"Every person has a different view of another person's image. That's all perception. The character of a person, the integrity, that's who you are." Steven Alford

The way we understand the world and how we situate ourselves within it is unique to our perspective. There is something both distinctly remarkable, and isolatingly unsettling about that. We are the only ones who go through what we do - in the ways that we do. Think about headaches, visibly no on else knows what when have one, but we ourselves feel an intense pain. That pain though is felt in the most literal sense by us, and us alone. There can be a sharp difference between the ways that we see ourselves and how others see us/experience us. Similarly, who we believe ourselves to be is not ho others experience us as. When asked how friends, family, or coworkers would describe us, often our answers are different than we would say about ourselves. What is the meaning of that dichotomy? If we believe we're being ourselves, and yet other people are perceiving us differently than we expect them to, then is it because we have categorized that difference from our normative frame of reference, or because they truly are taking us in differently than we realize. Is it worthwhile to reconcile the two versions of us, or are both of those versions valid? I think it's a little bit of both.

Reconciling the multiple versions of us seems like an existential crisis of the most epic proportions, but in actuality it's taking the time to figure out who/what others get from you, and comparing that to who you think yourself to be. To some people I show up as their confidant, advice giver, supporter, champion, and advocate. To others I'm their entertainment, laughter-bringer, safety, and peace. And to others still I'm their antagonist. I have to accept that I am truly all those things, and that the experiences that others have with me, are just that - their experiences, and should be affirmed as such. I think this is why we find it so difficult to recognize when we have harmed others, and even more so to apologize to them. It's because we don't see ourselves the way they have just seen us. There is a cognitive dissonance between those realities. Accepting responsibility for our impacts on others means that we have to acknowledge their viewpoints, specifically their viewpoint with us as the subject. It's uncomfortable, challenging, and confusing, but in doing so we stop centering ourselves, and instead gain some clarity in who others believe us to be - for better or worse. Others may exaggerate us just like we do ourselves in the extremes of our talents/goodness coupled with our faults and flaws. Bringing all the iterations us together means taking those perceptions as they, for what they're worth. And then what do we do with them - reflect and respond, or ignore and continue on. The choice is up to us. 

It is so important to give space to let people share how they experience us, not just in ways of praise but also in critique. It can be powerful to receive feedback on ourselves, especially when we know that response is being with an authenticity, and a benign intent. Who people show us may not be who they actually are, just like the same goes for us. The times when we're joking around and see others laughing, may not necessarily mean they are actually enjoying themselves. We play different parts to different people. And there's nothing wrong with that, but it does beg the question of if we're constantly changing to needs and appeasement of others are we ever actually being ourselves, or is who we are always who we are - regardless of the ways that we adapt because that is decisive. 

I remember being in college, and some of my friends mentioning to me that it was hard to be around me because they felt inadequate. I had to remind them that those were their own insecurities. Others said that being around me was hard, but it made them strive to better themselves, to pay attention more, and to be more of themselves. Others still talked about who I was to them or how I had changed their lives. I couldn't believe it, but they had experienced me differently than I understood. I'll never forget finding out that a classmate I thought was a friend had told a mutual friend that they thought I was "too talkative, pretentious, and arrogant." I had misunderstood his experience of me. All of those things have made me more cognizant of how I'm showing up both in general, and specifically for the people around me. I want people to want to be invigorated around me instead of feeling downtrodden. And while I can't control how other people see me, I can choose how I influence them, and what the experience of me is like. 

There are so many times when I want to say that I don't care what other people think of me, but that's both true as much as it is false. Who I am, how I see myself, and what I feel for me will always be paramount. Those are things that no one else can take from me. Self-esteem, self-worth, and self-image come from within. And, and, and I am concerned with how I show myself to other people. Only I can define who I am, but I need other people to help clarify that definition. I want people to experience the best I have to offer, to respect that, and to appreciate who I am. Growing into even more of me entails doing the self-work necessary to proceed, succeed, exceed, but self-work requires external input from others. I want to know what my best qualities are as much as I want to know my areas for improvement. I want the thoughts and feelings of those that have taken the time to know me, to experience me, and to love me as I am. I want my image to be one I am proud of, not just one that others define me by. I control how I see me, I want others to see me as I am too. X


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