‘Fess Up. What Are Your Blind Spots?


So there are real blind spots (see the test above) and then there are social blind spots.

This (fill in the blank) kind of life – good.

That (fill in the blank) kind of life – not good

We begin, at a very young age, to develop social blind spots, certain ideals. We embrace a set of narratives. We build upon them as we acculturate further and find comfort in their accompanying assumptions.

To wit, I came across a reference to this book: “Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People” in a recent article. The book title intrigued me so I searched a bit and found this description:

I know my own mind.
I am able to assess others in a fair and accurate way.

These self-perceptions are challenged by leading psychologists Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald as they explore the hidden biases we all carry from a lifetime of exposure to cultural attitudes about age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, social class, sexuality, disability status, and nationality. Blindspot is the authors’ metaphor for the portion of the mind that houses hidden biases…Banaji and Greenwald question the extent to which our perceptions of social groups—without our awareness or conscious control—shape our likes and dislikes and our judgments about people’s character, abilities, and potential.

We do not like to have our world views or lifestyle narratives challenged. No, siree, we do not!  That’s because the very act of rethinking or reforming narratives leads us to question just how many other perceptions or biases we might have also gotten wrong or, at a minimum, not quite right.

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Now on my to-read list, the book concepts echoed in my mind and gave me pause as I measured my response to a recent study on failed fertility treatment.  Take this rather inflammatory gem, for instance: Why Not Having Kids Makes Some People Crazy.

Seems we’re never very far away from the culture wars about whose life is better: those with or without children. Headline aside, the study introduced some complexity. The state of happiness is dependent on whether you had the luxury of making the decision one way or the other and succeeded in the pursuit of your choice.

For many of us, ahem, it’s not quite that cut and dry.  (Read more on the coverage of the study and responses from Mali and Loribeth).

Then there was this take-away:

It is quite striking to see that women who do have children but still wish for more children report poorer mental health than those who have no children but have come to accept it.

Like Mali I had an instinctual reaction. My first thought was a grumbling one: “Oh sure, study originators, downplay the coping challenges for those of us who didn’t succeed with fertility treatment and focus (as per usual) on the struggling parents — ’cause they don’t ever get ENOUGH attention.

Blind spot!

Guilty as charged. It’s true. For a very long time my gut response was less than charitable when I would hear or see someone ask for or get out the violins for those who achieved a successful pregnancy and delivery but still lamented their life because they didn’t have XX number of children. The hair on the back of my neck would stand up. My inner voice would say, Hey, how’d you like to be in the failed fully category? You GOT the pregnancy and baby, quitchercomplainin!

Not content to be stuck in one place or mindset (and clearly there is evidence I need to continue my efforts to evolve), I paused. In the process of finding my compassion, I also reconfigured a long-held narrative: Not all who succeed with fertility treatment skip home satisfied and full of delight.

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I don’t think I would have been complaining if I’d actually succeeded in getting pregnant and delivering, but that’s neither here nor there. The truth is that not achieving your full dream (as evidenced by the study participants) will still elicit a sense of loss.

The Time story closed on a strong note:

The author also throws some shade on those “I-can-do-anything-if I-try” types (cough, Americans, cough). “There is a moment when letting go of unachievable goals (be it parenthood or other important life goals) is a necessary and adaptive process for well-being,” said Gameiro. “We need to consider if societies nowadays actually allow people to let go of their goals and provide them with the necessary mechanisms to realistically assess when is the right moment.”

That last sentence I liked A LOT.

Now for the readers who might need to reassess their understanding of women without children, check out the nuance in this piece. While all the women included share one thing in common — none are mothers — they (we) all are not entirely alike. As you can see from their quotes, not all non-moms see the world the same way.

Finally, in the ovaries blind spot department, there is this story: Why Do We Treat Infertility Like It’s Just Rich Women’s Problem?

‘Fess up, now. What are your blind spots?