In a recent John Water's interview in the Guardian he is quoted as saying, "My policy is 'unless you know the full story, don't judge', and you never know the full story." He said this as a plea for tolerance, people are quick to feel superior to others when confronted with conspicuous difference. But I would expand this belief to the way we perceive others full stop. Don't judge other people's projected identities based on what you perceive those projected identities to mean based on your own perceptions, you may be, and most probably will be, very wrong.
When we go around comparing our inside feeling to other peoples outward appearance. What else can we do? We have no way of knowing what is happening in someones mind. I always tend to think other people are happier than they are, rationally I know they are not, and time and again people shock me with tiny revelations as to the real complexity of their inner, personal lives. But the myth persists. I have to keep telling myself not to judge my inside feelings against the illusory outsides of others.
I often feel confused about myself and my identity. I wonder whether I'm doing the right thing, living the right life. I wonder whether people like me, or secretly gossip when I leave a room, whether I'm intelligent enough to hold an opinion on anything, or whether I'm just a chancer or bore, a half baked ponderer. Everyone has problems with their relationships, with their sense of identity, with their jobs. But most people's outward face has a similar expression, mostly brave. We smile at each other and make small talk; whilst our inward dialogue is a mass of contradictory statements, negative and positive, banal and entertaining, paranoid and confident.
We see a smiling couple and we assume that this simple outward appearance is all the information that we need. 'Look, they're happy. I wish I was that happy. Why am I not that happy?' But what people say, and especially how they look, is never the whole story. People talk themselves up, both to present a confident face to the world and also to prevent others from having to feel responsible for their problems. I am often amazed by how bad I am at judging other people's inner lives. I will always assume the best in others and the worst in myself.