Stop Tripping, Everybody Has Preferences
by Hope Giselle
July 13, 2022 at 8:18 pm
“It’s just my preference.” We’ve either heard or used that phrase before and the sting or affirmation it gives folks never ceases to amaze me.
Preferences are defined as a greater liking for one alternative over another. This means that while one thing is preferred the other won’t necessarily be off the table. But most folks operate in mandates and requirements, changing the nature of preferences altogether.
We all get to decide the things that we like and don’t like in just about every category of life. We have preferences on toys, cars, clothes, board games, hell even what size TV we like, but preferences hit different when we add people to the mix. Why is it that folks feel entitled to empathy around my lack of reciprocated desire? The answer is simple, humans have emotions, and those emotions trigger responses that often turn into consequences for all parties involved.
Before we spend time trying to decipher human emotions, I have to discuss the reasons why preferences can be problematic.
While we all have them there comes a time when what we desire in people, be it in a platonic or romantic sense, is informed by more than just our ideas about the world. We lean into cultural and social ideologies to curate and strengthen what we believe and therein lies the problem. What does your preference say about you, and what does it mean to have preferences fueled by the thoughts of others especially when or if they leave little room for the expansion of personal development.
We all operate on a system of bias with the most common being unconscious. Unconscious biases are social stereotypes about specific groups of people that individuals form outside their conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from the tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing.
The reason why we categorize things is so we can decide how to navigate them— how they fit or don’t– into the worlds that we build for ourselves. While it’s perfectly normal for folks to have preferences, sometimes we must call out the reality behind why some of them exist in the first place.
For instance, a lot of folks have preferences against dating folks who have been deemed overweight, but why? While some folks lean on health as a factor others undoubtedly have developed a bias based on the social understanding that most folks would rather not date a bigger person for fear of ridicule. The idea roots in fatphobia and the lack of ability to think independently.
Additionally, people have adopted the term “it’s just my preference” to avoid having to explain things that we know may come off as toxic if we did.
It’s our nature to be self-preserving, but being empathetic and honest are things we lack when having a discussion about what we want and desire from others when navigating relationships. Most folks don’t care that you don’t prefer them. They care that you lied to save your image. While the truth can be difficult it’s often one that folks are prepared for. False positivity for the sake of avoiding possible confrontation feels like a cop-out and plays on the intelligence of people allowing you to hold space for yourself.
Let’s be clear, while I understand preferences and have even used it once or twice myself, I also understand the need to reflect on where they came from and if they are truly my own. The goal is to be forever willing to evolve like the world around you and doing so means allowing space for criticism even if you have no desire to change.