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Assumptions Are Harmless, Until They’re Not

When you clicked to read this post, based on the title, what did you assume it would be about? Did the title make you want to read it, or not so much? Do people make too many assumptions about you on a regular basis? Do you make too many assumptions about others or situations you’re unfamiliar with?

Actually, I’m pretty sure we all do.

Assumptions are things we believe to be true, or accept as true, based on our experiences or beliefs, not necessarily based on proof. Sometimes we are right. Sometimes we are wrong. Really wrong.

When I was 11 or 12, like most kids that age, I had a growth spurt. By sixth grade, I stood a half foot taller than both my older sisters. Suddenly, in my family anyway, I was tall. One Sunday after church, a man introduced himself to my family and when he turned to me, he asked something along the lines of, how is it possible you’re the youngest (of the girls) when you’re the tallest? 

What a dumb thing to ask, right? 

I never forgot that comment, which probably indicates how it made an already self-conscious preteen girl feel. Suddenly, I didn’t feel tall, I felt too tall. Despite her best efforts, my mother was unsuccessful at convincing me that taller was okay, maybe even better. The damage from that seemingly innocent assumption and comment was done.

Don’t assume.

As you might know, I live in Wisconsin.

What do you assume about me from that tidbit of info?

Packer fan? Nope. Cheese head? Are you kidding me? (Though I do like cheese, just not on my head). Vikings all the way. Brewers fan then? Nope. The Twins are the team for me. Beer drinker? Nope. I prefer an occasional glass of wine. Trump supporter? When Hell freezes over. Republican? Nope. Democrat and proud of it.

Don’t assume.

Of course, we all make assumptions many times, every single day. We assume the weather channel is, at least sort of likely, to get the forecast right. When it snows, we assume we might need an extra layer or that it’s likely we’ll need to shovel later on. At work, we assume co-workers will show up and do their jobs (hopefully). We assume our bus drivers, doctors, nurses, dentists, teachers and fill in the blank with any other profession, are well trained, or at least trained.

Assumptions, for the most part, are common-sense good calls. Until they’re not.

Take politics, for example. If you’re a Democrat, do you assume all Republicans are the same? And vice versa. If you’re a Republican, do you figure all Dems to be bleeding-heart liberals in favor of all things big government and higher taxes to pay for them?

Don’t assume.

Again, if we’re honest, we all make certain assumptions about others who are not like us. Some of this is normal and okay. Until it’s not.

So many assumptions are based on physical appearance or circumstances.

You’re a woman, so you can’t or shouldn’t do that. You’re overweight; you must eat all day long and you probably never exercise. Ever. You’ve been diagnosed with depression – but seriously, if only you tried hard enough, you could snap out of it. You’re poor; you gotta be lazy and looking for handouts. Just pull yourself up by your bootstraps. And as we all know, the color of your skin alone elicits far too many assumptions.

Don’t assume.

Then there are those assumptions so often made about breast cancer.

Early stage. Caught it early. All will be fine then. Just a bump in the road. At least you got the “good” cancer. You must love pink. Surely you can’t wait to participate in one of those walks. Cancer must’ve taught you a lot. And let’s not forget this clunker assumption – it must be kinda nice to get a free boob job out of the deal. Sigh…

Don’t assume. 

Late stage diagnosis?

Oh dear, you’ll be a goner soon – my aunt’s, neighbor’s cousin only lasted six months. You must’ve done something wrong for that to happen. Wait, you still have hair. You don’t even look sick. I’m sure you can still beat this. Tell me again when you’ll be done with treatment…

Don’t assume. 

Grief assumptions abound as well.

You must find comfort knowing your dear one’s in a better place. It was meant to be. He didn’t suffer. He was old, so it was his time. You must be over it by now.

Don’t assume.

Yes, assumptions abound.

They’re harmless.

Until they’re not.

Don’t assume.

If you want to read more articles like this one, Click Here.

What’s an assumption often made about you, and how does hearing it, or knowing others think it, make you feel?

What’s an assumption you’ve made that turned out to be wrong?


Assumptions Are Harmless, Until They're Not



Carolyn Thomas

Saturday 19th of January 2019

How did I miss this one, Nancy?

This is SO GOOD that I wished I had written it myself. But you say it so much better than I ever could...

Thank you for this! hugs, C.


Monday 21st of January 2019

Carolyn, Ha. It's easy to miss posts. Lord knows, I do all the time, as it's impossible to keep up. This post got zero response last year when I wrote it, so even my own readers didn't read or respond. Anyway, glad you liked it. Thank you for commenting.

Linda C. Boberg

Friday 18th of January 2019

The worst assumption for me was when my boss said, "YOu're done with treatment; you should let this all go - get on with life. You know athletes when they get hurt, they push themselves to get back in the game. You should do that."

Yeah. . . right . . . like I'm an athlete. Like cancer is a broken limb easily fixed.

Beth L. Gainer

Monday 7th of May 2018

Great, thought-provoking post, Nancy. When I was undergoing chemotherapy and had to take a couple of days off for it, my co-workers said to me that I was LUCKY to get time off!!! Ouch.

What peeves me off most, though, is the assumptions people make about my daughter. One former colleague told me that Ari would be good at violin because she's Asian. Argh! And Ari is going to be learning violin next year in orchestra, but it has nothing to do with her nationality.

Too many assumptions for my liking!

Renea Tartaro

Thursday 29th of March 2018

I had a lumpectomy and so did not need reconstruction. One of my friends saw me for the first time since my surgery and said why aren't your boobs bigger? Wow... Another keeps asking how I am enjoying my time off. Time off? I am still working full time and have been since my dx (except a week after surgery). Another person I know told my best friend well she doesn't look sick. People don't always think when they assume...


Friday 30th of March 2018

Renea, Oh my...Your comment says it all and sadly, proves my point. Thank you for sharing. Hope you're doing alright.

Cancer Curmudgeon

Thursday 8th of February 2018

My most memorable assumptions during the first days of DX and determining treatment--nurses and techs assuming I was married w/ kids--and I am NOT. Then all the advice to pray/give over to God, and I'm an atheist. Most irritating assumption by staff at cancer treatment center--that I was able to just take a leave from my job and was totally free for whatever appointments they handed me. Because my financial situation was such that I really could NOT do that. I had to go back and haggle out every treatment scheduling, appointment with doctors, etc. If they'd just come to me while I was sitting in the chemo chair, and ASKED me, it would've been more efficient. They were always so surprised when I told them I had a conflict with a work schedule, like "uh, you're working?" It makes me even angrier now to remember. Because it would've been nice to not have to hustle during that time. Ugh.


Friday 9th of February 2018

CC, It's just plain wrong that so many assumptions were made about you. I don't blame you for feeling angry about them, even now. Thank you for sharing about them.

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