Examining the unexamined assumptions


Unexamined assumptions are created on a daily basis, often leading to inaccurate conclusions. Considering others’ perspectives may develop empathy and prevent assumptions from solidifying into generalized beliefs. Graphic by Alyssa Sanchez

In third grade, my class was assigned an All About Me project for which I needed to make a poster with photos of my family and interesting facts about myself. Ecstatic to share my personal background with my classmates, I worked hard on my glittery white poster, gluing on my family photos and drawing flowers with colorful markers. A smile ran across my face as I gazed at the finished product: a collage of photos and illustrations depicting the memorable details and important people in my life.

The next morning, that smile slowly started to fade. I was instantly consumed by an awkward feeling as I watched my classmates present their posters. For the first time, I noticed my family pictures looked different from those of my peers. Whereas my classmates had two parents together in a photo, I had two separate pictures: one with my mom and one with my dad.

This presentation led me to believe that my family dynamic was unusual and strange. But looking back on this experience as a junior in high school, I now realize that, in defining what I thought was “normal,” I assumed that family structures had to look a certain way.           

As a society, we tend to make unexamined assumptions about many things without being aware of them. Someone who appears positive at school may be perceived as free of struggles in their personal life. Individuals belonging to certain racial or ethnic groups may be linked to generalized traits. 

Unexamined assumptions are dangerous because they can lead to the formation of inaccurate conclusions about other people, resulting in stereotypes that can damage our character.

So, the next time you talk to someone or see something you are unfamiliar with, consider someone else’s perspective. Further educate yourself on the topic, and question or challenge your viewpoint to broaden your understanding of others’ situations. Learning about a topic allows you to get to know someone else’s situation outside your own, which develops your empathy.  

I once assumed that my family was strange for not looking like those of my third grade peers, but I now know it to be unique and fascinating.

There is no perfect definition for how something should be or look.