I’m 13 again. I’m sitting in Mr Wilson’s maths class. He’s telling us about equations. Probably. I don’t know. I don’t recall the lesson.
What I do remember is looking around the classroom, bored. It’s hard for a young mind to pay attention for such long spells.
Over the other side of the class, by the windows, I spy the new kid. He’s so uncool! He’s a definite maths geek! Sitting there, back straight, legs crossed, paying such exquisite attention to every word from the teachers mouth.
What a freak! What a nerd! Doesn’t he know it’s not cool to look like he cares?
But hang on. What’s this?
It hits me like a bath full of hot water; he looks like me!
The posture, the crossed legs…I sit like that! I am sitting like that right now! And I tend to pay attention in class too. Well, usually. OK, the hair’s not the same, the face is not the same. The uniform is. The black clunky shoes, the white socks; ditto.
Is that what people see when they see me? It’s so far from my vision of myself, it’s untrue, but is that who I am?
Maybe my vision of myself is not correct? Maybe I too look like the new kid, the geek, the freak, the nerd. Could that be?
My own self image does not want to accept such a conclusion, but how could it not be true?
I’ve had an out of body experience. I’ve left my own closeted self point of view, and seen myself externally. As others see me.
Have you ever heard your voice played back on a recording? Did you think, “that doesn’t sound like me”? Did you hate or like the sound of your own voice played back?
I always hated my own voice played back. It didn’t sound like me. And I knew that to be the case as I was always there when I was talking, so of course I knew what I sounded like. Not like it sounded on the tape, that’s for sure! That voice on the tape sounded nothing like me. It sounded awful.
After listening to that, I didn’t want to speak again for a while. After seeing the new kid in the classroom, I didn’t want people to look at me for a while.
I didn’t want them to see or hear me, looking and sounding like that.
But, hang on a minute! They’ve always seen me like that. They’ve always heard that voice. The people who love me, the people who hate me, the people who are just there and have no strong feelings about me. They know what I look like and sounds like, and they love / hate / ambivolate (new word…I call trademark!) me regardless!
It’s a hard lesson when we learn for the first time we’re not everything we think we are in our own minds. When we first get that external view of ourselves played back to us. Not everyone even gets that lesson, or has that out of body experience.
As an adult, I still know so many people yet to have this life lesson. To be able to separate themselves from their own consciousness and view themselves externally, objectively.
You see these people all the time. They fall into two groups: those that love themselves too much, and those that loath themselves too much.
The first group, the “lovems”, are usually the most obvious. They like to advertise their own presence as they’re so in love with their own image of themselves that surely everyone else must love them too?! They sweep into the room, and make sure everyone knows they’re there. They demand your admiration, after all, they admire themselves, so how could you not too?
The second group, the “hatems”, are less obvious. They hide from view whenever possible. They loathe themselves. They are filled with insecurities. How could anybody possibly like them or even love them? They are convinced that they are ugly, uninteresting, worthless.
An objective view is hard for either of them. The lovems could not conceive that they are not all they believe that they are, that they are only human, just like everyone else. The hatems could not conceive that they have their own good qualities, that they are completely human, just like everyone else.
And of course, there are the rest of us, in the middle, who often swing between both views, depending on the context. I’m mostly over my childish insecurities. I was always closer to being a hatem than a lovem. And there are times that those feelings come back, but I know how to deal with them now. I also have delusions of grandeur from time to time. Yes even me, The Great San Jefe. Hard to believe I know.
The key is to step outside yourself and see what others see. To gain an objective perspective.
Too many of us go through life only looking through our own eyes. We see what we see, not what is to be seen. We hear what we hear, not what is to be heard. We mangle everything through our own subjective filters, until our own view bares little resemblance to reality, and find it so hard to view ourselves as others view us.
All arguments, all conflicts, all wars, are held between two parties who each believe passionately that they are right, and that it is the other that is wrong, unreasonable, mistaken. But if both parties are right, how can there be a conflict?
Stepping outside of yourself and looking at your own motivations and actions, and how they may appear to others will usually surprise you. Putting yourselves into the shoes of the other, and really understanding what is driving them, and reflecting back on how your actions appear to them, can hit you hard. It’s a shock.
Externalise the view of yourself, and you can suddenly put yourself into the position of others.
Unfortunately, as a species, we don’t do this too often.
And so, People Problem #2: our default mode, and for many of us the only mode, is subjective. We lack perspective. We either consider ourselves infallible, or we underestimate our own abilities.
How much more could we achieve if we could only see all views of ourselves?