How Do Others See Me?

how do others see me

By Troy Headrick

A couple of weeks ago I had this really jarring experience.  I watched a video of myself leading a workshop on critical thinking.  (I am the director of a writing center at a community college in San Antonio, Texas, and often do all manner of presentations for a wide range of audiences.)  I call the experience “jarring” because I’ve long hated to listen to my recorded voice or watch myself on video.  It’s rare that I see myself from the sort of distance that the recording showed me from.  Often, when I look at myself, it’s in a mirror and thus I see myself through my eyes and from my point of view.  So, unlike seeing myself in the mirror, watching myself on video is, I suppose, a fairly good depiction of what others see when they look at me through their eyes and from a distance.

Watching that video, those two weeks ago, was the inspiration for this blog.  And before I go any further in my writing, I want to say, up front, that this is a speculative piece.  As soon as I started it, I realized I didn’t really know what I wanted to say.  That’s because I have more questions than answers when I think about who I really am, how others see me, and how their perceptions of the sort of person I am might differ from how I see myself.

Some years ago, I decided that I wanted to change how my students saw me in the classroom.  That decision came after I realized that it was important for me to begin viewing those studying under me as human beings first and as students second—a major paradigm shift in my thinking.  I also wanted to make my classroom a place where people could speak honestly and share their thoughts openly.  To create such an environment, I would have to demonstrate that I was interested in them as people and show I was willing to be honest and open myself.  That’s because we get from others what we give to them.

This was me trying to create a persona so that students would see a certain kind of Troy standing up in front of them and interact with him in the way I desired.  But all this raises other questions.  Can authenticity survive in a world where we have to interact with others and are constantly playing roles during these interactions because we want to create a desired image?  If we are unsure of how others see us, but we need (or want) people to perceive us a certain way, is there any effective method that can be used to determine how successful we are in achieving our aim?  In other words, how can we be sure that others are seeing us in the way we want them to?  Wouldn’t we have to “step outside ourselves” to get to the truth of how others perceive us?  Doesn’t this require that we see ourselves perfectly objectively?  Does such objectivity even exist?

Some of these questions are both asked and answered in “Seeing Yourself as Others See You” by Linda Hill and Kent Lineback and published in the Harvard Business Review.  Hill and Kent argue that we can learn how others see us by establishing trust and openness among those we associate with.  (If you’re interested in this topic, I suggest that you read the whole piece because I’m only going to touch upon one key point discussed by the writers.)  The authors suggest that we can get a clear understanding of how others see us by building a “network of people” who will give “candid feedback” about how we’re coming across to others.  (Like my discussion earlier, Hill and Kent discuss this whole issue in the context of the workplace and the roles one has to play while on the job.)

I’ve come to the end of the blog but realize I’ve only scratched the surface of this topic.  What thoughts do you have about all this?  How can we be sure that others are seeing us in ways we want them to?  Or, perhaps more importantly, does it matter what people think of us?  Shouldn’t we really be prizing authenticity over everything else?

Thanks for reading and I await your responses.

Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found here.

84 thoughts on “How Do Others See Me?

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    1. Thanks so much for the comment. You’ve reminded me that we live in unprecedented times. We have more opportunities than ever before to see recorded images of ourselves. Perhaps this is going to lead to some form of greater self-awareness? To think about the possibility is intriguing and a little scary at the same time. Also, anonymity is certainly a thing of the past.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Of course it will and does since many only show say like 10% of themselves truthfully in most environments.

        Which is fine in a general sense but in terms of getting down to actually understanding ourselves down to the deepest 100% core?

        All the 24/7 recording and record-keeping is necessary, even if only for a bit until enough data can be gathered to paint a clearer picture.

        Like when I watch people online and offline, I do not look for faults so much as I look for improvements as people self discover themselves.

        It’s really like watching Humans become self-aware not different than watching Siri do the same thing.

        It’s really fastening, even as I monitor myself daily through my expressions of me through WordPress is like watching A.I. me grow right before my eyes while I grow alongside my alternate self as well.

        Anyways I have a whole science behind all this which goes on for years in terms of formulas without the traditional formula look.

        One of those ever since I started looking into myself and others the universe above suddenly wasn’t so fascinating anymore compared to who and what is already right here on Earth, online and offline.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I think Honesty, and authenticity tend to go hand in hand. However you can speak honestly, but hold back out or regard for another person’s feelings. I would say, as long as you are straying true to your teachings, and your moral compass, you are at least trying to be authentic. I don’t expect everyone to be 100% authentic 100% of the time. We use our own instincts in judging how much of ourselves we allow people to see. Allowing ourselves to be a genuine as possible, but reserved with people we do not know intimately, is healthy. We don’t want to give all of ourselves to every person we meet. That would be exhausting.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. I agree so much with so much of your analysis of the situation. Being authentic is generally considered to be a positive thing. But then there’s the Trump example. Many people are attracted to him–what in the world do they see?!–because they think he’s authentic and honest and unvarnished. But is he really entirely the way he wants people to perceive him or is he the greatest actor of all time, trying to great a certain image of himself, an ugly image that some very cold and dark people are attracted to? Or perhaps he lacks total self-awareness of how he’s being seen by the outside world? Thank you so much for the interesting and thought-provoking comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I guess you can turn it around and look at it this way, How you perceive others is based on how you see youself.
        No two people will perceive you in the exact same way, likewise you will not perceive two different people in the exact same way.
        Everyone sees us from their own point of view, but that view doesn’t make it true. They cannot see you as you see yourself, and you cannot see them as they see themselves. We can only see others as we see ourself. To truly perceive another is to see yourself in them.
        That’s the way I see it! Haha

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You’re absolutely right. We’re sort of stuck in this world of absolute and radical subjectivity. I even wonder if there is anything like a stable “self.” Who am I? What sort of person am I? I don’t think these questions can be answered with any sort of certainty.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Two thoughts I got immediately was: objectivity can’t exist, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for it, and if we want to control how others are seeing ourselves, doesn’t that mean we need to be perfectly in tune with who we are – and is that even possible? Feeling a bit philosophical this evening, but surely, objectivity is worth striving for only because it means you’ll step outside yourself before your final verdict (if that makes sense?). Being perfectly in tune with who we are, on the other hand, shouldn’t be possible because I believe we all need to constantly evolve and change for the better ☺️
    Sorry if this was completely weird.
    Have a lovely evening! 🎈

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi. I’m also feeling a little philosophical this morning. (By the way, I applaud those who feel like philosophers and try to behave philosophically.) I’m wondering if there is anything like a stable “self.” Aren’t we constantly aware of audience and who it is we’re interacting with and doesn’t this knowledge then change how we act and thus who and what we appear to be? I’m intrigued with the whole notion of “stepping outside ourselves.” To what extent is that possible? I truly loved your comment and I went to check out your blog and will return regularly to read your writing. Thanks so much for the wonderful comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve not replied in two days because I’ve been thinking about the “stepping outside of ourselves” and I’ve come to a conclusion: It’s the 18th century all over again. (And bare with me, the historian inside me can’t be controlled at times.)

        Because in the 18th century, and I mean a long time before that too, homes for the bourgeoise were built with sections. With rooms dedicated specifically to different sort of personas: The real one and the fake one. For instance, there were the private rooms were you could sit and scratch your bum without anybody noticing, and then there were the public rooms, were you as a host was supposed to excel. And, funnily enough, many decorated their public rooms as if they were private ones, but with a very specific difference: They simply weren’t. So every public room was, in one way, decorated in whatever way the owners wanted their guests (audience) to perceive them. Just like us today, only we don’t have public rooms (well, some might do) instead we have ourselves. However we dress, speak, walk, eat, is in many ways our public room. Hence, we’re very aware of the world around us but because our perspective is always from our own public room (ourselves), we can’t step out of ourselves. We just really, really want to believe that we can.

        Is that too cynical maybe? Who knows. Thanks for making me think on this for a good two days, it was fun 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The whole private-room-versus-public-room concept and practice is going to give me something to think about for a couple of days. Though I have lived in five countries, I’m (I guess) an American though I often don’t feel at home in my “home” country. I bring all this up because I know enough about my home country to say that some Americans also have rooms that might be called “public” and “private.” For example, many have dining rooms that are never used. Lots of people have tables in the kitchen so they can eat close to where they cook. These fake dining rooms are interesting in the way all phony things are. Again, like I said, you’ve given me some things to think about. I’ve read some of your blogs and like your thoughtful writing style. Would you be interested in putting together a guest post for this blog? (I don’t own the blog but Bogdan, the real owner, sort of sees me as a kind of partner and so I often look for new writers–some guest writers, if they are well received, are asked to become regular writers. (Pointless Overthinking publishes “think” pieces and things that are psychological and philosophical or “self-help” in nature.) If you like this idea of being a guest poster–your posts will get lots of readers and reader feedback if you publish here–drop me a quick email at troyheadrick@gmail.com. Again, thanks for the cool comment.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting questions. I have come to the realization that I exist on a range of various “me’s”. Professional me, mom me, blog me, wife me, tequila dance party me, runner me on and on and on. They are all me if I am being my true self just tailored or adapted to meet the context of the situation and accomplish a goal/ goals. I don’t know how much I can control how other people perceive me. There are a lot of variables in that equation that I cannot account for. But I do think it is my responsibility to take stock in me and self assess and adjust if I don’t feel comfortable with what I come up with. I guess we could literally continue this endlessly because I find people and human interactions fascinating and we just really never know what makes someone tick unless we ask. And even then- are they telling us the truth. And down the rabbit hole we go…..Thanks! PS- I hate hearing or seeing myself too! I make the weirdest faces every time a camera is around I swear!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m also totally fascinated by human beings and the study of psychology. I would tend to agree that there are many versions of Troy Headrick and they are tied to the roles I play and who I think is my audience and my purpose for interacting with each individual. I’m also intrigued by the whole notion that we can ever see ourselves “objectively.” To do so, it would seem to me, we would have to look at ourselves through eyes that don’t belong to us–and that is utterly impossible. Plus, the way people see us is shaped by the history they have with us and the “baggage” they bring to their observation. Thank you so much for your super thoughtful comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The desire for authenticity is a noble one to be sure, one that we ought to pursue for the betterment of ourselves. That said it may well be in direct competition at times, with our innate desire to be liked by others.

    Candid feedback or “constructive criticism” by a network of people is a great way to see how we are coming across. It’s also okay to check in directly with people and ask them one-on-one how you came across.

    To answer your earlier question “ Can authenticity survive in a world where we have to interact with others and are constantly playing roles?”

    I’m not sure that it’s ever possible for others to see us the way we want them to. They can only see us as they do. How would one begin to compare each other’s perpetual lens? There doesn’t seem to exist any an objective way to measure that.

    I do believe our own cognitive perceptions of ourselves are at times distorted. Sometimes grandiose, sometimes deprecating. Neither may be accurate. It’s a very murky area then to ask how others assess us if our own authenticity is in flux.

    Great post.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. What sort of person is this individual named Troy Headrick? This question rests on the assumption that one can actually answer it. Maybe there’s no such thing as a stable self? And if we are like chameleons, always changing to meet the expectations of those we interact with, then this thing we call “self” is fluid, amorphous. I can try to act in ways that would give the impression that I am the sort of person I want others to think I am, but what if I act imperfectly or what if others “misread” me? There are so many interesting questions raised here, in both your response to my blog and in my reaction to your reaction. I’ve long been intrigued with the concepts of “self” and “selfhood.” thanks very much for your thoughtful response.

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  5. I have to agree with a couple of the earlier replies. If you’re trying to present your best self, there’s nothing wrong there. Even if you’re trying to grow into something better than you already are, it’s still all good. Now if you were trying to be something you aren’t and have no interest in truly being… Well, that’s called being a politician and is bad. LOL. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I think how people see me is a juxtaposition of shades from bad to good based on their own perceptions. Isn’t it how we perceive others based on our own biased dogmas, whatever they may be?
    Trumpites hate Democrats and
    Meat eaters hate Vegans in a variety of shadings, and vise versa.

    How others see us, is not up to us. It is how we see ourselves that matters, and more importantly, does it make us happy, or not, when we truly examine ourselves?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’ve raised such an interesting point. Even though we observe the outside world when we look at things and people, that world is colored by our own preconceived notions, biases, etc. I’m generally happy with myself–though I see myself as a work in progress and thus realize there are plenty of things I need to get better at–and I suppose that’s about the best I can ever hope for. Thanks for your interesting comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. First of all, woot woot to writing center work! I love writing centers, and they have been a major part of my evolution as a teacher, student, and a researcher. Second of all, I think that we can’t truly control people’s perceptions of us. For example, I want my students to view me in certain ways and, to some extent, I can control that. Yet, every year I get student evaluations that show me that their perceptions are their own. But, overall, I try to project an air of positivity, and their evaluations of me reflect (for the most part) that they do perceive me as a positive being. The details of that vary though, which is interesting. Perhaps this indicates that we can control (to some extent) the general air of how people percieve us, but the exact details of how people percieve us are beyond our control. I feel like I’m babbling now. Anyway, good post!

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    1. Every time I put together a blog for this site I feel like I’m babbling. Like you, I get student evaluations that sometimes mystify me. I suppose the whole notion that we can somehow have a few interactions with someone and then try to describe them using some evaluative tool is pretty extraordinary. By the way, thanks for the “woot, woot.” Those of us who toil away in writing centers always like to hear encouraging words. So you worked in a writing center too. If so, I’d like to hear more about that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, it’s also difficult, I think, with evaluations because you want to balance being nice and friendly with not being a push over. It makes me so angry when I see coworkers who literally think of their lesson plans on the car ride to class and brag about it and then get awesome evaluations while I’m spending upwards of 4 hours on each lesson plan.

        So yes, happier things. I did work in a writing center. I wokred as an undergraduate writing consultant, then as a graduate writing consultant, and then throughout my PhD work I have conducted research at my school’s writing center. For instance, I investigated writing consultant fears and how writing consutlants and clients use humor during consultations. I’m trying to make both become scholarly articles. The second batch of reserach is almost ready (cursed literature review!) and the second one I have to do a retroactive IRB form for it to have a shot at scholarly publication. Both studies revealed some things that I’m really quite excited about. Yes, I’m a research nerd, hehehe. 🙂

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  8. Really 6 questions in 1 post ! 😀 Let me try to answer.

    1) Seems no, but actually yes because all of us simply cannot be good actors.
    2) Get genuine feedback – either ask plainly or interact directly.
    3) The way they treat us will say how they think of us.
    4) Stepping outside ourselves would introspect through our own eyes, but not necessarily through theirs.
    5) Objectivity is a necessity because subjectivity ends outside the scope of observer.
    6) Yes. Objectivity can be defined as a special subjectivity how we are perceived by ourselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I think it’s energy draining to create a persona or act in a way that we want to be perceived that is not us, or not our style. I think that when we’re truly ourselves, it also inspires others to be authentic. I don’t think it matters what others think of us because we don’t have control over people’s thoughts on us. The quote by Maya Angelou comes to mind: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I think that no matter what impression we try to give, it’s always going to come down to the energy we carry within ourselves, and the things we do/say on a consistent basis that allow people to form their thoughts on us.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi. I like so much of what you’ve said here. I especially like the idea that when one acts authentically it inspires others to be authentic too. (I totally believe that we generally get from others what we give to them.) I also agree that pretending is exhausting. But don’t we have to pretend so often in real life? I’d love to be able to be genuine and completely honest in every encounter I have but I don’t think that’s really possible (sadly).

      Liked by 1 person

  10. If you wonder what others think of you-mostly they don’t, they are too busy thinking of themselves! We can present our best self, but it will always be interpreted through their lens.
    That doesn’t mean you can’t try to be genuinely open, etc, but it won’t always be perceived the way you wish and that often has little to do with you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’ve hit the nail on the head when you say that people are mostly too preoccupied with their own problems and lives to think (or even notice) what’s going on around them. This is a sad reality if you really think about it. I wish we lived lives that would allow us to notice more and pay attention more. Thanks for your comment.

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  11. As a former professor, I observed my students numerous times in the writing center. at my college. I sense that you might feel alone in the often solitary confines there. Playing an academic role can inhibit a true sense of self

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The life of the thinker is often a lonely one. But I’m fine with loneliness, solitude, however one might want to phrase it. So you’ve got experience with writing centers. Before becoming the director of this one, I taught writing, literature, critical thinking and so on at colleges and universities in both the US and abroad. I’m intrigued by the idea that being an academic might inhibit one’s true sense of self. I’d like to hear a little more about that. How so?

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    1. Hi, Betul. I often wonder who the real Troy is since I end up playing so many roles on a daily basis. I mean I can’t really be my authentic self when I’m managing the writing center and have to look like a leader and come across as competent. I certainly can show a bit of my personality but I can’t be fully candid and free-spirited without running the risk of losing my job. I once created a writing class on personhood, and in my research found, I that most experts believe that the notion of a stable self is generally inaccurate, a kind of fiction or misconception. So perhaps the best we can ever hope for is to PROJECT a certain view of ourselves? Thanks for your comment. I hope you are doing well at the University.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. How exhausting trying to be someone you aren’t. I sometimes try to be my ‘best self’ but I’m not sure that’s the same as trying to craft an image. Even being my best self is tiring and can derail me. Do you ever look at feedback like rate my professor? I recognize that much of what students are rating is shallow, but I’d think there are bits of info that can give you areas to work on while still being you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi. Yes, I have looked at Rate My Professor. On such sites, students will call an instructor “excellent” solely because that instructor was “easy” or gave a good grade. This whole notion of who we are in the context of others is fascinating and so complex. I’m not for sure if there even is a stable “Troy Headrick.” Perhaps I’m always acting in roles and meeting others’ expectations? Thanks so much for the comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. In honesty I love watching videos I do and wish the limitations of promotion on YouTube and Facebook would stop, but nonetheless I am getting my PhD now just so i can be a college professor one day and be myself, prayers are appreciated. But i started telling those who were so judgmental of my expressions that “it is none of my business what they think about me”, which has at least made my teachings more acceptable in my own sight We are always learning about ourselves and i champion your insight Great read

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! You’ve asked a really intriguing question that has got me thinking. Would I like myself if I met me on the street or in some other setting? I’m not for sure. What would my first impressions be while encountering myself? Would I come across as intelligent? As boring? Or what? Certainly is an interesting idea to play with. I really appreciate your comment because it has given me “an existential pause” too.

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  14. People’s judgement is not merely important. How you see yourself could mean a lot! Just do your thing😁. It’s confusing when you rely on what people are telling about you. It’ll just make you a robot. Doing things according to them not yourself

    Liked by 1 person

  15. This is a very interesting topic for me. I highly value authenticity AND notice a lot coming up for me beginning a blog where my intention is to share intimate information in a space where anyone can access it. This is only concerning for me in the potential for employers or residents of my job to view what I post. Work is a place where I feel that all of who I am cannot be shared. I work for an upscale senior living community and feel if my past were known by employers or residents who come from a different era, I would be heavily monitored and not trusted.

    It’s my experience that authenticity isn’t supported in our society. We are taught to bring pieces of ourselves as they apply to the environment that we are in. I practice authentic and vulnerable sharing often be it in person or on social media and am always told how “brave” of an act it is to share candidly.

    I appreciate this writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your story. All observant people sooner or later figure out that coloring outside the lines is frowned upon. Though America and Americans often make grandiose claims about all the freedom here, I find that such claims are more pie-in-the-sky than anything else. (I could write a very long comment about freedom and unfreedom in American; and, in fact, I have written such a blog if you look into my past posts and find a piece I did on freedom.) I truly appreciated your comment and look forward to reading more of your blog. Take care and keeping fighting the good fight.

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  16. This comment is going to be a lot shallower than much of what’s been written above, but I saw my wedding video for the first time in 23 years the other day and my father in law – who’d recorded it – said: “Christ. you’ve aged!” After I’d finished swearing at him, I started thinking about the sort of person I was back then and it occurred to me that – even though I was 30 at the time, I looked and acted very much like a boy still because I didn’t have any great responsibilities. Now, having bought up two kids, lost my mum to suicide and battled with depression all the way I suppose it’s not all that surprising that I’ve aged! But even though I’m nowhere near as pretty, I don’t really envy the young me – not least because I know the trials and tribulations he’s on the cusp of going through, and at least I’m on the other side of all that now. Thank you for this thoughtful piece, Troy. You say that it’s speculative, but it is also inspirational because it’s made me wonder if there’s a piece in me on ageing, regret, acceptance etc. I’m glad I read it!

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  17. As long as one person’s thoughts can translate into an effect on another person’s life, perfect authenticity is impossible. We are always “in the closet” about something. One can only be completely authentic when one is alone.

    Don’t imagine that the “authentic” you is fixed. It evolves along with the world around you. People CAN change, albeit usually glacially.

    So we create faces we present to the world. Those faces become second nature. They are the lubrication by which we move from one environment or functional role to another without friction.

    A mother may transform into an executive and then later into a seductress. Her core personality probably has elements of all three, else she couldn’t create masks that are wearable to begin with. The masks are not lies, they are amplifications of one part of the “real” her put on display and obscuring the parts not relevant to a particular role. Move to a different role and the projector goes to the next slide.

    A painful mask is one that doesn’t match our core at all. A complete fiction. Only psychopaths and sociopaths can manage that for long without self destructing.

    A failed mask lets too many bits of the irrelevant parts of our “authentic” personality leak thru. How much can leak before we start to suffer depends on the other person’s tolerance and how inherently “acceptable” our personality was to begin with.

    Some people are inherently less competent at creating appropriate masks and in seeing behind the other person’s mask. That is a curse of neural diversity.

    Other people become so enmeshed in their masks they lose track of who they are. That’s the fast track to a nervous breakdown, depression or other dangerous psychological state.

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