How to See Self-Perception in a Better Light

Bill Abbate
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Do you give much thought to how you see and think about yourself? How accurate do you believe your self-perception is?

How about the perception of others about you? Do you know what their perception is, and do you think they see you accurately?

Let's explore these questions and more.


What does your level of self-perception say about you? If you have little understanding of yourself, you may be at a serious disadvantage in your relationships and career. In fact, I would go so far as to say that someone with an extremely poor understanding of who they are and how they behave would struggle in life. Then there is the opposite end of the spectrum. Those with a great deal of self-awareness are likely very successful in their relationships and career if they choose to be.

Self-perception begins with your attitude and mindset and ends with your actions and behaviors. What is your attitude about life in general? Are you the optimistic sort who sees life as fun and exciting, or the pessimistic type who sees the world fraught with peril?

If you are optimistic and life is fun and exciting, I bet you are enjoying life. If you are pessimistic and see bad things usually happening to you, you are likely not enjoying life.

Then there is your mindset. What do you believe about yourself and your abilities? Is it a positive, can-do, will-do, get it done at all costs, the world will move out of my way and make room for me to come through this type of mindset? In other words, a growth mindset. Can you see where this mindset will lead you in life? Imagine the accomplishments that can occur from possessing such a mindset.

Or is your mindset the fixed type, where you do not see life in a positive light, and at times the world is against you? You have given up trying because good rarely happens to you, and you don't want to fail, so you hold back and do nothing much of the time. Can you see where this mindset will take you in life? Imagine the heartache and stress caused by such a way of life.

Ask yourself the following questions, rating yourself on a scale of 1 to 10, where one is very low, and ten is very high:

  • How do I rate my attitude about life? Pessimistic (lower on the scale) or optimistic (higher on the scale)?
  • Do I have a fixed mindset (lower on the scale) or a growth mindset (higher on the scale)?

If you find yourself low on one or both, you can begin changing where you sit on the two scales by working on yourself. Read articles and books, watch YouTube and Ted videos, speak with friends and colleagues, or seek a professional coach to help you. The higher you are on the two scales, the greater you will see opportunities in the world, and who doesn't want great opportunities?

Now that you have measured where you are, rate yourself again later to see if you have changed or not. If you are working on yourself, rate yourself at least once a month and record it on your calendar to check your progress.

"The consistent finding of psychological research is that we are fairly accurate in our perceptions of others. It's our self-perceptions that are distorted because we look at ourselves in a rose-colored mirror." Jonathan Haidt

How do you perceive others?

Why does how you see others matter? The way you see others says a lot about how you see yourself. When you make a judgment about someone, it may or may not be true. Yet you judged them because of the way you think or were conditioned to think. Your judgment comes from the way you view life and them. Again, think about your attitude and mindset.

Are you always critical of others? Look inward to uncover what it is that makes you this way. Until you understand what drives the way you see others, it won't be easy to understand yourself in a real sense.

How much of what you do is in response to how you believe others see you? Are you merely reacting based on a feeling with no basis of knowledge and truth?

The simple solution for understanding how you perceive others is to discuss it with them! You may want to start with someone close that you can trust before putting it on the line. See what being truthful can bring to light. You will be surprised by the results and will have the opportunity to enhance the understanding of yourself considerably!

"What amazes me is how far some people will go to justify their behavior to themselves, just to preserve that self-perception." Christopher Golden

How do others perceive you?

Do you know for certain, or only suspect how others see you? Most of us believe we know, yet few of us do. Why is this? Because we haven't discussed it!

I will often work with a team and have each team member say something they admire about another team member. More often than not, there are some real surprises with more than one saying, "I had no idea anyone saw me that way," or some variation of that. It is one of the best team-building exercises you can do, even if the team is only you and your spouse. Try it and be surprised at what comes forth.

If you are brave, you can take this simple concept one step further and ask someone what one thing they believe you could improve on. It takes a great deal of trust and honesty for this to work, but the reward will be worth it. Provided you ask their input with an open mind and heart to hear the truth, that is.

Few of us really know how others perceive us because we are either afraid to ask or afraid of what they may say. If you want to become the best you possible, overcome this fear ASAP! Doing so will raise your self-perception considerably.

"Don't try to change the world. First, change yourself or rather, your self-perception, and you find the world automatically corresponding to the level of your understanding. You will find that it has always been you who set the pace and depth of your experience by recognizing and honoring your true nature." Mooji

Why does self-perception matter?

Ultimately, the better you understand yourself shows up in your behaviors and actions. If you can examine your behaviors and actions you can better understand yourself.

A few behaviors and actions you can quickly look at include:

  • Are you critical?
  • Do you pay full attention when others are speaking?
  • Do you show any disrespect?
  • Do you gossip?
  • Do you tear down other people?

While thinking about the above, also consider their opposites to understand yourself. For example, if you are not critical, it says something about you to help you better understand yourself.

Let's look at one additional example to further develop this concept of behaviors and actions in understanding yourself. Realize what you do is a result of who you are. If you leave small or minimal tips at restaurants, you are likely money-conscious and may be a bit stingy. If you are frugal, how might it show up in other areas of your life? It could show up in excessive shopping for the best deals, and waiting until the price of something matches your expectations. It may show up in the type of car you buy, the kind of home you own, and numerous other ways.

Your self-perception affects many areas of your life. It can dictate the type of job you have, your lifestyle, where you live, what you drive, what you own or don't own, and so forth.

Something worth studying if you find this subject interesting is Self-Perception Theory. This theory takes self-perception deeper, helping you understand uncertainty in your life, your attitude, how what you think you are not is important, and how to overcome negative self-perception, amongst other things.

Self-perception matters to you because it largely dictates who you are, your attitude and mindset in life, how you behave, and the actions you take, and who you are becoming. Sounds important to your future, don't you think?

"Our self-perception determines our behavior. If we think we're small, limited, inadequate creatures, then we tend to behave that way, and the energy we radiate reflects those thoughts no matter what we do. If we think we're magnificent creatures with an infinite abundance of love and power to give, then we tend to behave that way." Marianne Williamson

Final thoughts

A simple explanation of self-perception is, it is about you, resulting from your attitude and mindset, manifesting in your behaviors and actions.

Everyone has positive or negative self-perceptions. The best way to overcome negative self-perceptions is by accepting the reality of who you are. If you are like me and follically challenged, accept you are bald. Don't look at things that you can't change. Look at your good traits and characteristics and areas about which you can do something.

All of us are more likely to accept our strengths rather than our weaknesses but realize who you are. You are no more of a perfect human being than anyone else on the planet, so why hold yourself to any level of unrealistic perfection?

One of the healthiest things you can do is learn to laugh at yourself! Accept yourself for who you are, in all of your uniqueness. By accepting who you are, as you are, you will gain great confidence. Whatever you do, please don't take yourself too seriously. Take a lesson from this old sage:

"Humor is the great thing, the saving thing after all. The minute it crops up, all our hardnesses yield, all our irritations and resentments flit away, and a sunny spirit takes their place." Mark Twain

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA

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