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Does Your Self Perception Match What Others Think?

self perception and the perception of others

Have you ever wondered how other people really feel about you? If one of your friends, business acquaintances, or family members were to be completely honest about the way they view you, what do you think their perception of you would be?

The reason I bring this up is that many people are inclined to see themselves very differently than others see them. It is a natural tendency to just assume that the perception of others is similar to our own. But in reality this is seldom the case because we all see life through our own unique emotional filters.

It can be very enlightening to step back and try to analyze yourself from a “third person” perspective. Here are seven important areas of your life that are worth trying to look at from the viewpoint of a friend or acquaintance to see if their perception is aligned with yours. Let’s walk through them one at a time.

1. Emotionally: The quality of all your relationships, including friends, family, and business associates, is directly affected by the perception those people have of you. You may consider yourself to be kind and considerate, but do others feel that way about you?

Ask yourself these 3 questions:

a) Are the people I interact with emotionally empowered after
. . being around me, or are they left with a different feeling?

b) Do others look forward to spending time in my company,
. . or do they try to politely avoid it whenever possible?

c) Do I enjoy being around people who treat me the
. . same way I treat others?

If you feel comfortable with your own answers to these 3 questions, here’s a way to take it to the next level. You can find someone that you know will be honest and tactful with you, and ask them to answer those questions about you. This takes courage, but if you are ready for it, the answers can be extremely revealing.

Remember, the point here is to see if your self perception matches the perception of others. So, don’t be a offended if you discover a mismatch.

2. Values: Do your actions, habits, conduct and language all support whatever values are most important to you? Can other people look at your life and say that your values and beliefs are evident by your conduct? Do they see you as a good example to others who share those values?

When we truly believe something, it should be visible in our life. The way we live our life is how we back up our claim of being an ethical person. Taking some time to make a comparison between what we claim to be, and the perception others have of us, can also be very revealing (and humbling) experience.

3. Physically: First, let me acknowledge that staying in shape is challenging for everyone, and the older we get the greater the challenge. That said, ask yourself this: “What kind of message does my current physical appearance send to others about the value I place on my physical self?” Notice I didn’t get into an issue over a few extra pounds, or any other specifics.

The question is about the overall message your general condition sends regarding your respect for your own health and appearance. It’s about the perception of how you present yourself. Is your perception in this area aligned with the perception that others have of you?

4. Materially: If asked, what would others say about your attitude toward money and material things? Are your views and priorities balanced? Is money more or less important than the people in your life? How much money would be enough for you to feel comfortable?

Again, this is not about your financial goals, or what kind of house you want to live in. The question is about what perception others have of you with regard to your level of materialism and your priorities in life.

5. Reasonableness: When you have a conversation with someone, are they left with the feeling that you are a reasonable person? If you don’t get your way, is your reaction balanced? Even if others are not on your side of an issue, do they admit that your reasoning was sound and convincing?

There are more than enough unreasonable people in the world Our self perception might be that we represent the voice of reason, but is that how others view us?

6. Intellectually: This is not about IQ or credentials, but rather an appreciation for continued learning. Do others see you as someone who appreciates learning new things and making personal improvements? Do you demonstrate a respect for greater knowledge in a variety of fields?

Learning gives new meaning to our lives and equips us to help others along the way. My perception in this area is that I am an avid student of life, but is that what others think? Feel free to share your impression on this.

7. Practicality: Do others view you as someone who has been able to see the practical value in the six points listed above? To function in this life we need to learn to make practical application of all our life skills, abilities, and resources. Do you consider yourself to be practical? Do others share this perception of you?

Being practical and down to earth is a quality that makes everything more real. Practicality is the glue that will hold your life together through all its many ups and downs. Practical wisdom is real wisdom.

Why should we care about the perception of others?

I challenge you to think seriously about how others view you in each of these areas. If you are not happy with some of the conclusions you come to, then you know what to work on. Don’t be discouraged if that’s the case. If we are willing to be honest with ourselves then we quickly realize that we all have things to work on. That is how we continue to make progress.

Now, here is a question you may be asking yourself: “Why should I care so much about the perception of those around me?” To be honest with you, that’s really not the point of this exercise at all. This whole exercise is just a way to help you get outside of yourself so you can gain a different perspective.

If you want others to view you as likable, friendly, approachable, respectable, and so on, then it’s helpful to try and see yourself through their filters. It will give you a lot of insight into the perception others have of you and why. That insight can help you to be more real and balanced with regard to your perception of self. So, in the final analysis, don’t do it for them, do it for you!

Did you learn anything about yourself from this?
How did it feel to look at you from the 3rd person perspective?
The lines are open!

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Find Your TRUE SELF is the fastest inexpensive way I know of to make positive life changes very quickly. Do you want to discover your core standards and personal values? Would you like to make a deeper connection with your real self? Find Your TRUE SELF will guide you smoothly through the process.

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37 Comments

  1. Juliet December 23, 2008 Reply

    Very interesting exercise. I should think it would also show you where you are acting in a manner that you openly critisise. Where are you authentic? And what is your authenticity. -Juliet

    • Hi Juliet, I relate to these questions so well: “Where are you authentic? And what is your authenticity.” In my book I refer to that concept as you TRUE SELF. I think that any questions that lead us closer to identifying our authentic self are valuable.

  2. Scott April 9, 2010 Reply

    I really like this exercise. Gaining a little perspective of yourself CAN go a long way. Especially helping young ones (Like myself) look at themselves and see if they are being mature or appropriate with the people they interact with.

    • Hi Scott, from your perspective it may seem that this applies especially to young ones, and it is excellent that you are making personal application. I think that increasing stress has caused people of all ages to become more self absorbed than ever. That being the case, we all do well to take time to see ourselves as others see us. There is always room for improvement.

  3. Stuart December 26, 2010 Reply

    Great ideas Jonathan, and thanks for sharing. It’s amazing how much difference there can be between the way we view ourselves and how others view us.

    We need to align ourselves with the reality of things as much as possible, then we wouldn’t experience any drastic shifts in our perception. Thanks Jonathan :-)

    • Hi Stuart, the trouble with reality is that everyone has their own version. Even when we try to be completely open to an honest look at people (ourselves included), we still see things through the filters of our unique personal perception.

  4. David Smith December 26, 2010 Reply

    I would add Socially to your list. That’s my biggest weakness. Between my full time job and my writing, I don’t find much time to socialize unless someone else makes the first move. I am trying to improve on this.

    • Great add David, everything I listed would be highlighted in a social setting. But not finding the time to socialize may just be a priority thing. I know it is for me, but it is also interesting to note how others view that tendency.a

  5. Vid December 27, 2010 Reply

    It is natural for human beings to care how others view us. This is what matters because that gives us “value” – a human personality is valued as much as someone else is willing to spend time with that person.

    Having low value makes people depressed and it is normal

    • I agree with your premise, but external input should not be our primary source of our personal sense of value. To be balanced we need to discover our inner sense of value and worth. Otherwise, outside influences will push our feelings of self-worth all over the emotional map.

  6. Carolee December 27, 2010 Reply

    That is some heavy thinking for a Monday morning….
    I HOPE I see myself realistically…my kids keep moving back in- must be I’m not too bad!

    • Hi Carolee, you could always tell them how you see your self and ask for their feedback. Just don’t do it when you are feeling sensitive or vulnerable. And remember, we all have our slanted view of reality, there’s simply no way around it.

  7. Joe Wilner December 27, 2010 Reply

    Jonathan,

    This is a really helpful exercise. Trying to view our behavior and attitude from an outside perspective really adds a new side to gaining self-understanding of how balanced we are. This are all important areas that people should cultivate and develop. I have always focused on the EMPS – emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual, so I love the addition of these other areas for specific examination. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hey Joe, you got it exactly. It’s the understanding we gain from such an exercise that helps us have a broader perspective. Thanks for joining the conversation Joe.

  8. Jim December 27, 2010 Reply

    Great post! Thank you for posting this information, it has given me lots to think about.

  9. Dandy December 27, 2010 Reply

    Hi Jonathan,
    Wow, I was really surprised at the answers to these 3 questions. I’ve discovered that I tend to be self-inclusive and too much to myself. I was at a party a couple days ago and once again I found myself to be the woman off to the side of the crowd not talking to anyone. Habits are hard to break. It’s good to have a different perspective of myself. Thanks for this exercise Jonathan!

    ~Dandy

    • Hi Dandy, it’s great that you saw that aspect of yourself, but I wouldn’t assume that being “self-inclusive’ is a bad thing. Sure beets being too needy, don’t you think?

  10. Chris Akins December 27, 2010 Reply

    Wow! I have to admit, the title did not grab me. But, after reading this post I think it is one of the best I’ve seen in a while.

    The difficulty is, of course, being objective when conducting the self assessment. I contend that is impossible. However, the value of doing a 360 as best you can on yourself is that it should lead to intense self reflection, which of course drives personal growth.

    I really liked this! Thanks!

    • Hi Chris, great to see you. I agree that being truly objective is impossible, we all come with filters. You know, after I posted this I was thinking it could have used a punchier title like “Who Cares what they Think.” That’s probably why it was a sleepier for a day or two.

  11. Liz December 28, 2010 Reply

    This is a powerful exercise. One that has really worked for us. By taking on the perspective of the observer, this serves two goals. 1. a reasonably objective point of view regarding our thoughts, feelings and actions and….2. it forces us to realize that we are not our thoughts — it would be impossible to use thought to observe, if we were our thoughts. That insight, can be life-changing, as we realize that we have 100% control of what we think and how the thoughts affect us.

  12. Lauren December 28, 2010 Reply

    Dear Jonathan,

    This is a FANTASTIC exercise. I feel it’s really important to try to get outside our own skin enough to take a good look at ourselves. Not to be critical, but rather to acknowledge we can always learn and grow.

    I’ve made a commitment to myself to continue to grow in all ways. I feel I’m pretty aware of my strengths and weaknesses.

    One of the most important things I’ve learned, and seek to apply, is that it’s really okay not to be perfect. In fact, “perfect” people aren’t that enjoyable to be around.

    I’d love to have something like this as a guest post – hint hint!

    Best wishes for a wonderful New Year.

    Warm regards,
    Lauren

    • Hi Lauren, always nice to hear from you. Here’s what I’ve learned about perfect people, they only exist in their own mind. Besides, look at all the great personal development fun we would miss out on. If we thought we were perfect then there would be no reason to grow.

  13. Marnie December 28, 2010 Reply

    It’s weird to evaluate yourself from a third-person perspective when we’re technically not supposed to care what others think.

    However, I really liked the exercise and the way you gave caring what others think a positive spin.

    • Hi Marine, I am curious why you said “we’re technically not supposed to care what others think.” I am not saying that is right or wrong, but I wondered why you had that thought.

      So glad you liked the exercise!

      • Marnie December 30, 2010 Reply

        I’ve been told many times by friends and family not to care what others think about me. That message seems to be ingrained in my head.

        That’s why I enjoyed your exercise because I was able to see the benefits of looking at myself from someone else’s point of view.

        As you said in closing, it’s not for them – it’s for me!

        Hope that answers your question.

  14. Jonathan, loved the article. There is something creative and new about the way you propose self-awareness and self analysis here. I think that, if we ‘wear the glasses’ of this article, it will help us constructively take the feedback we get from everyday interactions to improve ourselves. “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” Gandhi

    • Thanks Steve, I knew that you really got the value here when you said: “I think that, if we ‘wear the glasses’ of this article, it will help us constructively take the feedback we get from everyday interactions to improve ourselves.” That really is the desired result.

  15. Marty January 16, 2011 Reply

    This is a great blog. It has enabled me to see how I have grown in the last year or so. Those 3 questions I can answer in the positive with confidence. It is encouraging. Thank you.

  16. Shamea January 20, 2012 Reply

    It’s truly interesting to consider how we are perceived as individuals. I think about this topic quite a lot and I haven’t come to any conclusions yet as to how people view me. This article is great for the reader to experiment a little with friends or family. It may be helpful to have more insight into how others view us by taking a step back from ourselves. ~Shamea

  17. Claudia September 18, 2012 Reply

    Very difficult for me! I need lots of help to change my view of people in general. I was raised in a communist country, trusting other people was a big struggle and unfortunately I’m still carrying this handicap! When I meet someone who is nice to me I ask myself “what do thy want from me?” if they don’t acknowledge me it’s “OK” (old mentality), but I feel myself suffering and miserable… !!! Disturbingly sad but true… So, how am I going to see myself through other people’s eyes, when I don’t know myself or how I should be ?

    • Hi Claudia, without realizing it you isolated the solution to your situation in your closing comment. The first step to changing your perception of others is to get to know yourself on the deepest level. That means knowing who you are and what you stand for. It also means knowing your core values, passions, and standards. I call this your TRUE SELF and my book will guide you step by step through the process. Once you are totally secure with your own internal identity, you will feel more open to, and less threatened by, other people regardless of their motives.

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