“Everyone you meet in your life creates a distinct and unique perception in your mind of who you think that person is and everyone who meets you forms a distinct and unique perception of who they think you are in their mind — we become a differnt person to each person we meet”.
Stumbling across this quote, I was immediately captivated by the message and began to unravel the wisdom woven into it. Even though we may be one individual and believe that we are always consistent in our actions can we actually be a variation of our true selves to each person we meet in our daily lives? As I explored these wise words, I began to understand the truth in how our perceptions of others does, in fact, create a different version of the person based on our personal interactions, unique upbringing, and personal biases.
When we meet someone new or bump into someone from our past, our minds immediately form an opinion of this other person based on current situations or past personal interactions with them. Our opinions are further shaped by the role this individual plays in our life. The opposite also holds true when someone meets and interacts with us, they form an opinion about us based on their personal perspective and experiences. But are our perceptions really right about who we believe this person is and are people right about who they think we really are?
The fact of life is that people wear many different hats and play many different roles during any given day, thus creating a variation of who we are to those we deal with. Even though we may be the same person, the unique roles we play will cause people to view us as a different person than someone else will know. Our children will know us as a different person than our spouses will. We will be seen as a different person to our spouse than we are to our co-workers and friends. The cashier, our children’s teacher, or our neighbors might think they know us, but what they really see and know is only one small facet of who we really are. We are to each person we meet a completely different person.
Depending upon the roles we play, when we interact with the different people in our daily lives we take a small piece of their personality and try to create a complete picture of who we think they really are. When we add in our own upbringing and personal experiences, our views of the same person can be complete polar opposites of who that person really is. Some may see a police officer as the enemy or some may see him as brave and here to protect us. A strict boss might be a different person to us than if they were our co-worker because we tend to see others based on how they have to act in their respective roles. The strict boss could actually be a fun-loving, caring individual outside of work, but we may never see that and thus the boss in our mind will always be seen as a taskmaster.
The problem in believing that we think we know who someone is, is that our own perception of the people we interact with tend to form opinions based on limited knowledge. We lose our ability to see beyond our own views. We put on blinders and become unwilling to see a person in any other way than how we believe them to be. By doing this we potentially miss out on developing friendships and create stereotype categories in our minds. Our personal views of someone, whether positive or negative, are usually based on one small facet of their entire personality and how we perceive a person to be based on that sliver of personality.
How many times have you seen or read about a tragedy or a crime and the suspect was described by their shocked friends and neighbors as the last person that they would ever believe could commit such a terrible act? How many times, have we been surprised by heroic actions or kind gestures from a person we originally perceived to be a “jerk” or self-centered and stingy by people who thought they knew them?
The old saying that “You can’t judge a book by its cover”, can be applied to everyone in our lives. You can’t always tell who a person is until you understand where they are coming from, what role they are playing, what issues they are dealing with, and how sensitive you are when it comes to dealing with each other. Your first impression of someone may not always show you their true self, but it will cause you to create a version of that person only you will know them as. Our minds will have a difficult time believing anything else.
Unfortunately, as human beings, we are flawed and tend to create scenarios about other people that may or may not be the truth. Just as we are constantly forming opinions of others based on extremely limited information, we ourselves are being judged by everyone who encounters us. We can either be the “jerk” or the “nice lady” depending upon who is judging us.
What comes to mind when you imagine seeing a well-dressed gentleman step out of a very expensive luxury car? Do you immediately think, “rich pompous jerk” and immediate dislike him, or do you think “wow, he must be a hard working person who has made it” and have respect for him? Depending on your perception, this one man can be two completely different people based on your preconceived biases.
The reality is, even though we think we know who we are, other people will not see us as we see ourselves. We have our own views of ourselves, but so does everyone else about us. We are to each other what each other wants us to be.
So the next time you meet someone new or bump into someone from your past, remember that the person you are with is not the same person that others may know. Take time to look beyond your personal views and dig deeper into trying to understand that our opinions of others and their opinions of us may not be the same as someone else’s perspective.