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To See Ourselves as Others See Us

13 Nov


I’m sure it’s happened to you, too. You meet someone you’ve dealt with in some way for the first time, and he or she says, “You’re not at all like I thought you’d be.” Makes you wonder if you’re a disappointment or a delight.

Scottish poet Robert Burns summed it up when he wrote:

Oh, wad some power the giftie gie us,
To see oursels as others see us.

It’s a fact. We are unable to see ourselves as others do, and many of us spend too much time worrying about what people think. The most common limiting belief people suffer from is, “I am not enough”. Not good enough. Not smart enough. Not attractive enough. Not old enough. Not young enough.

We are enough. You see, most people are so busy worrying what other people think of them, that they don’t have time to  think badly of us if we fail at something new. That concept came through in a flash after an RWA conference last year. The terror of pitching my book made me so nervous I couldn’t remember what I’d planned to talk about. I fumbled through my notes, sure I’d be thrown out as an imposter. I knew I wasn’t good enough.

When the session ended, I realized the editors who’d listened to my flustered pitch were very nice people with good suggestions, and the other authors pitching were much too worried about their own stories to notice me. Not one person laughed at me, at least, not to my face. I spent a fifty-gallon drum of worry for nothing.

What do other people think of me? I don’t know.

I like to think of myself as picture number five in the poster above. I think I’ll go with that.

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20 Comments

Posted by on November 13, 2012 in Idaho

 

20 responses to “To See Ourselves as Others See Us

  1. Meredith Allen Conner

    November 13, 2012 at 6:48 AM

    Very true. I have always thought of myself as shy. And I was. Terribly so when I was much, much younger. I mentioned it to a friend of mine the other day. She laughed right in my face. It’s also one of my favorite character arcs. Take a character that has a certain view of themselves and after a series of challenges, have them realize their own strengths.

     
    • stephanieberget

      November 13, 2012 at 8:13 AM

      Meredith, I did the same thing. I thought I was so shy until my sister, who I thought was the life of the party, asked me how she could be more outgoing like I was. I’m glad she asked. It was the first time I thought to question how I saw myself.

       
  2. Corina Mallory

    November 13, 2012 at 7:14 AM

    It’s the rare person who sees herself the way others see her, and incredibly common for self-perception to either not match reality, or to not match the face we put on for the world. I see it in my friends (and myself) all the time and I find it fascinating. It’s a great tool for creating complex and realistic characters because it goes both ways. The person who thinks of herself as timid can find a streak of wildness in her character. Someone who sees herself as brave or bold because she’s never been asked to be either of those things when it really counted, can find out that when the fat’s really in the fire all she wants to do is hide from the problem. Ta da! Internal conflict.

     
    • stephanieberget

      November 13, 2012 at 8:15 AM

      Corina, I love to find internal conflict this way. It seems like others see us in a more favorable light than we see ourselves much of the time.

       
  3. Judith Keim

    November 13, 2012 at 7:47 AM

    Wonderful, Steph! What you’ve said about thoughts before and after pitching are true. Sometimes agents or editors have confessed to the group how nervous they were to be there!! It’s frustrating though to have people think a writer does nothing but dabble, sitting joyfully in front of a computer while thoughts flow in logical order, with perfect punctuation, completing a fast-paced plot that nobody can resist and then have to say I’m still waiting for my big book to be published and that it is a very hard BUSINESS!

     
  4. stephanieberget

    November 13, 2012 at 8:20 AM

    I had so much fun pitching this year, because I gave myself permission to make mistakes. The agents were wonderful. One of the hardest aspects of writing for me is telling other people what I do.

     
  5. Jennifer

    November 13, 2012 at 10:19 AM

    Reminds me of the 20-40-60 rule: When you’re 20, you’re worried about what everyone thinks about you. When you’re 40, you don’t care what anyone thinks about you. When you’re 60, you realize no one has been thinking about you.

     
    • stephanieberget

      November 13, 2012 at 10:25 AM

      Oh, so true. Life has a way of helping you see reality.

       
  6. Janis McCurry

    November 13, 2012 at 10:46 AM

    Nice piece. What I’ve taken from my years on earth is never to give another the power to make you feel bad about yourself. It happened to me until I met an individual who honored my worth. Then, I became who I was supposed to be.

     
    • stephanieberget

      November 13, 2012 at 11:47 AM

      It’s amazing how much power one person has to make another feel valued. I’m glad you met that individual.

       
  7. marsharwest

    November 13, 2012 at 3:42 PM

    Interesting post and comments, gals. I was a senior in high school when I finally got my braces off. I expected everyone to say, “Oh, wow, you got your braces off and what a beautiful smile you have now.” Not a person noticed or commented. Not a person. When I pointed out the change, they siad, “We really didn’t notice before.”
    We go along thinking we have a big nose or mousy hair or are shy, and most everyone else is just putzing along hoping no one notices their ____(whatever they think is wrong.) Now having told that story, you might think I never had a problem with self-esteem after that. I mean what a great lesson to learn so young, right?
    Didn’t work that way. I have to be reminded. Thanks for this reminder.

     
    • stephanieberget

      November 13, 2012 at 4:37 PM

      So true, Marsha. If we only knew in high school what we learn later, we’d all be much happier.

       
  8. maryvine

    November 13, 2012 at 6:02 PM

    I liked Jennifer’s 20-40-60 thingy. It’s sooo true. I usually do pretty good, but I had trouble thinking my presentation at the last writer’s meeting wasn’t good enough. One just has to do the best they can and then move on.Thanks, Steph.

     
    • stephanieberget

      November 14, 2012 at 9:14 AM

      If you’re talking about our writer’s meeting, I learned so much from you. I love the 20-40-60 saying too.

       
  9. Lynn Mapp

    November 13, 2012 at 8:57 PM

    We are our worst critics. We pick ourselves apart. We need to get off our backs. We mess up because we are human. Embrace yourself. You are the best you, you can be.

     
    • stephanieberget

      November 14, 2012 at 9:15 AM

      Thanks, Lynn. I heard once that an effective way to think better of ourselves is to be as kind to ourselves as we would to a small child.

       
  10. Clarissa Southwick

    November 14, 2012 at 12:38 PM

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful insight with us. It reminds me of something I learned in high school. People actually stare at you more if you refuse to dance. No one even notices you if you’re just an average dancer. :)

     
  11. stephanieberget

    November 14, 2012 at 12:58 PM

    Thanks, Clarissa. Oh, the worry and anguish we put ourselves through in the name of what other people think.

     
  12. Peggy Staggs

    November 15, 2012 at 8:13 AM

    It’s so true. When I tell people I’m a writer they always smile with excitement and think it’s so exciting. I always think, “If they only knew.”
    I love the 20-40-60 rule.

     
  13. stephanieberget

    November 15, 2012 at 1:27 PM

    If only we knew at 20 what we have discovered by 60, life would be so much easier.

     

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