Does What You Notice About Others Say Something About You?

I’ll admit, right at the beginning of this post, that I may be looking at things in a stereotypical manner. I realize that everyone has different reasons for noticing certain things, but I ran into a situation the other day that made me think. I was in the local Applebee’s and the two women in the booth in front of me were having a loud conversation. (I don’t tend to eavesdrop, but good grief, if you’re having a conversation at full volume you have to expect to be heard.) Anyway, they were talking about clothes, bags, and shoes. The conversation started with them talking about some outfit that they had seen on a mutual friend. Evidently, the outfit was expensive, but the woman in question didn’t wear it well. The two women were making unkind remarks about the third woman. I just sort of rolled my eyes and kept on eating.

After a few minutes, a woman came into the restaurant all dolled up in designer wear. The two women noticed and immediately started breaking down her outfit, accessories, and even her cell phone. They knew all of the designers/manufacturers of everything she was wearing and proceeded to make all kinds of judgments about this woman. They didn’t know her, that was clear. They were just making guesses about her income, family, etc. based on her clothes. They painted this woman has having a great job, great family, and lots of money.

Another woman came in dressed normally in jeans and a t-shirt and they started making the same judgments about her, only they weren’t as kind. This woman was labeled “trailer trash” and they figured she didn’t have any money, no life, and a poor job.

These two women were starting to get on my nerves, so I started to pay closer attention to them. They were both dressed very well, in what were either designer duds or knock-offs (I don’t know enough to tell the difference). Clearly they enjoyed looking at other people and making judgments about them based on their appearances. It was like a game for them. It got me thinking in general terms: Does what you notice about others say something about you?

Like I said at the beginning, I realize there could be any number of reasons these women were making comments about others that they did not know and what I’m about to say may be stereotypical, but I think it’s worth a thought. I think that these women noticed the clothes and accessories of others because they have a need to feel superior. They need to feel like their choices are validated. Therefore, everyone who dresses like them has a great life, while people who dress down are poor losers.

But who’s to say? The dressed down woman could have had a million bucks in the bank form a business she runs out of her home, therefore she has no need to dress up every workday. She could have been meeting her fabulous husband at the bar. The nicely dressed woman could have been in debt up to her eyeballs and just been laid off from her job. Her nice outfit could have been a bit of retail therapy to help her deal with the divorce papers her husband just served her with. What people wear or drive says very little about their true situation.

When you notice the luxury items of others, do you notice because you just happen to appreciate fine things, or are you envious of the alleged wealth of the owner? Do you look at their things and compare them to yours, looking for validation? Do you think, “Well, if she’s wearing Prada and has that fabulous life, then I made the right choice by spending my entire check on Prada?” If you look at people’s stuff with anything other than a passing glance or appreciation for fine workmanship, you need to ask yourself why. It’s a dangerous game to look at others and use them as validation for your own choices, or to assume that owning these things grants someone a wonderful life.

Things are just things. A shirt is a shirt and a bag is a bag. They don’t always tell the truth about their owners. Anyone with a charge card can buy designer wear. It doesn’t mean that they live a great life or that they have money. It might, but it’s just as likely that the owner has problems, issues, and bills stacked to the ceiling just like you do.

If you constantly notice cars, luxury clothes, watches, and handbags, that habit may say more about you than it does the owner. You may be trying to fill a void in your own life by coveting things, or mentally associating yourself with the owners of luxury goods. That’s not a healthy way to live. It makes you shallow. It’s fine to appreciate the finer things in life, but when that becomes the first and only thing you notice about people, it may be time to look at yourself and ask yourself what you’re trying to compensate for in your own life.

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9 Responses to Does What You Notice About Others Say Something About You?

  1. Annie Jones says:

    Not long ago I saw a man in a Ferrari go through a McDonald’s drive-thru. My first thought was “there’s a car you don’t see every day”. My second thought was “what a fool for spending that much money on a car”. My third thought was “now he can’t afford anything but McDonald’s”.

    Then I realized I was being silly and that all I could say for sure was that he was a man going out for a quick breakfast in a type of car I don’t see every day.

  2. Leigh says:

    When I see someone wearing, driving, or using some material possession of obvious expense, I just hope in my heart they really could afford it. I hope they didn’t spend the rent money or prioritize this glitzy thing over items of real importance like healthy food.

    What does that say about me? Call me practical.

  3. Lee says:

    I would guess that she is in some type of sales position (realtor,insurance,retail,marketing etc.) where she is dealing with the public and has to look good all the time in order to earn a living. The really rich don’t work for a living, they aren’t selling anything, and there is no need for them to impress anybody. So they wear whatever they want and unless they are going somewhere special it’s usually something comfortable that does NOT draw attention. If you’re already rich there’s no need to be famous.

  4. Joi says:

    Great blog!. I have these shoes from coach that i wear all the time because they fit me really well and are easy to put on and run out the door. These poor shoes are so worn out and dirty from everyday use, but not a week goes by that I don’t get compliments from people about them. I mean they are just shoes and I’m pretty sure they were on sale since I don’t spend much money on clothing! People put so much value on designer things it’s ridiculous!

  5. Nancy says:

    I am not a fan of wearing desinger clothes, but love my Rolex and diamomd jewelery. The knockoff bags are fun and fool the best of them since I work in the Design industry. The clothes can be a mix of the some desinger items, but my favorite thing is to mix it up and by the way you have to know how to wear it and carry it off.

  6. Jaime says:

    I agree wholeheartedly – sometimes I feel ashamed by my inner dialog (especially if it becomes outer dialog) and I try to wrench myself back on track by remindng myself that I don’t know these people and why would I want to embrace negative connotations? There are so many possibilities for why people do the things they do that it definitely tells something about you if the first thing you think of is negative – at least it does if you do it all of the time.

    Also, I feel the same way when people are criticizing strangers who are overweight. If they’re a stranger to you then you don’t know if they’re recovering from a debilitating accident that limited their mobility, if they have glandular issues, if they’re in the middle of significant loss but were so big to begin with that they’re still quite large even after losing a lot, etc. Even if you see them at McDonalds, you have no idea if this is their “cheat” day or if they normally eat healthy but are on a roadtrip with fewer options, etc. Bottom line – you don’t know the why behind the extremely small snapshot you see.

    Whether it’s finances, material things or fitness it’s best (IMO)to keep a kind eye towards others.

  7. Joy says:

    This was one of the better-hearted articles I’ve read here. A wonderfully made point. Yes, ANY judgment can be examined. I appreciated your examining your own judgments even about the two ladies in the booth. They sound nasty. I love lovely clothes and I do notice the difference in how I’m treated day to day depending upon how I dress.

    There IS value in being neat and clean when going to interact with other human beings. It does show a certain level of respect, so some judgment is warranted, when somebody is dirty or messy. Even then, compassion is called for.

  8. nancyr says:

    I would have been the one dressed in the manner those women called, “trailer trash”. I have a net worth in the seven figure range, but I don’t feel the need to announce it, or impress anyone.

  9. CindyM says:

    Appleby’s? Kind of says it all to me. No offence meant, by the way. Guess that would be generalizing/stereotyping, ha-ha.

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