I’ve encountered several situations in the past few months regarding our perception of how other people view us. The first and most lighthearted instance was told to me by my friend, Kaylea. It was a beautiful day in her city, Chicago, and she was driving with her windows down. A homeless man was on the side of the street asking for money. Kaylea, wanting to treat the man with kindness gave him a wave and a smile. He flipped her off. After she gave him a “what the heck?!” gesture he flipped her off again and this time added a few choice words to the mix.
If I had to guess, I’d say he was probably mad that she hadn’t given him money or that he judged her based on her appearance. Maybe he was ticked because he thought her smile was in pity. If I had to guess that’s what I would say, but I’m not guessing because it’d be a waste of my time.
Whether we like it or not people actually are judging us, every single day. The freedom in that reality comes from understanding why we judge and why another’s judgement has nothing to do with us.
Insecurity. I moonlight as a waitress and sometimes I am insecure about that, though that’s not today’s story. A few weeks back in the midst of the restaurant’s Friday night rush, I found myself staring into the distance. It had been a long day and it felt good to daze out for a moment. A few seconds later, I caught a glimpse from a customer who gave me a horrified grimace. I could tell it had nothing to do with her food or dining needs so I brushed it off and forgot about it. About a 1/2 hour later I caught the woman again, this time I noticed she had her baby with her, her baby with a large growth on her head. The baby was so cute, I barely noticed the bump until it dawned on me, that’s why the woman shot me a dirty look before, she thought I was judging her sweet little toddler.
We all have things we are on the defense about at all times. Once it’s brought up, we immediately cringe and try to deflect it. The thing is, we can be so caught up in our insecurities that we automatically assume everyone else shares our attention to that detail of our lives. In reality they are too caught up in their own drama to recognize ours. Even though we say we “know” that many times we still let ourselves get caught up trying to decipher what a peer or stranger may think of us.
Control freak. To gain control of a situation we assess, we judge, we determine what needs to be done and what emotional barriers we have to face while doing it. Many times, someone’s judgement is coming from their own mind just trying to make sense of having too many other things on their plate. To recognize this as true can help us see another’s judgement in a more innocent way.
The need to please. This is where we judge ourselves. So many of us are people pleasers. We want to control the situation around us and make everyone in that scenario happy. It’s because we care, it’s because we want our days to be meaningful. Have you ever had that friend who asks you “what’s wrong” 10x a day? Or, when someone seems to be grumpy you immediately think it’s because of something you could have done despite barely interacting with that person at all? We judge ourselves second by second because of a false need to please everyone else around us. Ultimately that feeling of need comes from the insecurity and need to control spoken about above.
Awareness. Once we become aware of our perception tendencies it’s easier to move past them. By recognizing when you go into “control” mode or when you are obsessing over insecurity you can nip it in the bud.
When I know I am going into a situation where it’s possible I’ll become hyperaware of other people’s perception of me, I like to repeat this mantra. “My value is only up to me. I have no control of what others think”.
It’s a line we’ve all heard before whether in the movies or in person, “it’s not you, it’s me”. Apply this cliché to your day as a reminder that we have no control over another person’s perception of us. Once that holds true in your heart, you’ll be free.
Have a good day!