When Other People's Perception of You Matters (Kinda)
Let me start by telling you I’m about to contradict myself a teensy bit. Thanks for hangin’ in there with me. It’s good, I promise.
A few months ago I gave a talk about three different versions of self. These are the self based on… 1.) our true self, 2.) what other people think of us (this we generally know because they’ve told us), and 3.) what we think other people think of us (we don’t have fact to back this up, it’s all based on assumptions and stories in our heads). Of course, the only one that truly matters is our truest self—who we are in our core and bones, how we move through the world most comfortably. (And that’s the space I help people live from.)
BUT, there are times when number two can be insightful. Remember, this is the way other people view us and we know this because they’ve told us. Let me give you a personal example. A couple years ago my grandma said to me, “You always were a good writer” and I replied “Awwwwww, thanks Grams!” See, I’d actually forgotten that writing was something I used to be good at or, at the least, my grandma thought I was good. I don’t know if anyone else out there categorizes me as a good writer. I don’t even really care!
My grandma’s comment did something powerful.
It reminded me that I LOVED to write and that I always have. I’ve always kept a journal, in college I got up at 3am to work on essays and papers, I wrote short stories in elementary school. I took creative writing in high school and wrote a poem that made me say “Wow, I think that’s good!”
It may have all been garbage. Maybe there was a flash of something good here and there.
It doesn’t matter. The point is that I enjoyed the process. I liked to write. I loved telling stories. And my grandma’s comment reminded me of that. So this second version of self, my grandma’s view of me, reminded me to connect with the part of my core self that I’d lost touch with — a part of me that was already there.
Sometimes people we know well can help us see things in ourselves that we’re not seeing.
But if we don’t also see it in ourselves, it has little impact. If the other person’s view no longer suits you or never accurately described your truest self, then it’s got to be let go. If my grandma had said, “You always loved frogs” I’d have to say, “Grams, I got rid of that frog collection that had frog boxes, stuffed animals, statues, pillows, and scrunchies 15 years ago.” Or more personally, if she had said “You were such an extroverted kid” I’d have to remind her that my adult-self is much more of an introvert.
No matter how other people view us, even if somewhat accurate at some point, it still comes down to us, our truest self, and if that view still resonates with who we are in this very moment. It can be a nice point of reflection, but ultimately, that number one self up there is the most important.