Friday, 10 June 2011

See Yourself As Others See You
It is quite possible to see yourself exactly as other people see you; however, this takes courage, and the development of some insight. So, if you dare, have a peek in the mirror.

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1. Understand that other people are your mirror. A simple concept, yet one that many people are either unwilling, or unable, to grasp. Summed up, it is simply that other people reflect you. Your emotions, your traits, and your feelings are reflected back at you from other people either through in-kind responses or through predictable reactions to the emotions or feelings that you're issuing. Perhaps even more surprising is the reality that the reflection is perfect, even if the "reflector" is almost invariably not. For example, you might feel condescension, irritability, or dismissive toward another person, which lowers your estimation of them and causes you to treat them less seriously; yet in doing so, you ignore the fact that they reflect your negative appraisal of them.
  • Intellectually "challenged" people can provide the highest quality "reflections" for others' behavior, while being personally oblivious that a "mirror" exists; this has to do with their lack of inhibition and their inability to dissemble. Such people more innately reflect the signals and body language you are "sending" them.
  • It is quite easy to go through your entire life, in many Western cultures at least, and never develop the innate skill of spotting yourself being reflected in other people; any development in this area will improve you self-insight and your relations with others.
  • This "mirror-gazing" skill is more developed of necessity in people of diminished means who need to learn quickly how to read people well in order to survive; however, just because you have never been hungry, left alone, or impoverished, does not mean you have to be clueless about yourself.
  • See that a big part of "seeing yourself" is recognizing that some little behavior of someone else's, witnessed by you, is in fact exactly what you look like when exhibiting that same behavior, and that your rationalization of it as "different from yourself" is what is incorrect about your interpretation.
2. Recognize that people say things to you, or about you, for a reason. While it can be easy (in fact it's human nature) to dismiss anything not felt to be relevant, or not seen to be complimentary, and to see it rather as a reflection of the person saying or commenting about things you're not comfortable with (to an extent it's about them but that's not the whole story), for the most part it probably has a grain of truth in it for you. Even if it is painful and your ego tempts you to reject it out of hand, be alert to this probability. It is less important that you identify with what may have been actually said here; rather, what matters is connecting it with the times that you say the same thing to another. It is perilously easy to con yourself into believing that "those times were different." They invariably aren't, or weren't.

3. Recognize that this person-to-person mirror is a two-way mirror. Just as people say things to or about you for various, possibly obscure but knowable reasons, recognize when you do the same thing. Examine why you may have said a certain thing; usually, this self-examination will occur after the fact. Don't be afraid to ask someone you trust to help you work through the reasoning; for example, if your best friend heard you, they almost surely already know why you said something and what personal motivations, quirks, and needs lie behind it. Asking your friend with open honesty and a willingness to reflect together can take a friendship to a whole new level. Asking another how our words and demeanor come across to another is not something we stop and do much but it is definitely a worthwhile activity to try

4. Consider that a person whom you detest is invariably your perfect mirror – they are just like you. While this may seem strange or even offensive to you, experience often bears it out. The reason is that we invariably overlook behaviors in ourselves that we can't tolerate in another. By allowing the other person to carry the burden of our own disliked inner quirks or weaknesses, we shield ourselves from having to meet our less likable aspects head on and choose instead to view the unlikable traits as the fault of the other person. Often we see this as insurmountable because we choose to believe that the other person is the one generating the unwanted behavior. However, this blinds us to realizing that we're just locking horns with traits we haven't yet learned to deal with well inside of ourselves.

5. Continue seeing yourself as others see you throughout life. This isn't a one-off exercise. It's something that will benefit you and your relationships for all time, and as such, it's essential that you continue to remain alert and willing to see yourself reflected in others around you. Once you have refined seeing yourself, exactly as others see you, by witnessing the reflections in and from others, you will find yourself more forgiving of others, more willing to reach out and pull people through awkward moments and difficult times because you see not only your own struggles but theirs too, all intertwined as one. And all this takes is constant self-examination, self-honesty, and a willingness to step outside yourself regularly.

6. Recognize the opportunities in a relationship challenged by your intense dislike of one another. While you may never learn to like each other, opportunities exist here for personal behavioral modification. Indeed, often the most rewarding of outcomes can result when you push yourself to cope with people whom you find challenge you in this respect because you ultimately learn to manage, if not learn to tolerate, a part of yourself that you didn't even want to face before. Experience dictates that even if you initially do not communicate any of your intentions to modify your own behavior to your mirror, being that they invariably feel the same about you as you do about them, they will eventually (usually, pretty quickly) notice that they aren't able to push your buttons. If you are using this experience for self-improvement, it will be clear that you aren't taking advantage of opportunities to push theirs. This is going to be noticed (and not just by your mirror), and credited to you as maturity; bonus points for having the courage to come clean with your mirror, and tell them about your insight into this matter, leading to future mutual progression. And even more kudos to you if you do this personal development in the public sphere; as it's no easy task, it impresses people to see such maturity and rest assured that anyone within earshot will be enthralled.

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