Have your ever had someone give you a complement – it sounds nice and you appreciate being noticed, but something about it just doesn’t quite land? The person clearly wants to see the good in you, but their impression of you is a bit off.
Sometimes accuracy trumps positivity.
Most of us do a lot to manage our impressions. Volumes have been written by social psychologists on the importance of the proverbial first impression. Feeling like we are managing our impression well can give us a sense of confidence and security in social and professional situations. Yet we can over-identify with the images we create and lose track of who we really are, and the ability to act authentically. And, people can’t really see us, so they have no way in to connect with who we really are.
It’s a bit of a double-edged sword. We want people to see us accurately but we are afraid if we reveal our true selves to them, they will reject us for being flawed or not living up to their expectations.
When we are feeling uncertain about ourselves, we feel the impulse to reach out to familiar people for support and validation. Letting yourself be seen by another, especially when you are feeling vulnerable and uncertain, can be really scary. They may judge us harshly or reject us. Or worse yet, they may try to force their own agendas about who we are and what we should do onto us. This can be confusing and hurtful especially when we are feeling vulnerable.
In fact, when you think about it, few people have the capacity to be totally present with us, even for short periods of time. People are mostly pre-occupied with themselves – and “in their heads” instead of enjoying the present moment with each other.
Even people who love us dearly may have difficulty seeing us in pain. They may try to deflect it, or worse yet – to cheer us up. Professional counselors and therapists are certainly helpful but can be costly and seldom have immediate availability.
So, if we only rely on others to reflect us accurately, we are really at a disadvantage, and not really caring for ourselves, but expecting others to do it for us.
By practicing Self-Reflection, you will increase your capacity to feel your feelings, and to recognize your own emotions. You can witness feelings of hostility, rage and anger – along with more vulnerable feelings like sadness, hopelessness, fear even terror. If you work with the intention to see yourself accurately, it will increase your capacity for self-compassion.