Is It Fair That We are Judged by How We Look?

GothThis is a question that I have asked my college students over the years.  Inevitably, they will argue that it is absolutely “not fair!” and without my intervention, end up sharing countless examples of when they, themselves immediately judged by physical appearance.  Therefore, determining that while “unfair”, it is unequivocally, indisputably, inevitable.

Recently, my 16 year old daughter and I were swimsuit shopping for spring break.  She is a small, petite, clean cut girl with long strawberry blonde hair and a spunky spirit.  When we approached the fitting room desk, my daughter asked the 50-something female attendant how many items my daughter could bring into the room.  She cheerfully glanced at our mini mountain, totaling about 15 items, smiled, and said, “Go ahead, just bring everything out when you are done.”  My daughter entered the room, and I sat down waiting for the fashion show to begin.

Four minutes later, a youthful looking grandma along with her granddaughter, surely my daughter’s age, and also quite petite, approached the same fitting room attendant with her pile of items and held it up to the woman.  The woman curtly sniped, “you can only take in 6 at a time. How many do you have?” The young girl answered, “7”. The woman took the pile out of her hands, counted the clothes one by one out loud for all to hear, until reaching the number 8 with a huff.  Handing her back only six of the items and practically tossing the girl a fitting room tag, she announced that the rest would be held at the desk.

The woman clearly showed preferential treatment to my daughter.  Why?  Not because I was with my daughter, as the other teenager had her grandma with her.  My guess is the teen’s outer appearance.  Multiple nose and earrings, jet black dyed hair, with wide sections dyed platinum, black nail polish, a sour frown, and Goth clothing greeted the fitting room lady.

I’m honest enough to tell you that I certainly judge on one’s exterior, most often when my children are involved.  Evaluation in this depraved society is essential for our safety.  By external appearance, we can draw countless conclusions about someone.  Many will be accurate, and a few utterly wrong.  Either way, the pre-vacation shopping experience left me humbled. 

As a woman who has judged wrongfully and endured judgment, I’m still training myself to be cautious before labeling and stereotyping.  That doesn’t stop me from staring (hopefully, inconspicuously!) if someone has decided to cover themselves in ink, piercings, and adorn their clothing with a variety of clinking, shiny chains – like a toddler, I’m mesmerized.  Regardless, giving someone a chance to reveal who they really are through conversation is always my goal.

The dark-dressed girl slinked away into a fitting room, without a smile, and I couldn’t help but think that I wouldn’t want to be yet another person contributing to her already sad expression. Insecurities exist in all of us, whether or not they are concealed in neat, well-groomed packages.  If teens experience enough unfair treatment, they have a natural tendency to believe they’re not worthy of good treatment.


Throwback Thursday article from 5/6/2013

19 thoughts on “Is It Fair That We are Judged by How We Look?

  1. I know I am guilty of making quick judgements on outer appearance. I know it is wrong. I even do it with my own kids. I was raised that appearances do matter. These days I do try to look past what I see. It is hard and hurtful.


    • It’s challenging because we do need to be cautious in this depraved world. And, often appearances tell us much about an individual. Yet, we usually don’t encounter crazy people 🙂 so it’s good to give everyone a chance before quick judgment. Thanks for your comment!

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  2. Yes it is fair to be judged by our looks and it is our prerogative to change that opinion or back it up as we see fit. Having said that some people point blank are judgemental assailed so this doesn’t apply to them. Lol

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  3. Great post. And so common. Situations like this always make me think of this picture (here is this image if you were interested – I saw on Facebook a while back, and it was as humbling as you say! Not that I am not as guilty probably more often than I would rather admit. It’s hard because on one hand, you want to see the good in everyone, and teach your kids the same, but on the other hand, there have been devastating consequences to letting your guard down. But there are also consequences to judging a book by its cover… such murky waters. Thank you for sharing this!

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  4. This really is a very difficult topic. I do feel it’s a mistake to judge others by their appearance; at the same time there are some conclusions that can legitimately be drawn based on appearance. People should be able to express themselves, but someone who wants to be taken seriously in a job interview for a straight-laced business office will never be taken seriously if they walk in with dyed hair, piercings, and chains. It’s just the way of the world. even if it is unfair. I think you can make the argument that you have to reach a certain level of maturity to be willing to accept that reality.

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  5. Unfortunately there is IMO too much leniency with kids as to allowing them to do what they want. Still though that gives us as adults no right to judge those kids. More times then not those same kids have no idea who they are and have little if any self confidence. Judging not only hurts those we judge but it also hurts those who judge. Powerful post! Thank you!

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  6. While I do allow my teenage daughters to occasionally dye their hair different colors, that is where I draw the line. When it comes to body/ facial piercings and tattoos, I’ve made it very clear to them that first impressions DO matter. While most kids sporting these looks are delightful kids, I believe that at this impressionable age, they need an adult who will step in and say, “Whoa, are you still going to want that tattoo when you’re 50?” Some decisions should be put off until adulthood. Not enough kids think about future repercussions when giving in to these fads.

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    • So well said! We change so much in our 20’s and sometimes 30s, but I know parents who signed for their 16-year old to get a large vegan tattoo, only for the child to be eating meat again within the same year!

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