When I turned 30, I asked my friends to provide a one word description of my best feature or my most prominent characteristic. I was curious about what they appreciated about my personality and the way I acted. While I considered myself fairly self-aware, I wanted to know if my friends saw me the same way I saw myself.
Before I started to get responses, I expected that the answers would fall into two or three broad categories. In my own mind, I was smart, I was funny, and I was friendly.
Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘How do you think others see you?’ We also discuss another question as well, ‘How can we maintain wonder?’
Once the answers started to roll in, however, I was surprised. In all, I asked maybe 30 people, and I got 30 different answers. While I didn’t expect that every response would be different, the thing that really astonished me was the wide variety of answers. Loyalty, eyes, conversation, creativity, honesty, goofiness. They did not easily fit into the categories I envisioned.
Different people value different things. It took me 30 years to learn this lesson, but it was a major step in expanding my empathy skills. Now I regularly try to view how other people might see the world, including how I fit into it.
I also learned something else from this exercise: every relationship I have is unique. While I might be a constant to my relationships, each person I interact with brings their own personality, their own experiences, their own vantage point to our mutual association.
Which brings me to this week’s question: How do you think others see you? How would you like them to see you? What can you do to change how others see you? Are you externally self-aware?