The other day was a good reminder that the way we see ourselves may not necessarily be anywhere close to how OTHERS see us.
Trust is a very relative thing — we all see a very different version of it based on how much information we have on a topic, regardless of the source. It could come from personal experience, hearsay, the pages of a book… all of this sums up in our heads to what we believe to be an accurate picture of the world.
But our own lives aren’t as well-documented and don’t have as many reliable witnesses as say, the construction of the Eiffel Tower. The truths about our lives come from two sources alone — the truths we know from the lives we lead, and those we know from what others think and say about us.
And considering that the one who spends the most time with us IS us, which of those two truth do you think is the one we’ll trust more often than the other?
Our senses of selves and the truths that result from them aren’t ENTIRELY accurate, though. There’s definitely a margin of error involved. It’s the reason why we sheepishly accept compliments from others — because we don’t necessarily agree with the compliment ourselves. It’s why psychiatrists, self-help gurus and psychics can all make a living — because we don’t know and understand ourselves as much as we’d LIKE to.
On the other hand, don’t believe the hype! Sometimes we have OVERINFLATED senses of selves, leading us to believe that we’re greater than we may ACTUALLY be. This isn’t too appetizing a frame of mind, either.
So where IS the truth about our lives? Others only spend so much time with us, but self-perception must also be taken with a grain of salt.
The answer lies in the COLLECTIVE truth. The more people who believe something to be true, the more likely it IS true. When one wins an award, it is merited by a panel of judges. Sometimes our work won’t be appreciated, despite us thinking it’s the best effort we’d ever put out. Regardless of what WE think, the collective mind will shape and dictate what the truth IS.
Where was I reminded of this? At a 10-year reunion for my high school class from my FIRST high school (I went to two). Though I still regarded everyone from my class as friends — and you do get to know a little bit about everybody when you spend 5 school years with the same 80 people — I saw myself as different, perhaps slightly inadequate, since I hadn’t actually graduated with them and become an “alumnus”.
But my classmates would hear none of it.
Instead of the way I saw it, they saw me as someone who’d always been one of their classmates — I’d just vanished for a while. It was very touching and re-orienting to see myself through their eyes and see my value rather than dwell on the negativity that I’d been chaining myself to for so long. I have to thank them all for that.
So the next time you’re feeling down; the next time you feel like you don’t bring anything to the table or mean anything to anyone, I’m telling you now — you’re wrong. It might not be time for you to realize it. It may not be clearly laid out for you to see. But we all mean something to someone out there in the world — you just have to survive long enough to find out WHO.
–Casey E. Palmer