A few weeks back, I stood in front of a classroom and discussed the three different versions of self. I talked about the version we see, the version we want others to see, and the true versions of who we are. To put it simply, we are the perception of three different people. We are who we think we are. We are who we want to be. And we are who people see us as.
My experience has taught me that who I am and who people see me as are often two separate things. And often, who I see myself as, —or better yet, the reflection I see when looking in the mirror as is often distorted by my ideas of insecurity. In which case, the mirror is not always a friend and the slightest imperfection no matter how small or unnoticeable it may be is amplified, and deep down, this is all I see.
I have learned throughout the years that the way I see myself as far as my own beauty; whether it be internal or external is not always an accurate science.
Way back when, I used to be a very small boy. I was smaller than most (if not all) in my classroom. I looked much younger. I felt different because I was much smaller than everyone in my grade and looked much younger. I was painfully thin, physically weaker, awkward, and insecure. This is how I saw myself.
I viewed myself as weak. I saw myself as puny, ineffective, insufficient, unattractive, unwanted, unmentionable, and unlikable. Whether accurate or inaccurate, this is how I saw myself. I never thought anyone truly liked me. As I saw it, since we were all kids playing in the same sandbox, essentially, whomever I played with or sat with, —I figured if they were friends at all, at best, we were only friends by way of circumstance. This was my version of self. It was a painful view and an accurate assessment of how I saw me when looking in the mirror.
Now, on the opposite spectrum, I have friends in my life who were taller than most. I have friends that stood well over 6’ tall by the age of 12. They grew quickly, —sprouting up before anyone else and rather than here nicknames like twerp or squirt, they were picked on from an opposite angle.
They were called giants and freaks. Oddly enough, I have friends who were true physical specimens at a young age. Their strength was magnificent and their physical ability was incredible, but yet, they were bullied at the same time. This amazed me too. Since I was small, I wondered why this happened. How could someone so big allow someone smaller to pick on them? However, now that I understand more about inner consciousness and the weight of perception, I understand how debilitating an inaccurate self-image can be.
I was small and thin. The way I saw it, what girl would ever like me. I was too small, too thin, and too young or boyish looking, which meant I could only be cute at best. I never saw myself as manly or desirable. I always saw myself as one step off from the meter. I saw myself as just off target and never on. In response, this wore away at me. It was tough to see my own reflection because even on days when I dressed well or put myself together properly, I never thought (in my eyes) that I was good enough to be noticeable.
This is what’s called image of self. Now, in several speaking occasions, I define myself as frightened and insecure. I explain that I am easily intimidated and uncomfortable in crowds. I am afraid of being judged. I’m afraid I might smile or laugh at the wrong time and suddenly the room will quiet down, turn around, and all eyes will painfully turn on me, —and there I’ll be, standing there like a fool, about to be laughed at.
The problem with insecurity is no one else hears the voice but me. It’s only a whisper though; however, it’s painfully loud and usually constant. At my worst, I’m afraid to speak, —so I speak quickly and loud) and at my worst, I’m afraid I’ll seem weak, —so I’ll grind my teeth or put on my bravest face to act like a mask, which I’d hide behind.
I had a discussion with an administrator about some of my subject matter. I could tell they didn’t know went on behind my eyes. I could tell they didn’t understand, and if I could tell this, I knew for certain the students could tell also.
There are words in the English language, which are interesting when said. Take the word, “Just” for example. Take for example, the sentence, “Just don’t think about it,” or “Just don’t do that anymore.”
With regards to any social or mental disorder, the word “Just” is such a painful addition to a sentence. “Just don’t think like that” or “Just don’t do that anymore,” is the same as telling someone with food poisoning, “Just don’t be sick anymore.” This is the same as telling someone with a stomach virus, “Just don’t vomit anymore and you’ll be fine”
Our actions and our behaviors or done to honor or validate a need. No matter how small an action or decision is; all of them are done with a specific intention in mind. Everything we do has a reason behind it. And whether the reason we do something are simple or with more deliberate intention; everything we do is done to honor, validate, and appease an internal need.
With regards to social awkwardness, insecurity, anxiety, and the inaccurate image of self, —the word “Just” as in “Just don’t feel that way,” is an impossibility. The word is taunting and painful to me. In my opinion, it minimizes agony and calls it imaginary. But pain is not imaginary. And sometimes, internal pain is the worst pain ever
Now, when I mention that I am afraid of crowds and afraid to speak, most people fold their eyebrows down, —they sort of jerk back their neck and curl their upper lip with disbelief because how can I say this when I do public speaking? Keep in mind, just because I live outwardly or do something in spite of my fears; it doesn’t mean that I don’t have them. In the same regard, simply because you see something in me; it doesn’t mean I see the same thing.
One of the wonderful things about social media (and I don’t often comment about its positives) is the reconnecting I see with people who knew each other from a long time ago. One afternoon, I was sitting at home with my wife. We were together on the couch, watching television in our home. The dogs were with us and all was quiet. If I’m not mistaken, we were watching a marathon of a show. And I’m not sure which show it was; however, I remember the time was cozy and the mood was loving.
I received a message from someone on social media. It was a long message from someone a grade younger than me in my hometown. She remembered me. She had been reading and following some of my writing. And shyly, she introduced herself as someone I wouldn’t have known, which was accurate. She defined herself as unattractive and unmemorable, which was a feeling I understood. Next, she went on to tell me how she knew me from class but since my mind was elsewhere and my relationship with school was on an “Agree to disagree” basis, my recollection of classroom days are poor. She went on to tell me how she saw me. I was one of her fist crushes, which was nice to learn. Also, the way she saw me was much different from the way I saw myself. In fact, it was polar opposite.
I never knew anybody saw me this way. And what does this prove? it proves that if I were truly as unattractive and unnoticeable as I thought, no one would have ever seen me in a loving or positive light
I feel this is a perfect description on the three versions of self. There is who I see myself as, who others see, and who I actually am. Somehow, in order to have my reflection in the mirror not seem a painfully loud scream to me; I had to understand my true version of self.
The truest form of freedom is felt inwardly. If my level of consciousness is at a place where my level of awareness improves; then my understanding of self improves, in which case, the way I see myself can be an unbreakable thing and anything said to or against me would just simply be . . . unimportant.
Once I learned to better myself, the inaccuracies in the mirror were less and less noticeable. It took time, but I learned how to accept myself for the way I am. I am me. And being me, I come with various shapes and size. I come in different color and shades of thought. I have good days and bad ones too. I have times when fear gets the better of me. But I don’t have to lose to this. I only have to feel it, process it, and find a way to be me and be happy without allowing too many thoughts to spin me out of control.
When I stand in front of classrooms and discuss insecurity; I see every version, which I remember from school. I see the different crowds and I recognize the ageless similarity of growing up. I see the athletes. I see the so-called rejects, the cool, the popular, and above all I see the uncomfortable eyes, peering around the room , because out of anyone, they relate to me most .
And I know I’m right on this because as I speak, and as I stand in front of a group of students, I watch as a sea of heads nod with me in agreement.
God it feels good to get this out. As I see it, maybe (just maybe) if we can show our children how inaccurate their versions of self can be, —then maybe they can beat the insecurity game and not have to validate or honor themselves with poor choices and bad behavior.