3 Versions of Reality: How We Perceive Ourselves, How We Think Others Perceive Us, and How Others Actually Perceive Us

After a year of careful consideration and research, I finally purchased a Funko Pop vinyl figure for my cubicle in the office.

But before I made my official decision, I sought my 3 year-old daughter’s confirmation. I presented her with the character figure of J.J. Abrams; the producer of Lost and the new Star Wars movies.

I asked her, “Holly, who is this?”

She immediately smiled and responded: “It’s Daddy!”

In that moment, I received confirmation that my own perception of myself truly matched not only how I perceived how others perceive me, but also, how others actually perceive me.  And sure enough, once I debuted my avatar at work this week, all of my co-workers agreed that the Funko Pop vinyl figure of J.J. Abrams does indeed look like me.

A few of my co-workers actually assumed had the figure custom-made!

However, this is somewhat of a rare occurrence:

That my perception of myself matched how I perceive how others perceive me, as well as how others actually perceive me.

One of my life’s revelations this year, after turning 38, is this:

By default, we spend a lot of our time hoping to change things about ourselves that wouldn’t actually make others like us or respect us anymore than they already do. Instead, we remain unaware of the things we could change about ourselves that would actually make us more likable.

We tend to incorrectly assume that others give as high of a value (if any!) to the same traits we place in the category of “If I Only I Was More…”

The irony is that perhaps if we actually obtained the self-assigned “improvements” we wished upon ourselves, others may not even notice at all!

Therefore, we spend much of our time hoping, wishing, and trying to make changes about ourselves that wouldn’t actually improve other people’s perceptions of ourselves; most ideally, improving our relationships with those people.

I’ll be a bit vulnerable here and give you a personal example.

All summer, I have been receiving “What You Were Doing 5 Years Ago” notifications and photos through Facebook.

That was the summer I had recently become a vegan. I was never in my life more perfectly thin and fit. I had finally reached my ideal body weight and clothing size.

I enjoyed that for about a year, before my body found a way to overwrite the shock of no longer consuming cholesterol through my diet. Within a couple of years, I was back to my original weight; despite still being vegan.

I have consistently ran, worked out, and altered my diet to include some animal protein again, but I’m still nowhere near that initial weight from 5 years ago.

But now, I have come to the realization that even if I was able to get back down to my perceived ideal weight of less than 160 pounds, it wouldn’t make anything better in my life… beyond the thoughts in my head.

And actually, back when I was my perceived ideal level of physical fitness 5 years ago, I believe I was less likable of a person back then anyway!

Before the age of 35, I was still giving power over my emotions to other people; still giving the free world free reign regarding the ability to offend me, hurt my feelings, and disrespect me.

I also was still to some degree attempting to prove my views and opinions were superior. I made a fool of myself on Facebook, mocking the concept of human beings consuming eggs and dairy from other species.

Because at that point, I had not reached the level of emotional intelligence I now live in.

It took that experience to help get me where I am today.

The closer I get to age 40 (I’m now just a year and a half way), the clearer my perspective becomes about how the world actually works… especially when it comes to human interaction.

The reality is that most of the time, the things we think will make us be better perceived by others actually have zero value to others.

Instead, most people notice and appreciate a person who is confident yet humble, who knows how to make others feel better about themselves, and invests their time, energy, skills, talents, and/or to help others.

That is what actually makes us liked and respected by people.

So yes, there are 3 different version of reality:

How we perceive ourselves, how we think others perceive us, and how others actually perceive us.

We get to decide for ourselves which version to accept.

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