Lifestyle Choices: How Do Others See You?
I was remembering back the other day to a time during my teaching career. It was 8th grade graduation time and I was chosen to be the keynote speaker at the event. The principal spoke first and when he was done he introduced me. He said that our next speaker is a man who has a gruff exterior but it doesn’t take the kids long to realize he is a big old teddy bear.
Of course, being a writer, that introduction was food for thought. How do others see us? What impressions do we give to others as we go about our daily lives? Are our actions reflective of who we really are? Better still, does anyone really know us, and if not, why is that?
A LOOK WITHIN
How do others see us? If I were to look at myself I would say the answer to that question has changed over the years. During my younger life prior to alcohol, what people saw was basically who I really was. I was happy, carefree, friendly and always had a smile on my face. There were no hidden agendas with me prior to age twenty-six, and people enjoyed being with me because I was uplifting and supportive.
The image began to change once I fell in love with alcohol. The outer exterior of my persona still exuded friendliness, but slowly that eroded until I reached the point where my actions, or lack thereof, spoke much louder than my appearance. I could not be counted on to follow through with promises. I was more morose when with people, and what was once a shining star took on the dull cast of a life turned sour.
Thankfully those days are gone now. I do not smile as much as I once did, but the main reason for that is because I am self-conscious about my teeth, one of which is broken off and looks ghastly. However, if you listen to my voice you will hear the happiness in it. There is a kindness not only in my voice but in my actions as well. In fact, my actions are the main indicator of the man within these days. I am as supportive as I can humanly be, and I am proud of my compassion and empathy for others.
TAKE A LOOK AT YOURSELF
How do others see YOU! Time for some reflection; do you exude in your actions that which you really are? I have an interesting story to share with you. When I was growing up I lived in a very remarkable neighborhood. The folks who lived in our two-block area were incredibly friendly and supportive and it was a wonderful place for a kid to grow up in. Unfortunately there was one man, Henry Streitz, who may have been the meanest man I have ever met. He lived directly across the street from us, and while the rest of the neighborhood was sunshine and flowers, Henry’s yard was storm clouds and wilted growth.
For the first fourteen years that we lived there I never heard a warm, loving remark out of that man. He yelled at his child, he yelled at the neighborhood kids and yes, he yelled at dogs and cats. In short, he was a thoroughly despicable human being.
My dad died when I was nineteen. It was a crushing time in my life, and I remember very little of that time because of shock and grief. One day, about a month after my dad’s death, I was outside pruning the willow tree in our front yard, and Mr. Streitz walked over to me. He held out his hand and told me how terribly sorry he was for my loss, that he had always respected my dad and he knew I was going to be as fine a man as my father was.
Henry died five years later. He never said another word to me after that one afternoon. I am still unsure of my feelings about him. On the one hand he was a miserable excuse for a neighbor; on the other hand, there was enough goodness and compassion in him to lead him across the street that February afternoon and for five minutes show his humanness.
I have often thought of Mr. Streitz when I’m “taking inventory” of a person I have just met. Snap judgments are my responsibility, and yet how someone sizes you up in the first few meetings ultimately is your responsibility. If all I am given to work with is a negative appearance then it is only logical to believe the person to be negative by nature. I am not a psychic; I cannot divine the inner core of a person. I need data in order to really know someone else.
How often have you heard someone say that they are misunderstood? How often have you said it about yourself? I know I have said it but guess what? If I am providing the input that others see, and I am misunderstood, then I might want to adjust the input.
What kind of data are you sending out on a daily basis?
THE MAN IN THE MIRROR
Or woman if the case may be! Who is that looking back at you? What perception do you have of yourself? What person do others see?
An old proverb tells us that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. In other words, you can have the best intentions in the world regarding your interaction with your fellow man, but do your actions match your intentions?
Is it possible to self-deceive when answering this question? That in itself is an interesting question. During my dark years I tried so very hard to self-deceive, but during those quiet times, sitting by myself in the darkness, cringing from the light of truth, I knew it was all a sham. I knew, just as the magician in the carnival knows, that it was all an illusion. The rabbit in the hat, the card pulled from behind an ear, I knew that my very existence was equal to the women sawed in half. The crowd ooohs, the crowd awes, and in the end everyone goes home satisfied with the show except the magician.
I have known others who, when confronted with the truth about themselves as I saw it, were absolutely shocked…..or were they really? I suspect that an expression of shock was much easier than an admittance of the truth.
SO WE RETURN TO THE QUESTION
How do others see us?
In a perfect world the image seen would equal the image projected would equal the image desired, but life is not perfect nor will it ever be.
My guess is that we rarely see the total person in our meetings with them. A part of us is always held in reserve, safely hidden in the vault, as priceless as the crown jewels. It is a rare person who displays for review 100% of themselves.
Still, if we seek to be understood, then we must be willing to open up that vault just a bit so others can catch a glimpse at the treasures within. If we seek to be known as we truly are then the task is ours and ours alone.
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
For other articles in the Lifestyle Choices series, see the following:
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