It is a fact that you project what you are. – Norman Vincent Peale
My father’s influence on me is enormous. I can’t really convey the degree to which his example echoes through my life, though I have tried. At least once a day, I think of something he said or did or believed or showed me when I was a child. One thing he said often was that maturity is the ability to see how we are perceived by others.
I think this is true. And I am sure I am not there yet. Over and over again, I run into the brick wall of what others perceive and I am often startled by how far it is from reality. There was the woman on the shuttle, all those years ago (four now!), whose voice still rings in my head. Hard and self-assured, she called me. Neither of which I have felt, ever, for even a single moment of my life.
Then there was my disconcerting and uncomfortable experience at BlogHer in 2010. For some reason people have always projected things onto me. Other peoples’ inaccurate impressions of and assumptions about me feel terrible. These rattle around inside my sense of myself, small but granular, spiky, unavoidable. My porous nature means that I’m extremely open to the input of others, and often I give too much credence to views that may not be based in any kind of fact (or, worse, not come with kind intentions).
There can be such a yawning gulf between what others perceive of us and what we actually intend, feel, and experience. I’ve written of this lacuna often, a moat filled with monsters: assumption, stereotype, judgment. Having been on the receiving end of snap judgments that are far from the truth has made me slower to jump to conclusions about others, and more inclined towards empathy.
But this quote by Norman Vincent Peale stopped me in my tracks. Maybe what I radiate – the energy that has often caused others to perceive me as chilly or aloof – is what I am? Is that possible? Even considering that gives me a shiver. But then I remember: those we know well may see an entirely different light radiating from us than do strangers. That must matter.
Right? How do you parse the difference – whether it is infinitessimal or gigantic – between reality and perception? I have to grow confident in who I am without listening to what others think. Right? I thought this was the task I’d been engaged in for the last ten years or more. I guess what I’m learning is that there is value in knowing what others pick up, and while it may or may not change the core truth of who we are, it is something that we are well served to understand. Oh, wait. Maybe this is the maturity that my father was talking about all along?
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