Perceptions of Self


Perceptions of Self

I had an interesting thought this week. Generally speaking, it seems we care more about how others perceive us that how we see ourselves. More so than that though, the more we care about the perceptions that others have about us often tends to be directly proportional to how little we actually value the opinion of the person making the judgement.

Let me clarify. We seem to care most about the opinions that other people have about us. Particularly, people who don’t know us and with whom we don’t have an intimate relationship.

In this way, we care the least about how we feel about ourselves. We care slightly more about how our family and best friends judge us. More so than that though, we worry most about how others we don’t even know or actually care about think about us.

It’s a bizarre thought. After all, shouldn’t we care most about our own opinion of ourselves? Shouldn’t the judgements of the people who know us best be the next most important pieces of information? Why do we even give a hoot what someone who doesn’t know us (and doesn’t want to) thinks about us?

Backwards and Upside Down

It’s silly but in some weird, convoluted way, it also makes some sense. We have to put up with ourselves. There is no other choice. Love or hate ourselves but when it’s all said and done we still wake up being ourselves each and every day.

To a lesser extent the same is true with our family members and close friends. They love us come what may. They know the background of our life challenges and realize we mean well in our hearts so, for the most part, they are willing to give us a little slack.

Still, if we disrespect their boundaries enough, there will come a time when that love won’t be enough. They may continue to love us but they won’t necessarily chose to have us in their lives. For this reason, it would seem prudent to stay on this side of those boundaries, within their range of expectations.

Levels of Tolerance

Of course, the lower level of tolerance and increased danger of withdrawal of interaction becomes even more pronounced as the bond between people is diminished. Simply put, the less a person knows you and feels connected with you, the more likely they will think the worst of you. After all, they haven’t expended any time or energy on caring whether you are a good person or not.

To counter that potential that these individuals will label you negatively, it’s natural to want to please those who know you the least. Hence the multibillion dollar companies that sell products to mask who we are so that others will perceive us a certain way. Our husband of 30 years is likely going to have seen us without shaved legs, in sweat pants, with morning breath, and probably giving birth but heaven forbid on the first day he meets us that our hair is a bit frizzy or our teeth aren’t quite white enough. It could be a deal breaker.

In a Perfect World

Sometimes, I think the world is backwards and upside down. In a perfect world, I care most about what I think of myself. After all, I know all my stories, all my flaws, and all my life challenges. When I don’t reach my expectations, I pick myself up, dust myself off, tell myself that I’m worthwhile as a human being, and then I plan my next move.

If I need extra support, I depend upon those who know me best. My family, my friends, and perhaps even professionals who will listen or let me cry on their shoulder if need be. The kind of people who could just as easily tell me to stop whining and I’d realize that maybe it was time to do so. People I trust and respect.

That’s all. Period. Who cares what the cashier, the mailman, my estranged cousin, or my kid’s teacher thinks of me. It’s just a waste of time and energy trying to be all things to everyone in every situation.