(This is a reposting of an early blog post which was inadvertently lost in pages.)
I have some questions. Consider them with me if you would.
Do we know how to value ourselves without the help of others?
Whose responsibility is it to be sure we are truly seen?
How can we make ourselves understood in meaningful ways? What ME do I want YOU to know?
If I think about who I am or who I want to be in the sense of how I am experienced by others, I can quickly get lost in an esoteric gyre. We live our lives in a spiral of layers, none of which are within our complete control, none of which truly capture the ME I consider myself to be. Certainly I want to be understood for whom I consider myself to truly be. I want people in my world to know things about me, and I want to shape the ‘me’ they know. We have numerous connections to others and these connections can serve as important mirrors for how we value ourselves should we dare to look carefully and see what is reflected back.
Who am I?
Recently an important position came open in the large school district where I work. And a colleague, who does amazing work in many areas, sent me a text that got me thinking. “I wish I had the qualifications, I could TOTALLY do that job,” he wrote. His words gave me pause, for a number of reasons. They hit me as insult to the strong leaders who have held the position, and a complete miss in acknowledgement of the guts, grit, and sheer devotion required for the position. His text also spoke to a lack of understanding about his own skill set.
It seemed much like the way everyone thinks they can be a teacher. It’s simple, right? You just assign kids stuff and they learn. Just follow the book and take summers off. (WHAT?) Clearly anyone who’s ever taught anything even close to well knows the ignorance evidenced by this thinking. Considering the way this colleague understands himself juxtaposed against the perception of him by others pointed to my own mirror in him. If he could be so off, couldn’t I also be fooling myself?
It is important to see ourselves with accuracy because in navigating the world and relationship, we cannot truly connect with others, make a difference, or have any impact without genuine knowing of how we are perceived. When another gives feedback about my words, actions, abilities, I am able to make adjustments, or simply accept what is, lessening the risk and fear of missing my mark. It takes courage to ask for real feedback. It takes strength to take in others’ words and perceptions.
Your last paragraph really resonates with me. I was recently turned down for a job I thought I was qualified for. I also turned down the offer to interview for a job that I don’t want. But the invitation was flattering. Both of these have me wondering about perceptions and what people think they see in me.
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Both of those are such difficult places to navigate, Margaret. Reading Lean In by Susan Sandberg has really affected my perception of myself in relation to my work and future. Maybe that would be of interest to you as well. It is disconcerting when our beliefs about ourselves are out of sync with what others perceive. We are such social beings! Good luck. And hooray for you for being willing to look and ask the questions.