Sketching Someone’s Character
“I CAN READILY BELIEVE THAT REPORTS MAY VARY GREATLY WITH RESPECT TO ME; AND I COULD WISH, MISS BENNET, THAT YOU WERE NOT TO SKETCH MY CHARACTER AT THE PRESENT MOMENT, AS THERE IS REASON TO FEAR THAT THE PERFORMANCE WOUD REFLECT NO CREDIT ON EITHER.” –– Mr. Darcy
Oh, we ALL do it! You can’t deny it! When you meet someone, you quickly assess the kind of man he is. It might be the way he is dressed, or the smiling eyes, or the quick witty remark, or the sweaty hands you just shook. An article in Forbes magazine says that we have seven seconds to impress someone before they tag us mentally with good or bad qualities.
Yes, I wish to blog on first impressions, passing judgment, and seeing who someone really is. Dr. Maya Angelou, a writer and poet, says, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” I have heard the saying, “The way you dress and speak advertises something about you, what are you selling?”
If we had a previous interaction with a collared up serious businessman who once scorned and judged us for being our one-of-a-kind witty and outgoing selves (Mr. Darcy/Elizabeth), wouldn’t it influence or at least come to mind when another stiff-necked, proud looking man is presented to you? Or how about the charmer who made us feel validated at every turn (Wickham)? Clearly there are imperfect first impressions. But even those of us who may have a longer-term association with someone, may read another wrong. For example, a sweet shy young woman, who you have known for a few months, may not outwardly show her affection but it has no correlation to the passion she feels inside (Jane Bennet).
Let me go back to the quote above by Maya Angelou, it clearly says, “When someone SHOWS you who they are, believe them the first time.” So is this the key to accurate and fair judgments of those we interact with?
Let me get a bit personal for a minute. I recently got married a second time! In fact, tomorrow will be my 3 month anniversary. (I know!! It has been the greatest blessing in my life!) People who know me well, and see me frequently, like friends at work have said a few things like this: “You were always happy, but now you are ‘sassy happy’.” Or they have said, “There is a marked difference in you since Art came into your life.” Although I have an entire novel’s worth of things I could say about my husband, let me redirect you to the purpose of the blog: first impressions, passing judgment, and seeing who someone really by their actions. (Rest assured, I WILL write Art and my story!)
Here are some things you need to know, I’m LDS (Mormon), am from the more laid back and less direct West coast, had a squeaky clean life, and basically lived my life with the purpose of never doing anything wrong. Yes, I was one of those “Perfectionists”. (An undeniable quiver just went up my spine.) Eventually, through life difficulties, I have learned a few hard lessons. For example, perfection is a filthy four-letter word that makes us feel inferior and like we are always a failure. I have learned that everyone makes mistakes and there is always forgiveness and the Atonement that helps us rebalance our lives. I’ve also learned that there are many who will take advantage of “sweet and kind and passive” and therefore I have learned that I have to exert myself and sometimes even actively confront people. Are you starting to see where I am going?
My husband, Art, is from the more direct East coast, and also grew up in New Jersey where a few of the people he had an association with were connected with the mob, yes, the mob! He did all the typical “young and stupid” in his life, and recently turned his life over to God and was baptized into the LDS church a little over a year ago. So we came from very different backgrounds, but we are now on equal grounds. His very accent, and you should ask him to say, “How you doin’?”, gives him away. His first impression to a few around him, and not all, mind you, is this very picture I just painted.
So lets us connect everything in just a few lines. Art is the most selfless, service-oriented, loving, gentle man I could even have imagined, and as an author, I am pretty good at imagining the perfect man! He loves and serves me to the point that I fear I am not loving him enough! (Let’s be honest, how many wives can say that?) I literally can’t keep up with all the sweet and kind things he says and does for me! And my daughters, who live with us half the time, are seeing, perhaps for the first time in their entire life, the way a man should treat a woman. They are seeing a measurable difference in my happiness. They are seeing him sneak a kiss when he thinks no one is watching.
But the final bit you need to make the connection of why I feel so passionate about this topic, is that someone is ALWAYS watching! And they are passing judgment on whether or not their first impression was accurate or not.
So, in conclusion, remember, first impressions are often measured by previous interactions, so don’t trust them. We must always advertise ourselves accurately. We must be willing to, not only be aware of, but also trust when people actually “show” us who they are with their deeds and actions or we will miss out on the most beautiful people and relationships. Also, a person’s “past” does not matter unless it continues to paint their future. We must allow ourselves, and others around us, to grow and learn, and we must also allow our opinion of others to develop slowly and to have that same freedom of changing. So don’t be afraid to admit that your first impression of someone was wrong. Don’t be afraid to utterly throw that first seven seconds out the window.
And for sure, do not be so prideful as to let old prejudices prevent you from finding and having what eventually Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth had. Love comes in all shapes and sizes. Some of my favorite people that have touched my life, have given impressions that could have scared a few of my husband’s old associates in New Jersey! Start letting people “show” you who they are. Push that seven seconds of assessment into months or years of interaction, and stop sketching someone’s character, because as Darcy says, “there is reason to fear that the performance would reflect no credit on either.”
I would like to give away TWO copies of my next book, Hope for Mr. Darcy, the first in a trilogy, that will be published late this spring. To enter, please comment below on the blog itself, or for double entries, tell me of when you sketched someone’s character and was wrong, and how it eventually changed. The winners may choose the kindle version or a paperback (open internationally for both versions) and will be delivered once Hope for Mr. Darcy is published.
Jeanna Ellsworth Lake (My new last name!)