Last year, I was talking to a group of university students and graduates I know from a camp I’ve always attended. Someone asked what my major was and I didn’t know at the time. I only had a vague idea of what I wanted to do, and in response, one of the guys there told me I should study psychology, because it’s an “easy major.”
I have a couple of problems with that.
Now, most people would say this was a harmless comment, something I should have forgotten moments after it was said.
But I can’t do that.
I can’t for the life of me figure out what the good intentions could be behind a statement like that.
Here’s what that comment meant: he’s underestimating my intelligence. He’s insinuating that I can only study something simple and easy. That I am incapable of success in a challenging field.
Or maybe he made the comment to suggest that I am lazy and want to coast through college exercising bare minimum effort.
Perhaps he meant to say that I am not destined for any kind of greatness, so I had better start setting my sights low now.
What’s probably most upsetting, however, is the fact that his claim is predicated upon the assumption that psychology is, in fact, a bogus major. It’s indicative of a societal perception that psychology is not a worthwhile endeavor.
It points to a culture of ignorance when it comes to mental health.
These are the people who are going to save the lives of young people so distraught they devalue their own lives and think the world is better without them. These are the people who will counsel sexual assault survivors to recognize their own strength and worth. They will help war veterans learn to live again. They will conduct the research that will produce medications to impact brain chemicals and patterns. They will make breakthroughs and discoveries so that we understand human nature more deeply.
So I’m offended by anyone who would underestimate and invalidate the value of psychology and mental health.
This experience isn’t about this one guy. It’s not about blaming him or hating him for one stupid comment. What this is about is how his statement is a reflection of a cultural pattern that undervalues a group of people.
I don’t know if he underestimated me because I’m an individual, or a young person, or a girl.
My money’s on the fact that I’m a girl.
It wouldn’t be the first time that a woman has been underappreciated and underestimated. I’m tired of society telling me I have to prove my significance. I don’t. By the very nature of my existence, I am important. I am worth more than your uninformed and ignorant perceptions of me.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks of me. I believe in me, and that’s all that should matter.
But don’t expect me to be silent the next time you underestimate me.