Do I know you?

Today I came across a friend who used an app on Facebook to explore the meaning of her name and to know a bit about her personality. Of course the software was designed to spit out one of the few pre-fed blurbs every time someone wanted to know the ‘hidden’ meaning of their name.

What the exercise revealed was a theory I had cooked up a long time ago – one that brings back a lot of pain when I think about the image locked up with that particular memory byte. It’s about how people perceive themselves and how it comes as a shock when others have opinions that diverge from your own personal version of your personality. That makes me think that maybe:

We judge ourselves by what we do, while others pay close attention to how you do it. No one’s really paying attention to how many meals you bought them or how pricey your birthday gifts to them have been. But we’re all empathetic enough to be able to identify with the emotions attached to a particular action. In my mind I may be doing someone a great favour by telling them they should quit being foolish about their new relationship. But to others it may come off as intrusive or even bossy.

When I go to bed at night I think about all the good and bad things I’ve done. Maybe I’ve done people huge favours and given them great moments of happiness to cherish for months on end. But what my narcissist streak is shadowing in those very moments of pride is the side of me more visible to the world than to myself. So, mmaybe it’s the unintended pain that I’ve caused someone that sends off the wrong signal about how I want to treat them. But wait, isn’t that exactly what describes me as a person? I told my nani once: “Your nature is what you do without thinking even for a split second”. So, how I react to a situation that I want to be particularly careful in, really says it all for me.

The line between intentions and actions is at best blurry. And no matter how much we think we exude positivism as a direct by-product of a saintly act, it may not always be apprehended that way. Sometimes, when you’re giving someone a piece of your own bread, they’re still calculating that extra crease on your forehead. It may not be because you’re sad about losing a part of your meal, but because… heck you feel like it!

Opinions and perceptions about friends/family/colleagues are generally formed following a major event between two people, or two to three smaller events. Something as prominent as a life event, a relationship, or a new job can really bring out the real you. These are phases of your life where you really feel the need to put your foot down when it comes taking decisions – or more exactly, doing what YOU think is right. That’s when friends will pick up your most defining attribute.

Come to think of it. You spend less time with yourself than others do with you (what fraction of the day do you spend all alone, not speaking to anyone whatsoever?). Whoever comes in contact with you is trying to read your thoughts and to judge your friendliness by how you swing your arms and pass a smile.

Being an introspective loner isn’t all that bad. Who cares if you’re not up for the beach or the movies? But unless you want to be found on remote island days after you die, it always helps to cozy up to friends and family and let them know what they mean. No matter what version of a strong head you’re born with, it doesn’t give you the liscense to write someone off.

How you respond to the invite list of a lunch gathering; the favours you ask your friends; the fights you drag on – every single thing is speaking volumes about the way you’ve been crafted. And there’s nothing wrong with being just the way you are. You can’t help it. If you could, people wouldn’t describe you with words you thought never resonated with you.

They key, however, is to learn. Because people all around you are taking their lessons all the time. They know if the nasty side of you is just an unwanted visitor, or if it’s a permanent resident you have hired as a personal party crasher. Over time, you learn what people expect from you – the loving friend you’ve always meant to be or the hard nut they could never crack. Don’t change who you are – that’ll never work out. Change what others don’t deserve to get from you; save your pent up anger for a mountain run, and your jazzed up energy for a road trip. And come out with the best you have.

And there is never much to learn from being defensive. Be on your guard, and try not to be fooled. But carrying an armour at all times will only trash your energy.

NOT NEEDED: Let’s say I’m trying to help a friend out with a job application. I tell him about this new job placement company and how it might land him his dream job. There’s no conflict of interest here – if he gets a job, that’s not one less job for me. But while we’ve shared too many happy years together, there will be a level of solemn here that will lead us to form opinions about each other. A great deal of conversation, including both advice and caveats, will reveal what we think about how each of us will fare in the real world.

Lesson: Others know you better than you know yourself. Trust them on this.

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