Last week in Self Discovery Series Part 1: Who Are You?, we talked about uncovering your true self and defining who you are on your own terms.
I hope you did the homework!
This week I want to get into perceptions and how to handle the discrepancy between external perception: how others see and would describe us,
self-awareness: how we see and describe ourselves.
How many times at one point or another has someone perceived you totally differently than you believe yourself to be. You may have heard something like:
“I thought you were mean when I first met you.”
“I thought you were quiet”
“You seemed like…”
And you just wonder where they get these ideas from? lol
Or the other way around: you met someone and created an image of them that totally differed from the person you grew to know. The biggest factor in someone’s perception starts with a first impression. The discrepancy this causes is that our image only partially reflects our personality.
I’m sure you’ve already been told time and time again how important first impressions are and how hard they are to reverse, and that’s true. People’s perception of you is initially their reaction of the “surface”or “top layer” of you, based mostly on your external appearance.
You end up being pre-judged solely on your facial expressions, demeanor, your clothing, those sorts of visual factors, and not the real you. A person can create an entire judgement and story for someone else without speaking a word to them. You look at someone who appears angry and think they had a bad day and that they are NOT the person in the room you’ll ever approach. Then you talk to them and they say they’re not angry at all, that’s “just their face” lol and they’re actually having a great day.
All of our interactions are opportunities for us to see more deeply into who we are, who we are showing to people, and how we can begin to refine ourselves and make sure we are narrating our own stories. We should view every encounter and interaction as a mirror through which we can discover something important or new about ourselves.
We can then use what we find as valuable information in the process of arriving at a deeper self-understanding and self awareness.
So the questions of focus are:
How do people see you?
Does it match who you feel you really are?
Now, does it really matter what others think of you?? Some would say nope, just do your thing doesn’t matter what people think. When you’re talking about perceptions and what “people think of you”, you tend to meet resistance because most people feel strongly about not living for the world where everyone is too judgy anyway, and they shouldn’t care what anyone thinks. I know I’ve ran the “you think I care what they think of me?” line too many times before LOL.
Which is right…but to an extent. There is nothing wrong with having the confidence and free spirit to ‘do your own thing’ and live without the pressure of caring what everyone thinks of you; but it’s dangerous to disregard other people’s perceptions of you.
Imagine believing that you come across as a confident person. You speak clearly, you “don’t beat around the bush”, and you have no problem sharing your thoughts right However, people actually see you, not as confident, but as cocky, arrogant, inconsiderate, conceited, insensitive, or “feeling yourself”.
What are the consequences likely to be? How many relationships can be broken..or never formed? How many opportunities could pass you by? How many people would you be rubbing the wrong way?
Getting to the bottom of how people perceive you is one of the essential elements of understanding how you come across to them. Does how you represent yourself daily match who you say you are/ who you want to be? Once you know this, you can start to think about adapting your behavior so that their perception of you is what you want it to be, not what they have assumed or decided for themselves.
Put yourself in a position to control their perception of you.
This is YOUR show, direct it.
Let’s say you had a candy company and the candy was A-Ma-Zing but the wrapper was so unappealing and un-engaging that no one ever really brought it. Customers looked at that wrapper and assumed the taste of the candy was just an unappealing as that wrapper. First thing you would think is “ change the wrapper” so customers wouldn’t have the incorrect assumption and end up knowing it for the amazing candy it is. Make sense?
I challenge you to think seriously about how others view you.
This week’s homework is: Ask a diverse group, a few friends and family members, to tell you what they think of you? What did they think of you when they first met you?
Also reflect on some of the misconceptions and pre judgements people may have had of you, and you of others. If you are not happy with some of the conclusions you come to, then you know what to work on. This is not for you to feel ‘judged’ or misunderstood, because that can happen. They have some nerve to see you differently from the way you see yourself, how dare them? Lol.
Seriously, appreciate the honesty as it comes your way.
A life with all YES men has NO growth.
The thing is, if you’re willing to be honest with yourself you will quickly realize that you may have some things to work on. If all their perceptions seem so far fetched, what has led them to these conclusions? Self- reflect on THAT. What changes can you make to reverse the perception and set a new tone?
That is how you continue to make progress on your journey to self discovery.
Until we meet again next week for part 3!
“How you are isn’t always as important as how you are perceived. Perception is the gatekeeper between your essence and your image. And your image is the only thing others truly see. Changing yourself is at best half the battle. Changing how you are will give you peace, but changing how you are perceived will give you power.”
– John Bastien