Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Perception of ourselves

Have you ever stopped long enough to see yourself through someone else's eyes?

Nope? Me either. Actually, if there is a conscious effort on my part I could try, but rarely am I ever successful at this. More often than not I am quick to point out my flaws and trouble spots, the places where I am weak, notice the things I fail to accomplish and simply put, think of myself in general as a goof.

But is this really who I am? Is this how those around me view me? My hope is that they don't and there are even times that I'm told I am not. (this however is not the point I am trying to make) My oldest, DramaQueen, has taken up a new attitude when it comes to herself and what other people think of her. Just the other day she was overheard saying "you don't like me because I'm a fool."

Normally I wouldn't think twice about some of her statements, but this one caught my attention. Since when did my six year old start calling herself a fool? I am unaware of anyone in my household even using the word fool, much less her getting the idea that she is a fool. She started school this year and has expanded her ideas and views of the world around her, she's been made aware that boys and girls are different, that kids will make fun of you if you wear the wrong clothes or smell funny and that other kids will want to be friends with 'cool' kids or 'pretty' kids. Her innocence is starting to diminish.

I say all this because how often do we actually take what others say or do and apply it to ourselves? We may not, as adults, change who we are because the people at work(or our neighbors) don't like us, but we may alter or hide part of our personality because this would make us part of the catty chatter that happens. One thing about growing up (growing older) is that hopefully we learn to be comfortable with ourselves, be comfortable with who we are and how we define ourselves as opposed to adjusting to childhood and trying to find 'our place' in it all.

Growing up, I was never part of the popular crowd, I never felt really comfortable in my own skin or felt like I was accepted (even though I was Miss this and Miss that and involved in sports etc.) I was told I was smart from as far back as I can remember, but it wasn't until I was in high school that I was ever told I was pretty. By then I had spent a good portion of my teen years 'trying' to be pretty and even though I finally was told what I had been wanting to hear all those years, I never saw it. Even to this day, rarely when I look in the mirror do I see the person staring back at me as pretty.

D.Q. on the other hand has been told she is both smart and pretty with the emphasis on smart. I always feared she would latch onto pretty and think that mattered more. This year, she has learned it does matter, much more than she ever cared before. Clothes won't be worn unless they are 'pretty,' hair has to be cut so that it is 'pretty', the room is 'pretty' when it is clean etc. I understand she is just learning to navigate the social sphere that will be the center of her world for the next 12 years, but I look at my experience and wonder "what can I start to instill in her now to help give her the self-confidence needed so she doesn't rely so heavily on other peoples opinions of her?"

I try to give D.Q. the chance to find out she is smart, funny, brave, strong and amazing by allowing her to do things on her own. By trying and failing and trying again. There are day's when I help pick her up and dust her off and hold her hand as she attempts it again, but regardless of the outcome I tell her she is all of this and more. This is the little girl I see, all she sees is someone who isn't getting it or can't do it. It's hard not to be able to make her understand the possibilities are endless if she just stopped caring if someone thought she was tall enough or smart enough or pretty enough or skinny enough or rich enough or any other enough.

Others opinions often influence our perception of ourselves long after they are gone. Our perception of ourselves influences what we see in the mirror and what we think about ourselves, but how often is it an accurate representation?

When was the last time you looked at yourself through an observers eyes and saw that you already were what you wanted to be?


Jojo said...

Oy my dear are doing everything right but unfortunately now that we're older I fear we have forgotten exactly what someone D.Q.'s age is feeling. They are SO impressionable at this age. Even if we have become what we wanted to be in others' eyes...that is never who we actually are, so we don't see that. Other children and even other adults' comments can make insecurities latch on for a long time. I worry about this too since I have a little girl...

Semi-Charmed Wife said...

It's hard for me to see myself the way others see me. I tend to see only my mistakes. I'm the girl who drank her way out of college, the one who was divorced by age 20, the one who racked up a ton of credit card debt, the one who was stupid about sex and drugs. It never ceases to surprise me when someone says that they admire me or look up to me. I think, "but I'm such a screwup"...

This is a great post--we'd all be better off if we could see ourselves objectively!

DysFUNctional Mom said...

Wow, I really like your blog and your thoughtful, introspective posts.
I have a 7 yr old girl who is also all about being pretty. I would also love for her to NOT go down the path of valuing others' opinions of her above all else.
As for me, looking at myself through others' eyes is hard. I work hard on being the person I want to be, but I never know how others perceive me.