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On the Outside Looking In

How do we perceive ourselves? How do we intend to perceive ourselves? Does that matter? How do others perceive us? How do we intend others to perceive us and our actions? Do we really care? What do we want the perception of ourselves to be, in truth? And what do we intend that perception to be and do FOR us? Does that matter?

Intention and perception are very interesting. We base our self-perception on what we intend, what we believe about ourselves. When looking in a mirror, we see what we intend for others to see, what we perceive they see, as well as what we want to see which of course is based on many perceptions about and experiences with life. All of this is very tricky. We intend to present ourselves based on many things. One of the things upon which we base our self-presentation is audience. Another is the “moment” and sometimes the fact that in the moment we don’t take the time to consider presentation/perception, we simply react. We can only then reflect upon what we perceive was our action/reaction based upon intention. We also base our self-presentation and perception upon our beliefs and values, on which we also base our lives.

Watching ourselves on film when we consider a particular type of audience can be mind opening and mind exploding. Suddenly we see through a different set of eyes, a very different ~ far more truthful and revealing ~ lens. Often the shock and pain that comes from that revelation is life-changing. Our self-perception is shattered because we are able to examine our presentation without at least part of our intention. Learning that intention can’t be part of the equation UNLESS it is spoken, is a critical lesson. When we see ourselves through other’s eyes we find a new perception, a new light shining upon us, positive or not so positive. This can be jarring if what we see isn’t what we thought we intended. Or it can be quite the opposite and be amazingly self-affirming. 

Our assumptions about ourselves, what we present to the outside world and what we believe about others and ourselves, are not based on any reality or truth but our own. Being self-reflective is a start. Being able to ask for and receive feedback about our self-perceptions is the next step towards learning to broaden our understanding of our affect on others. This is truly a very difficult challenge as it sets us up for the pain of criticism. We must feel pretty darn secure to ask for that feedback, with the possibility of it being negative.

One possible way to gain a real view of “On the Outside Looking In” that may be less painful, is to watch ourselves on film with a particular type of audience in mind (elderly folks, superiors at work, children, parents, hopeful employers). In this day and age of video shooting (with or without permission) and availability of it online, we must be far more aware of how others perceive us than ever before, and realize that there is always a possibility that films of us are “out there” for all to witness. Films of our actions play over and over again sometimes, in others’ memories of their interactions with us as well. As time passes, these “memory films” are edited and take on different importance. They play within our own minds as well and are equally edited.

Stepping outside to look in, leaving our intention behind, will be a true gift and art to master in order to live with truth, awareness, meaning, attention, and thoughtfulness. Take that step and take a breath before you set yourself up for the perception and eventual judgement of others. Consider yourself on film before all types of audiences at all times. Live your best in every minute. I sure have a lot to master and practice! 


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