Every once-in-a-while we get a pure and honest glimpse of how the world sees us. Someone famous (I have no idea who) once said that there are actually three versions of ourselves:
- The person we think we are
- The person others think we are
- The person we actually are
There may be more versions like the person we wish we were or fear we are, but it all comes down to perception and projection. We perceive the people around us on the experiences we (not them) have had -our history. We also project our fears, insecurities, hopes, knowledge – everything – onto the same people.
There are people who should know us, but don’t. I think that family is the worst for this. They know too much about you. They remember how you had a meltdown in the middle of K-Mart at four and how moody and bitchy you were at nineteen. My family remembers the latter. I was miserable at 19 – we all were. Sixteen years later I have worked hard to be a different, kinder, less moody, more patient person. Sometimes I think I’ve won the battle of erasing that version of myself from my family’s collective mind but I haven’t. If I’m tired or a little snippy there is always a comment about that 19-year-old.
Then there are people who know us best. Friends who have known us for decades. I have two such friends. I have known my best friend since the second day of freshman year. We met in Mr. Carey’s Spanish class (room 106) 22 years ago – crap, we’re old. The second friend I have known since I was that miserable 19-year-old. Both are part of my family, not because of biology and genetics but because of recognition and mutual respect. Yes, I know Jess’ history because I’ve been there for most of it. And Ron know’s my history because he witnessed some of the most tumultuous years first hand. But the two of them see me, just me, like I see them, just them.
This weekend I got to see myself through another person’s eyes though – the eyes of a friend who is also an ex. A man I have both loved and loathed probably in equal measure. We know little about the other’s history but our history, the one we shared, is full of sparkling bests and tarnished, torn worsts. We have gone a year without speaking and we have had silent conversations from across a crowded room. He is one of my favorite people, even when I hate him.
So when I needed an honest opinion on something I deemed “a boy question,” he was the person I called and his answer showed me a version of myself that was eye-opening and educational. We rarely have the opportunity to truly see ourselves, to have a pure and truthful conversation without a filter of politeness. I am pig-headed, stubborn and impulsive. I take six seconds to set a course and expect everyone else to be on board. These are amazing, wonderful, difficult and sometimes detrimental traits. I am confident, independent and (sometimes too) flirtatious. Combine that with the insecure, squirmy uncomfortable-ness that overwhelms me at the merest hint of romantic involvement and, well, you have me, just me.
Do you have people who see just you? Do you ever ask them what they see? The vision will be an eduction, one we should all have every once-in-a-while.