With all the CSI programs on TV, I’ve started wondering what people would say about me if some investigator came around and began asking questions. How would they describe me or my relationship with them. Would I be perceived as helpful, bitchy, sweet, reclusive, friendly, gabby, close-mouthed, bossy, wimpy, inept, fastidious, unorganized, klutzy, shy, outgoing? What?
Sometimes I wonder what other people see when they see me or speak to me. After all, they’re only seeing the part of me I’m letting them see. And most of them have no idea what has gone on in my life just prior to their seeing or speaking with me. Maybe our conversation is a one-time occurrence, so they think I’m always bitchy or grumpy because they don’t know that perhaps my car just broke down, I lost my job, and my dog recently died. Or maybe they think I’m rather empty-headed because my answers are slow and not always coherent, but again, they have no way of knowing that I may have been up all night, or might have taken a strong pain reliever for an aching back or severe sinus attack. All they know is what they can observe and hear, and that may leave them shaking their heads in bewilderment.
Perhaps they heard from someone else that I’m the foremost expert on herbal medicine in the area, but the day they contact me I can’t seem to concentrate on what they’re asking me, let alone give them a coherent answer. All they’re going to think is that I must indulge in some pretty funky herbs.
What about the people we only see at work? What do they know about us? If you like your job, then they might see you as fun, happy, ready to share a laugh, a steady worker who’s good at their job. What if you don’t like your job, though? Then what type of person do they see?
So the perception someone has of you depends on what aspects they see of you, and what discernment they glean from that interaction. Because not only do you control what others see and experience in regards to yourself, but so do they. After all, you might be having a great day, feeling very expansive and helpful, but the person you’re with is having a horrible day and so they prefer to take everything you say and do as an insult, so they presume that you are smart-alecky or rude.
Therefore, if asked by an investigator what you were like, they might say that you got what deserved, because you were always rude and smart-mouthed. And who’s to dispute them? They’re not really lying, because it is, after all, only their perception of you, isn’t it? As one-sided as it may be, it’s still accurate, that is if everyone takes into account the person giving the opinion and the circumstances under which they formed that opinion.
Now, while the first part of that is usually noted (the who), the second part (the circumstances) isn’t. So, you’re stuck with the one-sided view of you that they have given to the investigator. (Of course, being dead, you probably don’t care.;-)
When you think about it though, most people really only know one or two facets of anyone else (excluding spouses and children—although in some cases, people have been shown to know little or nothing about their own spouses and children). “Ahhh,” you’re thinking, “but I’ve known Tommy Jones for years, even decades. In fact we grew up in the same neighborhood.”
Of course that helps, but unless you were best friends, or even better—living together—then I’d guess your true knowledge of Tommy Jones is still pretty incomplete. After all, you probably interacted on a limited basis—shared some classes in school, maybe were on the same sports teams (little league, track, whatever), or maybe you hung out together for awhile. And while that means that you probably saw Tommy from several angles, there are still a lot of sides to Tommy Jones that you have never guessed existed.
Don’t we all keep parts of ourselves hidden? Not necessarily because these parts are bad or “evil”, but because we fear being ridiculed, being thought that we’re not “normal” (whatever that may be). Think about it. If you’ve spent most of your life making sure that everyone perceives you as being extremely cautious and caring about your health—always exercising and eating balanced meals—would you want them to know that secretly you love to veg out on the couch in front of the TV and drink beer? Of course not, because it might ruin your “image”, the perception you have worked so hard at cultivating with them.
Perhaps you enjoy the fact that most of the people you know see you as an intellectual—always reading thick tomes, attending lectures, and when you deign to watch TV it’s only those more esoteric programs on the Discovery or History channels. So what would people think if they found out that you secretly owned and often watched the complete DVD set of the 3 Stooges?
Most of us hide facets of ourselves from others because we want to fit in with some particular part of society or group, but the trouble is when we start hiding facets of ourselves from others, we soon begin hiding things from ourselves, too. Then we begin telling ourselves lies to help us cover up these facets of ourselves that we no longer want to remember exist. We’ll tell ourselves that we love the opera, because all our friends love the opera, but secretly we know we’d rather be at a rock concert. Or we tell ourselves that we really are enjoying the lecture on Ignatius rocks, but we can feel a tug deep inside. If we were to investigate that tug, we’d find that it’s the hidden part of us wanting to come back out, the part of us that says “What I’d really rather be doing is knitting.”
We get so good at ignoring those tugs and pangs, though, that after awhile we don’t even notice them anymore. Soon we believe the perception of ourselves that we have created and are presenting to everyone else and we think of it as the real us. In fact, we believe in it so much that when it implodes and we find ourselves suddenly chucking our jobs on Wall Street (or wherever) to become pottery makers or piano tuners we and everyone else we know is absolutely flabbergasted. Yet if we were honest with ourselves, we’d see that that aspect of ourselves was always there, we simply kept it hidden—from others and ourself.
Of course, some never do release those hidden aspects of themselves. Instead, they manage to keep that skewed perspective of themselves, the false face, in place their whole life. But most of us will eventually have to face up to the truth—whatever that may be. Because eventually we’re going to find out what other people really think of us, what their perceptions of us are. And eventually we’re going to see all the hidden aspects of ourselves and realize that our own perspective of us was just as skewed as everyone else’s.
So, what would the people around me tell investigators if I died unexpectedly? I’m not sure, but I know I’d be surprised if, by some chance, I could hear them. Because I’m sure that whatever facets I think I’m showing to the world are not necessarily the ones that the world is really seeing.