Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Space & Perception

The space in which I live says a lot about me as a person. Interactions with my environment have helped to shape both my self-perception and my perception of the world around me. From politics to the importance of social status, I believe living in such a close proximity to Washington, D.C. has given me a healthy perception of the world.

I have lived nearly 15 minutes from Washington, D.C. for my entire life. My father has had a job on Capitol Hill since I was very young, and family trips into the city have always been frequent. Living in close proximity to the city allowed me to grasp my position in the community from an early age. Like any city, D.C. has its fair share of very wealthy people and very poor people. As a child, the city’s homeless people frightened me. I could not comprehend how a person could approach someone for money before returning to his or her “home” on the street. The more I frequented the city, though, the more I realized there was nothing to be afraid of. I began to recognize that I should help those less fortunate than myself, be conscious of my place in the community, and understand that I would appreciate the same courtesy, were I in their position. My perception of the homeless was altered, as was the perception I had of myself.

Just as my perception of the poor was altered by trips to the city, attending an all-girls boarding school altered my perception of the wealthy. Prior to 9th grade, I lacked any perception of the importance of financial status. I was oblivious to the fact that money could play such a substantial role in a person’s self-perception. My childhood was very moderate, never spoiled but never struggling. I had no perception of my family financially. After moving to boarding school, though, my perception was greatly changed. Money became something competitive and defining. Who could buy a certain item first was a game constantly played. Having never faced exclusion based on financial status, I found it interesting when others voiced concerns about their financial standing in the school community. My experience at boarding school allowed me to see how others may impact an individual’s self-perception.

My exposure to poverty and wealth has taught me that the majority of people exist somewhere between the two extremes. Furthermore, I have learned that first impressions are deceiving, and my own self-perception has the greatest impact on other’s perception of me. For example, there is a great deal of baggage that comes with the phrase “I attended an all-girls boarding school”. Images of over-privileged, air-headed girls are often conjured up immediately. I know, however, that this stereotype is not entirely true. While few girls do fulfill this stereotype, I have always tried to change people’s perceptions. By existing within the middle ground between poverty and wealth, and emulating a normal, healthy self-perception, I have been able to alter other’s perceptions of what a prep school student looks and acts like.

Growing up in D.C. and attending boarding school has only positively affected my perceptions. I have been fortunate to see and meet people of all walks of life. The space I live in has allowed me to develop a realistic and affirmative self-perception and perception of the world, which I hope will benefit the perceptions of those around me.

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