We seem inclined to downplay other people’s uniqueness in order to overstate our own. We also seem to invert the practice when we want to prove a point, diminishing other people’s individuality to generalize our feelings and actions. A self-serving mechanism lies at the heart of this. Our uniqueness and sameness are constantly at war with each other.
This self-centered approach isn’t always utilized for one’s own benefit, as evidenced by our tendency to obsessively question other people’s motives and feelings. We want our relationships to be mutual and our feelings to be reciprocated, so we look for signs to affirm that position. The closer you are to someone, the more you will feel the need to partake in such practice. I don’t think of it as inherently wrong or selfish since it stems from a primordial place: we want people to be genuine in their interactions with us, and we hate to be taken advantage of. There is a reason why hypocrisy and backstabbing are deemed morally abhorrent in every culture. The problem arises when we fail to calibrate our reading with the dichotomy of generalization and uniqueness. Such failure is an obvious outcome of using two extremes: we are either the exception in the relationship, investing more and receiving less, or an insignificant individual in the eyes of the other party. This is not to be taken lightly as just another social quirk that people have; it’s a parasite that feeds on people’s insecurities and bias. Perception shaping reality might be a cliché, but clichés become what they are because they’re easy to regurgitate and difficult to fundamentally understand.