There you are in the mirror staring back, the face you know best, have known longest: the one you excavated for pimples when you were young, the one you examine for lines and wrinkles and different spots now. Regardless of beauty or age, when you stare at yourself do you recognise yourself?
To cut to the chase: is the face you see the same as the one the world sees? I’m not talking make up or plastic surgery but something that goes to the heart of us. We all have an image of who we are but does this image accord with others? Moreover, does it matter?
An anecdote for you. My father had (may still have despite the contrary evidence) a view of himself as a good father. When he talked about my brother and myself to others he sounded like a proud, devoted father. My step-mother, who was blinded by love in those long gone days, was especially taken by this view as her soon to be ex-husband had not been that enamoured of his own kids. My father’s image as a good father was one of the big ticks in my step-mother’s list of good qualities in a husband. But she never spoke to my brother or I on this matter. She never checked for evidence. Had she done so she would have found that my father’s version of himself did not accord with his children’s version – either of us! (And perhaps been more prepared for the real John who came along a little later…)
Are you like this – presenting a view of yourself to the world that you believe but does not stack up? Do you think you’re a decent, fair person that your colleagues admire and trust? Is that based in fact or delusion?
Many of us suffer from delusions about who we are and how we are in the world. I’ve recently watched A Beautiful Mind again, the story of the amazing Mathematician, John Nash, who suffered serious delusions about who he was, to such an extent that he was committed to an asylum for psychiatric treatment on several occasions. He suffered from schizophrenia, which manifested itself in delusions of grandeur, amongst other things. Yet he thought he was fine. Anorexics suffer in similar ways – who they see in the mirror is not the person who is really there.
Are you like that, so lost in your own head that you have no idea how you present to the rest of the world? Mark Zuckerberg is another who seemed to have problems with who he wanted to be and how he really was – according to ‘his’ film The Social Network (aren’t you impressed with the quality of my evidence – films as facts!?). Was he really an arse-hole or, as the girl at the end of the movie said, or just trying to hard to be one? Would he have been as successful if he’d been a bit more human, a little less obsessed with having his own way?
So, where are you? Is your version of yourself in accord with the world? Are you the good person you think you are, doing the right thing at work and at home? How do you know? This is where friends – trusted friends – come to the fore. You need people in your life that will tell you the truth about yourself. Mostly you will need to ask them directly as it is not that easy to tell someone they’re a fool, not who they think they are. It is hard to tell people the truth about themselves (just as it is hard to hear it – remember not to shoot the messenger), so help your friends and loved ones to help you by asking specific questions.
Remember the Emperor and his new clothes, remember Hitler and other dictators, who surround themselves with sycophants and supplicants who would not speak the truth about what the leader is doing. Are you surrounded by a coterie of people who dare not tell you the truth about you or your behaviour?
Step away from the mirror, reject the false image; consider how you are in the world. At the start of this new year it is timely to consider who you are, how you travel in the world and if you are leaving the footprints you want.
There is no point in striving for some delusional idea of perfection but it is worthwhile being in this world truthfully and with integrity. Examine yourself, critically, honestly. Ask for feedback from people you trust, those you know who will give you an honest answer. Then, it’s up to you – remain as you are or change what you think needs to be changed to be the person you think you are or want to be. (Images courtesy Google Images)