A Matter of Perception - The "You" in Other's Minds Is More Real Than the "You" in Your Mind
The version of you, the conglomeration of the way you see and think about yourself, that exists within your mind is less real than the version of you that exists in other people’s minds. Just as you see and experience yourself and form a self-image accordingly, so too does everyone around you see and experience you - and form an image of you accordingly.
But what exactly do I mean by this? It may be difficult for some to imagine that the image of yourself generated by those around you is more “real” than your own self-image, and in a metaphysical sense it is not. However, other’s images of you are more real in the sense that no one knows you better than yourself – all that others see are your looks, actions, expressed fears/desires/views, etc. Indeed, all they may see are narratives about you, true or false, spread through the news, social media, your associates, and so on. No one can see inside your mind. You can think whatever you want about yourself – you could perceive yourself as a kind, moral person acting in everyone’s best interest but be hated and scorned by millions regardless. The reverse could also be true, that you are generally vile or deeply self-loathing but loved by most others. Regardless, others will react to you and your actions based on their perception of you – on the “you” that exists in their mind, not in yours.
The effect of this is that your self-image is largely irrelevant in your day-to-day life. No one will ever know you as deeply as you know yourself, no one will ever perceive you exactly as you perceive yourself, and in fact most people will perceive you and know you in ways far different than how you perceive and know yourself. Many people have found themselves receiving derision from other people without understanding exactly why. They think to themselves “But I’m good and honest, I’m only trying to do the right thing! Why are these people angry at me?” It’s as simple as the old saying – one man’s hero is another man’s villain. Whistleblowers for example are aggressively villainized and hated by those they’ve exposed, and some of the family and friends of those involved may also set themselves against the whistleblower as they only perceive the act of exposure as a malicious attack against their loved ones. On the other hand, others may see the whistleblower as a brave truth-teller standing up for positive ethics and morality, helping to out fraud or shield people from harm. And surely the whistleblower’s own self-perception is more in line with how their supporters see them, though it may differ too and present a third possible perception.
Point being that the perception of others matters, and indeed matters more than your own self-perception. Someone’s claim to be King-of-All, chosen by God, matters little if no one believes them – even if the claim was true. This issue of perception is something good to keep in mind. It can help you to empathize with others when they don’t understand you, and vice versa. It is also critical to understanding issues like public relations and how entities engaged in conflict may weaponize PR – the perception of themselves by others – against each other.
If you have thoughts on the matter of self-image, perception, or other points discussed here feel free to share them in the comments.