Outer vs. Inner Stories

April 29, 2024

Sumo oranges outer vs. Inner stories“That is one ugly orange!” I thought, at my local market, looking at what can only be described as… an ugly orange.

And here I am, espousing that you can’t judge a book by its cover.

Or a wine bottle by its label.

Or anyone’s innards by their out-ards.

That we can never truly know someone’s story. We make judgments based on what they let us see.

What a hypocrite I am!

But, really, it’s an ugly orange.

Of course, that’s only part of the story – the biases we hold and the categorizing we instinctively do to make sense of our world.

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Oranges should be smooth and round and plump and pleasing to the eye, we might think.

I’d never seen an orange like this before –  misshapen, wrinkly, protruding.  They are known as “Sumo” oranges which seems appropriate. Rather small on top and large on the bottom, they seem like a weighted Sumo wrestler with its bulk closer to the ground.

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As if aware of this, they come accompanied by a sign announcing they are “ENORMOUSLY DELICIOUS.”

I did a little research. Sumo oranges are seedless, easy to peel, and “incredibly sweet.”

Essentially an “oversized mandarin orange,” Sumo oranges are typically expensive because they are grown from trees that take a long time to mature. Originally grown by a single owner in Japan in the 1970s, the Sumo orange is often given there as a gift. Now grown in California, the Sumo orange’s availability at places like Costco, belies the fact the fruit requires “pampering” as its extremely delicate skin is subject to bruising and sunburn.

Who knew something so seemingly unattractive could be so delicate? Then again, aren’t we all like that?

A specialty item, Sumos are typically only in stores from January through April. My run-in with the Sumo the other day indicates I’m at the tail end of being able to purchase and try one.

Did I?

I did not. I had come to the market with a small shopping list that included chicken salad and mushrooms, not oranges. As someone who enters Target for one or two items and exits the store with a full shopping cart and $200 less in my wallet, I try to rein myself in by sticking with my list.

Did I miss out on an opportunity to further explore the Sumo orange? I did.

Did I miss out on the opportunity to reflect upon my tendency to judge an orange at first glance? I did not.

(I’m here writing about it, aren’t I?)

This isn’t a post about citrus, just like it wasn’t a post about finding a solitary kidney bean in a can of chickpeas, or running the stairs for someone else’s hotdog, or a disappearing ladybug in an empty bathtub.

These are all stand-ins for what we should be talking about.

Why do we judge on outward appearances alone? Why do we turn in with envy or away with revulsion when we see something that doesn’t meet our own prescribed standards?

Why do we make up stories when we see someone (“I know the type of person you are”) when, in actuality, we know nothing about them?

What type of stories are we unaware others are creating for us and about us based only on our surface layer?

How wrong they are! How wrong we are.

If someone were to peel back your layers, what would they find inside? What are you not showing on the outside – either out of protection or habit – that is the real story of you?

How might we refrain from making judgments about others when we only know what they are willing to show us?

It would be easy if we could all carry around a sign extolling our attributes. Mine would say something like:

“A somewhat dense and complicated story but a good listen nonetheless.”

“Creative, compassionate, caring.”

“Always seeking to be – and do – better.”

I’m sorry I didn’t purchase at least one Sumo orange. I bet I would have been surprised by how its harsh outward appearance hides its incredible sweetness inside.

Maybe that’s true for all of us.

When you peel away your many layers, what’s inside?

Perhaps that’s more of what you should bring to the world.

Valerie gordon your story matters web outer vs. Inner stories Valerie Gordon is a former Emmy-winning television producer, a lifelong storyteller, and a communications and leadership trainer. As founder of The Storytelling Strategist, she works with corporations to share the power of story to build future leaders and strong, equitable teams. Her favorite citrus is Ruby Red grapefruit. 






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