Who Are We?
“I am not who you think I am; I am not who I think I am; I am who I think you think I am”
― Thomas Cooley
Who are we? Do we know? How can we know?
We begin here...with awareness...that how we believe others perceive us, no matter how emotionally or spiritually evolved we might be, effects us all...a ton, even if only for a moment.
Our beliefs about who we are, the narrative we drag around throughout our lives, are most frequently based on our perceptions of who we believe others believe we are. Born of the stories we have carried with us for longer than we can remember, our identities can easily become shaped by our perceptions of how we believe others view us.
We hand over of our identity, our sense of confidence and self-worth to others all the time without realizing it. It can happen in a split second. It can happen anywhere, anytime; at a party, at work, at home, on FB, or my personal favorite....in the produce aisle.
About a month ago I posted a comment (I found pithy, light hearted and which was certainly well intended) to something a friend had posted in a FaceBook group. To be clear I am extraordinarily cognizant and tremendously careful about ANYTHING I post on social media, as I am well aware of how much gets lost in translation, how incredibly easy it is to misinterpret another's words when you cannot see their face, read their body language or hear the inflection in their voice. I am well aware of the fact that I possess a sense of humor that may not always translate well purely through the written word. The next day another group member replied to my comment and concluded her comment by saying "that was kind of a weird and snotty thing to say." My immediate response was to laugh, because I sincerely found her perception of my statement funny. Then I felt really badly for her because always being on the lookout for attacks and taking things personally is a truly painful and exhausting way to live. And then, just as quickly as humor and empathy had entered my brain, I thought..."you wanna see snotty? Let's play."
The turnaround time was maybe 10 seconds...Tops.
I ignored, thankfully, my overwhelming desire to prove to this woman that I hold within me the capacity to be snottier than she could ever imagine, that I am highly skilled at the fine art of condescension...
because I wish to be free, because I choose love (especially towards myself), and compassion. Because being snotty and condescending is not who I've wished to be for a very long time. Because nobody gets to define me today except me....until the next time I momentarily lose my mind and forget who I am. And because I REALLY hate cleaning up messes I've made.
I believe, fundamentally, we all have a deep-seated beliefs about who we are and what we're worth, and that, prior to investigation and challenge, we wander through life searching for validation that we're right. When our core belief, regardless of how we dress it up with cute clothes, cool cars, homes or titles, is that we are broken and lacking, we recognize every snub as verification that we were right all along. Regardless of how much we've grown, how much work we've done on ourselves, we all carry scars that can be ripped open in a heartbeat.
If someone says something that hurts or angers me, something profound has to occur in my brain between the distance of their statement and my emotional response of feeling hurt or angry...
I have to agree with them. It has to trigger at least a version of what I already believe to be true, if only for a moment. It has to shine a light on some, however small, deep unresolved, or unforgiven, wound. I have to believe them....otherwise it's simply bizarre and entertaining commentary. The same is true when another tells me they admire me, are proud of me or like me. It feels good, but if, and only if, I admire me, I like me, and I am proud of me.
So the next time you find yourself responding emotionally to how you believe others see you, the next time you find yourself caring about what you believe others think of you I would ever so lovingly invite you to pause...take a deep breath...and then feel allow yourself to feel grateful for yet another beautiful opportunity to face yourself....and to set yourself free.
Peace & Love Always