Perception

fun house mirror Katey

I’ve been thinking about perception a lot lately.

How do you see yourself? How does that vision compare with how others see you? Is it important that these two perceptions match?

Should we care? Or – to be a bit more honest – Why do we care so much??

If you spend much time on social media, you’ve probably seen this video going around:

Dustin Hoffman rocks my socks. I’m so grateful to him for reminding me of the disconnect between our perceptions and the truthful understanding of ourselves and one another.

Around the time this video went viral, I had a wonderful, motivating conversation with a new friend from #140You, Liz Nead of Nead Inspiration (http://neadinspiration.com/). Liz mentioned the importance of recognizing the chasm between the way that we view ourselves and the way that the rest of the world sees us.

This conversation reminded me of a night in 2010 (read: Katey at Peak Weight). My husband and I were watching a reality show about morbid obesity. The episode featured a 400 pound woman. She was a truck driver, and her size made it hard for her to get into and out of the cab of her truck.

When I looked at her, I saw myself.

I weighed 150 lbs less than her, but that’s not what I saw. In my mind’s eye I saw myself at max capacity, and I assumed that everyone else saw me that way, too. I was astonished when my husband’s response was “WHAT? You’re nowhere near that!”

I just assumed that he (and everyone else, for that matter) saw me the same way I saw myself.

That moment was a jarring one. It was the first time I realized that there might be a significant disconnect between my self perception and the way the rest of the world sees me.

Over the weekend, I had a similarly jarring moment.

My sister-in-law gave me a t-shirt for my birthday (it’s later this week – don’t forget to shop early and often!) and pointed out it’s size: XS. I told her I’ve been feeling perplexed by clothing sizes lately.

I’m wearing a S/XS in tops these days (RIP, Once XL Bosoms)… so, what do actually extra-small girls wear? What does my sister-in-law wear? She’s tiny – petite and skinny. She didn’t even get heavy during pregnancy! So – what does she wear? Does she have to shop in the kids’ section?

She looked at me like I’d grown another head. She says she wears the same size as me. She says we’re the same size.

I cannot wrap my head around that, but it seemed like an obvious fact to her.

The parallels between these instances has me wondering: Is the disconnect between my self-perception and the way others see me something that I should work on? Or, is it just something that I should accept as a natural part of all of our lives?

Dustin Hoffman speaks of the cultural brainwashing that causes us to overlook people who we don’t perceive as beautiful. Can we re-wire our brains to see other people (and ourselves!) clearly?

I imagine that if I had the ability to hear other people’s thoughts (think Mel Gibson in What Women Want) I’d get a clear vision of what everyone else sees. I could then change in a way that would make me more appealing to the public at large.

But is this a good idea?

Would we love ourselves more if we knew that everyone perceived us in a positive light?

Should we change ourselves if we elicit a negative public perception?

My strong, independent, modern woman side screams NO! I am enough, and if you can’t see that, that’s your problem. But my people-pleaser side begs me to bend over backwards to appeal to as many people as possible.

If I am healthy and strong, should I care about your projections when you look at me? Why does understanding how you see me feel important? And, if I can never clearly see what you see, what good does it do to manipulate myself in some imagined direction?

Do you have any perception-disconnect stories? If so, please share in the comments section! Maybe we can work through these things together. I want to see you for who you are. I want to be seen in my true form (flaws and all), and to feel confident in – even proud of! – what I project in this hyper-connected world of ours.

Perhaps there is Truth to be found at the place where our diverse perceptions meet.

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3 thoughts on “Perception

  1. Isn’t this what body dysmorphia is all about? The inability to see ourselves as we are? This is one of the gifts of massage, in my mind: the ability to FEEL the contours of your body, literally get in touch with our borders and enjoy the pleasure that is available to us in any moment

    • Clearly, I need more massages 😉
      When I started composing this post, I was going to address this issue as body dysmorphia. But after some research, it seems that body dysmorphia (as a clinical diagnosis, at least) is a quite serious condition that I didn’t want to appear to trivialize by equating it with my inability to judge my own presentation. But maybe I’m being too cautious, because ‘body dysmorphia’ is the phrase that keeps leaping to mind.

  2. Katie at fatgirlphd.com has some WONDERFUL wisdom on this subject. She’s lost a ton of weight and speaks about the way it is taking time for her to see herself as she is now. I have experienced this, too, and my advice is GO EASY ON YOURSELF!! You’ve made a huge change~many of them, actually~and it will be a while before the girl you see looks like the one we see. It’s about self-acceptance and being kind to yourself. Hard to do when you’re carrying a lot of extra weight around (and I know from experience) and sometimes just as hard when your weight is down where you want it, but it can be learned! It’s about loving your body because of WHAT IT IS and not just WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE.
    And the massage idea is pretty good 🙂

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