He Said that I seemed, in his words, a well-educated man.
It was common to receive a comment on the pair of glasses. People were saying that it suited me a lot. And if you're curious, I'm using them in the photo of the article. Some girls even asked me if they could try it on or comment that it was dirty and helped me clean. Interestingly, my glasses were a character in many conversations. Soon after, but not for that reason, I stopped using it.
The journey continues, but the glasses went to the backpack
Organizing my luggage to go to the next town, I took my case and glasses straight into my backpack. I was expecting to get them out of there just in case of need. While writing this text, I don't need to use it, for example.
In my mind, nothing had changed. But I started, at the beginning of the trip, to write about my routine. Daily notes on what was going on. In this way, I could understand a lot about how I interacted with the people I knew, and what changed.
I began to realize that from a city on, people judged me as outgoing, cheerful, playful. Closer to the Brazilian stereotype. Some even told me that they felt embarrassed to approach me because I seemed expansive. These people were usually quite outgoing. It was as if I was sharing the stage with them.
I confess that for a while, I thought that the very experience of the trip could be changing me. Of course, it was a little. But I didn't feel my behavior was so different from the usual, especially in the mentioned aspects.
But then, another situation arose. When I spent more days in the same place, and with the same people, a convergence of opinion was more common. Including people saying they had made a first impression mistake. That's when I remembered the glasses.
A fall short of expectations
If I met a group of people wearing my glasses and spent a few days wearing them, the hope went from smart and shy to playful and cheerful. If anyone knew me without my glasses, the movement was the other way around.
Interestingly, depending on how the interaction began, the opinion of who I was changed. In the first case, I would be an intelligent person who cares more about books company than people. After building some confidence, I relaxed and could be more open to humorous conversations.
If the interaction started with a first impression of me being an extroverted person, the movement was the other way around. I was the Brazilian who talked to everyone, but in a more in-depth conversation and two, I was more thoughtful. As if I could disconnect from the constant jokes and focus on something more complex as well.
Deep down, I was always the first impression, though. But I could manage to fall short of expectation a little and get out of my primary behavior. In my opinion, the introvert profile has a lot more to do with me. In some environments, it is challenging to see my extroverted side.
I can address this better by telling you about a seven-day tour I did with a group of 100 people. We were all in a national part, and I was without glasses. However, this was an environment where I needed to stay connected to my introverted version. The conversations were all more complex, and physical activities required concentration and willpower.
Those who knew me, especially those who were sharing the same accommodation, did not doubt that I was a more introvert person. And I had no glasses at all. On the last day, I put them, and the reaction of two people was to say that now it made more sense. As if the glasses were needed to fulfill my image. That's when it hit me.
It's not just the glasses
I never felt part of any group because of my clothes. I always chose cheap ones that gave me comfort, and I felt good looking at the mirror. Depending on the piece, looking at myself in the mirror was something I didn't even bother.
But I realized that wearing something in my face helped complete a picture that people had of me. It should not be anything new to anyone, but who thinks about this before dressing?
I was in the best position possible to understand the matter. Every few days, I was moving away, and no one knew me. I could completely change the way I looked and understand how people reacted to it before I even had the chance to say a word.
I spent a few days seeing that by changing any detail of my looks. I generated an expectation of age, personality, and even different skills. Other features I could change also began to catch my eye.
I could change the haircut, the beard, my clothes, put a chain around the neck, rings, bracelets, watches, etc. Unlimited options. Anyone who has known me for a long time and has seen me in the last days must be beginning to understand some things.
Interestingly, some of these changes made me uncomfortable at first, but I wearer it anyway. May to understand why I felt odd. The feeling was as if a chain around my neck made no sense. It was a perfect chance to let it go of some beliefs that limited me, right?
So, who am I?
The fact is that my behavior didn't change much with the new way of dressing, but the way people saw me did. Those who sought my company changed utterly also. It even helped me to meet different people — Which I find great!
Using the same clothes in the pass was limiting my experiences. I also began to realize that I also judge others all the time. So, by meeting different people, I was even letting go of my old expectations and seeing a little further.
I began to remember when at one time at work, I people told me that I looked like an accountant from the 70s, depending on what kind of clothes I wore. After I returned home, I started to change some details, and I also saw the reaction of people that always knew me.
It's increasingly unusual to see the face of someone who knows me for many years when I'm different from what he expects. People think I'm entirely changed, simply because my hair is falling to a different side. And it makes sense if I'm in a year of change, but it's not because I see myself differently. It's more because I broke free from the old ways.
And expectations go far beyond clothing. The fact that I am Brazilian in Europe makes them expect a lot from me. Being without glasses and being Brazilian defined the extrovert stereotype, for example. And it wasn't just that. I realized that the stereotype ended up stimulating the expected behavior. Not just me. I saw other Brazilians living this character. But this is another long subject.
The fact is, I can't say that an appearance defines my personality. I hope to detach myself more and more when judging other people for this as well. For now, I will vary the way I present myself and having fun with it.