Perception and Reality:
Are You Underestimating Yourself?
Like all parents, I accept the fact that the job comes with hazards. One for me is knowing the reality that at some point I will say something to my kids, what I think is a breezy little nothing-comment, and they will take it and store it in their brains for decades to come. Their perception of this might shape how they view themselves, and eventually, what they say to their own kids.
I remember once when I was in fourth grade, waiting for my mom to come home from parent-teacher conferences. With 13 kids in our family, she had her share of rounds to make! When she finally came in I met her at the door and asked what the teacher said about me. Mom smiled and gave me a hug, “You may not be as smart as the other kids, but you’re going to be okay!”
She meant it kindly. But I realize now how messages guide our self-awareness, and in turn, direct our actions. I learned I needed to work hard, and did. Not ambitious early on, I entered college late … and leery. It wasn’t until I had each of my diplomas in hand that I realized I was capable of earning them.
Can you think of any perceptions you have about yourself that may not be true?
Maybe you tell yourself you’re not a fast runner; you have a long nose, or you’re hopelessly disorganized. Or you worry at any moment your friends will nominate you for What Not to Wear.
Now consider that a gulf might exist between your perception and reality.
- Do you remember a time when a teacher, relative or friend criticized you?
- Does the remark still bother you? If so, is it because you think it’s true?
- How objectively do you think you view yourself?
- Does self-doubt ever keep you from enjoying new opportunities?
It’s extremely difficult to dislodge a negative idea about yourself, especially one cultivated over many years. Sometimes we even use that idea to deflect compliments that contradict it. “Me? Oh no, I’m usually terrible at details.”
Have you seen the Dove commercial? If not, here’s the setup: Women are pulled at random to sit for a sketch artist, who works behind a curtain. He can’t see them but creates a sketch of how they see themselves by their own descriptions. “I have a fat, rounder face,” said one woman. Another talked about newly acquired freckles.
Later each of those women meets for a chat with a total stranger, who then describes his new acquaintance to the same sketch artist. “Cute nose.” “Very nice blue eyes.” The ad ends with each woman comparing the sketches of herself, and the tagline “You are more beautiful than you think.”
The ad focuses on physical beauty (They are selling soap!), but the idea certainly applies to inner beauty as well: your strength, competence, kindness. Is it possible you’re underestimating yourself?
“People are crying up the rich and variegated plumage of the peacock,
and he is himself blushing at the sight of his ugly feet.”
photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net