Perspective And Self PerceptionTalking to an ILIASM friend here recently about the gift of perspective and the mysteries of perception I realize that I am someone whose perceptions are often off. Due to some long standing wounds and hurts inside of me I don’t always see myself the way others see me and I do not always see others the way they are. These wounds and hurts have kept me in a codependent cycle of self-doubt and distrust. This friend and I (she can name herself if she wishes) were discussing her current relationship and her realization that her lover doesn’t see from the outside how happy she is in the relationship. He recently asked if she was happy with him and she was shocked he had to ask because in her mind she had clearly made her happiness known to him and expressed it through action.
I am amazed sometimes at others' perceptions of me. I don’t realize how I am perceived. In my work lately I have been in the media for a few things. When I’m being interviewed I interpret myself as nervous. I can feel my heart pounding nearly out of my chest and I get a little dizzy. I believe it reads on my face and can be heard in my voice. Despite this, recently I was added to the list of official experts used when someone in my field is needed to give an opinion in criminal court cases. That made me realize that how I feel I am or should be perceived is not how I actually appear or the powers that be would not put me anywhere near a list like that. My perspective is different.
In my marriage I perceived him as probably right more often than me. I thought I was causing problems more often than not. I thought everyone else could see it too. Much of that was because I saw myself as damaged, unlovable and unloved. When people mistreated me I figured they knew better than I did what was normal and what was deserved. My self-perception has been skewed for much of my life. My perception of others has also been skewed.
I spent my childhood fighting the adult voices around me that told me I was wrong, mean, stubborn, obstinate, defiant and “difficult”. I don’t agree with any of that. I never have. But others did who were important adults in my life. So while I chose to disagree with them and fight to save my Self as a child, as an adult I have been more vulnerable to those types of beliefs coming at me from others. I can protect myself from THOSE people that have always said those things because they always thought that way and I disagreed from the beginning. I have won that battle. But now as an adult when I perceive that a NEW person has similar perceptions of me, it eats away at my very soul. It means that perhaps I was wrong for fighting all the stuff that was thrown at me as a kid. If I was told that as a child by important adults and now I am being told the same things by others… then everyone else must be right and I must be wrong.
Some of that is changing. Recently I agreed to something that once I agreed to it I realized made me uncomfortable. It made me uncomfortable to the point of nearly bursting into tears and having episodes of tremors. So I followed my instincts and backed out. In doing so I realized that in my marriage I taught myself to ignore the red flags. I would have calmed myself down and logically argued away the instinct that was telling me something. In my younger years I was directly told that I misperceived everything so I questioned my own instincts constantly. While in the long run I saved my Self from total destruction and annihilation, I did not emerge from an abusive childhood situation without scars and damage.
In relationships in the past I have believed people when they tell me who they are. When I tell someone who I am and what I am like on the inside, I mean it. I am that person. I grow, but I do not change who that person is at the center of me. I fought too hard and too long to keep that person to let that change like a flip of a switch. If there’s something I am doing that doesn’t work, I change it. But I am not reactive and I am steady. I know who that person is precisely because of hard battles to shield and protect that inner core from strong forces that really did wish to destroy it for their own reasons that I won't go into here.
Not everyone has fought so hard and so long to get to know themselves from such an early age and to protect that gentle soul from things that should have never been. So to expect that when other people tell me who they are they actually know in the same way I know who I am is preposterous. They simply lack the perspective. They’ve not walked that same journey. Assuming that everyone has had as much experience knowing themselves and aware of themselves is simply a flaw in my perspective. I did it to survive. Many people, most people, have not had to do that.
There are a lot of things about humans in general I still do not understand. I have always felt that my complicated and abusive childhood full of abandonment and neglect was both a blessing and a curse. I knew I appreciated the simple things a lot more than most people. I always knew that I was someone who had seen some horrible things and so it took a lot for me to recoil and write someone off completely because I had seen more darkness than most people. On the other hand I appreciated the small gestures and small joys so much brighter than many others because early on they were very few and far between. While I was aware of those differences I never realized that for my entire childhood I was using my mental and emotional muscles to both protect and develop a deeper awareness of who I was. It felt more like a wound and less like strong muscle memory. Now I see it differently.
Much like when I am interviewed in the media or called to testify in my field in a big court case when I feel weak and terrified like everyone can see my heart beating nearly out of my chest and like the stammering I can hear in my head is giving me away, I never really knew that in relationships my vulnerability is also not visible on the surface. There’s an inherent problem there too. I look strong but I think I look normal or vulnerable or even weak or pathetic and foolish. So I do not understand when people don’t take care with my feelings because I am so obviously in need of care. With the help of a few special people who do reassure and comfort me and who can see through to my core very well, I realize that perception is off.
My ex-husband was very guilty of this miscalibrated perceptionwith me. He did not see me as vulnerable often enough so he did not take care of my feelings very often. He's not the only one. It happens a lot. He brushed me off and scoffed when I would express distress. I hear many of you talking about being a doormat or being treated with a lack of respect in the SM. In my case I was misperceived and the way I was treated was ba
How we think we are being perceived is rarely true because so many things go through other people's insecurity filters before they make their assessment. If someone looks at me and I have not started frothing at the mouth or falling unconscious while talking to the national media or on the stand in a packed court room they may assume I am at ease. Inside I am fully aware of the physicality of my heart pounding, ears ringing and my sense of smell is intensely heightened as well. But no one can see that, so I can’t blame them for not knowing. I assumed I was being perceived as a damn basket case. Being asked back over and over again confused the dickens out of me for a while until one day someone higher up pulled me aside and said something that rocked my world about how she perceived me in those situations. I had no awareness of how I was being perceived. Do any of us really know unless we start asking questions and getting input?
Where do I go from here? I have no clue. While my heart is not pounding out of my chest as I write this I am still confused and not at all certain I know the next steps. I don’t have all the answers, just a few new thoughts.