How do you see yourself?

Doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, there’s invariably a huge disconnect between the way we see ourselves, and the way others see us.

I guess this wouldn’t be such a problem if we could truly take the nice things that people say about us — the genuine compliments, I mean — on board. But all too often we dismiss those compliments with a wave of a hand… and go back to seeing ourselves the way we’ve always seen ourselves. And most of us are stuck with a huge pile of past baggage — years of it — that colors the person we see when we look in the mirror. That’s normal, right? But sometimes what we see can become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Here’s a personal example:
An author friend of mine emailed me the other day to congratulate me on a recent success. In her email she commented that she was glad this had happened to me because I was “so nice and such a good writer”.

What a sweetie, huh? But instead of a warm glow when I read her words the first thing I thought when I saw the “nice” comment was, Yikes. I’m not nice. I’m self-centered, sarcastic and impatient. And sometimes I’m downright mean. How can she think I’m nice? And I immediately discounted the “good writer” comment — just dismissed it entirely. In fact, when I located her email to check the accuracy of what I remembered to include it in this post, I was surprised to see that particular comment. I hadn’t remembered reading it. It was like I’d blanked it from my mind.

At the time I mentioned her comments to my husband in an incredulous way, expecting him to agree with me that I’m not nice. In fact, often I’m the farthest thing from nice you could possibly get. He looked me in the eye and said, “She’s right. You are a nice person. You’re one of the most caring people I know. And you are a good writer.” And even though this man I love and whose opinion I value is telling me the opposite, all that’s going ’round in my brain is, Nah. Delusional. They don’t know me at all.

But what if people who’ve given me genuine compliments do know me… better than I know myself? What if what they see when they look at me is the real me? What if I am attractive? What if I am a nice person, a caring person? What if am a good writer? What if I deserve a little success after all my hard work?

Wow. Hold that thought ’cause it’s just a little mind-blowing….

Um, yeah. It’s obvious I have some work to do on myself, isn’t it? Most of us do, unfortunately. And we’re always harder on ourselves than we are on others, right? It’s the normal human condition. But “normal” — the status quo — is not always a good thing or a healthy thing. And sometimes we need a bit of a shake-up to see that and to realize that we have to change the way we see ourselves.

This morning I just had one of those shake-ups and it spurred me to write this post.

If you’re still doubting that others see you differently than you see yourself, if you always dismiss compliments out of hand, if you’re not convinced those people who tell you you’re a good person and worthwhile and worthy happen to really mean it, and they’re being genuine when they say those things, then you might like to watch this video. It follows a forensic sketch artist sketching woman from their descriptions of themselves, and then as others describe them. I spotted it on Dear Author and (now that I’ve stopped crying) had to share.

All I ask that you ignore the fact it’s plugging a product. Don’t take it at face-value because the deeper message is worth far more than a bar of soap. And perhaps you might want to have a tissue handy in case it happens to resonate deeply with you as it did with me.

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2 Responses to “How do you see yourself?”

  1. So yeah- I cried. I commented the other day at book club about something similar. Two women were complimented on what they were wearing and instead of saying ‘thanks’ they both replied, ‘this old thing? It’s only from …fill in high street store name…’ We are all so bad at accepting compliments and believing what other people say about us because we have this negative spool going round in our heads- I’m too short, too fat, too tired looking, too freckly…too damn hung up on the negatives to be able to see the positives. I agree with you, Maree we need to cut ourselves a bit of slack, focus on the positive and LISTEN to what people are saying to us.

    • I bawled my eyes out, Louisa. And you’re so right about the “negative spool” going round in our heads. I mean, I know this. I know I do this. But to see it so graphically? Wow. It really hit me hard. Just as well I work from home coz if I’d watched this at work I’d have been a mess!