In our culture of technology, instant gratification and short attention spans, it’s easy to make quick, superficial assumptions about people.
I recently stumbled upon this poster in my Facebook news feed and it really moved me:

It was originally posted by Angela Liddon of Oh She Glows, who encountered it at a grocery store.
The words are simple and true, yet sometimes the message is forgotten.
We’re constantly bombarded with ads about how we should look, eat and feel.  Then we’re immediately told about products that are sure to rescue us from our apparent deficiencies.  So it’s no big surprise to me that we need an occasional reminder that our bodies do not define us.
Here’s a great video clip from Dove that highlights a distorted perception of beauty and the fact that we’re being bombarded with images of people that aren’t even real:

Our appearance doesn’t define us… but does our occupation?
In North America, a question that invariably comes up when two people introduce themselves is, “So, what do you do?”  Meaning, how do you earn a living?
To me, that’s not necessarily a defining factor in who a person is.  Not everyone is in the ideal employment situation they picture for themselves:
What about the parking lot attendant who is saving his wages to put himself through art school?  The lawyer who craves more meaning in her life?  The stay-at-home parent who dreams of being a nurse?  The movie producer who would rather be a stay-at-home mom? The exotic dancer (a single parent) who uses her tips to pay her child’s exorbitant medical bills?  The immigrant who cleans corporate offices because his medical training from his home country isn’t recognized here?
Everyone’s got a story, and we can’t presume to know what it is based on the person’s appearance or job situation.
The next time you strike up a conversation with someone, try asking them something a little different, a little deeper.  Something that’ll tell you more about who they really are.  A question like:
•    What inspires you?
•    What could you spend hours doing (while loving every minute of it)?
•    What brings a smile to your face?
•    What makes you feel alive?
•    What’s your idea of an adventure?
•    What’s one thing on your bucket list?
•    If you could only talk about one thing for an entire day, what would you choose?
Some people will be receptive to answering questions like these and others may not. But in any case, hopefully the person you’re talking to will feel valued, knowing that someone cares enough to learn more about them than what’s on the surface.