Week 2: Episode 1 – Unconscious Bias

The first time I filmed this morning’s video I unconsciously knew there was something not quite right. I just couldn’t figure out what it was.

And then I watched it back and realized — I wasn’t wearing my glasses. Which meant, I was squinting the whole way through it couldn’t really see anything.

A very uncomfortable feeling.

So… I refilmed it with my glasses on.

Felt much more comfortable.

I share this story because having started to use ‘readers’ in my mid 50s, I recently got my first pair of prescription glasses. I had no idea I held an unconscious bias around wearing prescription glasses – the bias has to do with the idea that it’s an admission I’m getting older to need them!

‘Cause here’s the thing. If you have a brain, you have conscious and unconscious biases.

Bias is inherent in our human nature.

Our brains are always seeking feelings of belonging and safety. We believe we’ll be safer in groups of people who look, sound, behave like us. Which leaves us with an unconscious selection process of gravitating towards people… much like us.

When I look at our friends, most of them are white, middle class, have children, have similar interests and lifestyles.

We didn’t set out to create a circle in which we feel like we belong that looks similar to us. We naturally gravitated toward people who reflect ‘us’ and our life circumstances. (Selection bias)

While the many types of biases have a detrimental impact to varying degrees on our lives, ageism and the biases we hold about older people, impact our social, political and environmental practices, policies and ability to embrace aging as a beautifully rich and powerful time of life.

One of the areas of ageism that impacts all of us is the collective fear of what it means to age. We try to hide from it, avoid talking about it and in some cases, do everything we can to defy nature’s natural aging processes.

Being stubborn combined with my nature to persist, in spite of perceived obstacles and hardships on the road, has stood me well in my life.

It’s also created hardship and unnecessary challenges.

Once, in my late 40s, shortly after having an orthoscopy on my right knee, I was standing at the top of a mogul field debating whether to take the black run or the more cruising blue one. As I stood contemplating the mogul run, a 20-something dude went whipping past me, effortlessly zig-zagging his way through the field. “Ha!” my febrile mind declared. “I can do that!” And, without another thought, I pushed off and started down.

Knees limber, body loose, I was crushing it.

Until I hit an icy downside of a mogul, lost an edge, and fell.

On the way down in the Ski Patrol cart, I realized my unconscious bias toward having to prove… I can do anything I set my mind to combined with that stubborn streak of telling myself, no ‘young thing’ is going to outdo me, lead to my fall!

I’d like to say the awareness of that unconscious bias has lead to my awakening, but I still catch myself doing things that defy my body’s capacity to do them because I am also ‘awakened’ to the unconscious bias that says, “I can’t do that. I’m too old.” Am Not! šŸ™‚

See… unconscious biases lead us to befriend those who are like us (or hire them). They lead us to do things, or not, because we think we can do anything we set our minds to, or we can’t do them because we’re too old.

They also mean we limit ourselves in our capacity to explore new and interesting pathways, especially as we grow older, because we believe, somewhere deep inside ourselves, that it’s just not done.

And… just so you know… I’m smiling as I write this because I know I’m not yet clear on what it is I’m thinking or even saying about it.

There’s a part of my that thinks I should scrap this post until I get it ‘right’.

Fact is, the reason I’m doing this is to EXPLORE my thinking, ideas, beliefs. And I can’t do that without being willing to risk being vulnerable, not getting it right, not ‘knowing it all’.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Reading what you write helps deepen my understanding and broaden my perspective.

And I know that is a GOOD THING!


6 thoughts on “Week 2: Episode 1 – Unconscious Bias

  1. Louise, you are taking your readers to a different level of thought, pushing us to think “outside the proverbial box”, as we delve into nooks and crannies where darkness lurks in ever-changing hues of fog. Unconscious bias is a concept that many do not realize is part of one’s psyche. One can consciously strive to overcome what the unconscious pushes into foreground. The trick is to understand what is happening and not allow those ” biases” to cloud our opinions, thought process and attitudes. With our years of experience as we “age” we should be at that point of effortlessly capable of overcoming the unconscious biases. But then, we are human …. šŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really came up against it when I worked at a homeless shelter Iwona — both within myself, and others. Within others was really apparent when I was working for the Homeless Foundation doing community engagement work, trying to get communities onside with our building housing in their communities. I was surprised, shocked and saddened by some of the rationales and fears — yet also knew that changing hearts and minds is slow, steady work, and it requires listening first – to people’s fears, beliefs and unconscious bias, without shaming them or blaming them or calling them out. It was difficult but very rewarding work. ā¤


  2. Thanks again Louise for exploring the source of our biases. True evolution of our thoughts needs to come before we can alter our perspectives. Even when we get tied in knots around misunderstanding and misinterpreting, we can, if we choose, unravel them and learn.

    Liked by 2 people

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