Who Are You?

Bill Abbate

How do you see yourself? How do others see you? Do you have a clear understanding of either of these questions? Let’s look at them to unearth some invaluable insights.

How well do you understand?

Imagine having a coin with one side stamped ME(how you see yourself) and the opposite side stamped OTHERS(how others see you). Most of us toss this coin constantly during the day without realizing both sides are extremely important, and they affect how we live our lives.

An advantage of being older is realizing you can always learn more about yourself. At the same time, you know you can always learn more about how others see you. For some of us, we come to the point where we could care less what they think. But that usually doesn’t happen until we are really old! Until then, how you behave because of other people’s influence can remain significant.

Unfortunately, we can be so concerned about what others think about us it can overshadow how we see ourselves. A great thing about better knowing ourselves inside is we will care less about what others think.

Let’s examine each side of the coin to help us understand how we see ourselves, how we think others see us, and how we can use each to our advantage.

How do you see yourself?

If someone were to ask you, “Who are you?” how would you answer? Would you lead off by telling them about your job, where you come from, how other people would describe you, or who you believe you actually are? People often superficially answer this question because they have not thought about who they are deep inside themselves.

Consider examining who you are by asking yourself, “Who am I.” or better yet, “Who am I at the core of my being?”

Let me lead by example and tell you who I think I am, not by what I do or how I appear in the world, but by how I see myself.

I am, first and foremost, an older man who feels nowhere near his age. I have lived a long life filled with great heartbreak and great joy. I am a learner, always desiring to know more about many things, especially myself and others. It amazes me how I continue on the path of self-discovery with no end in sight after many decades.

In my mid-twenties, I had a radical change that created who I am today. It was then that I became a Christian. As a Christian man, I see myself secure in my understanding of where I will go when this fleshly body dies.

I struggle to be a good Christian, husband, and friend, realizing that although I am deeply flawed, I am loved and forgiven by God and those who matter most to me.

As I age, I see myself becoming ever more grateful for life, who I am, who I am becoming, who God made me to be, and for the many blessings He provides.

If I had to sum up how I see myself, I would say: “I am a Christian man, living a good life, loved by many, blessed beyond anything I could ever deserve. Put most succinctly, I am a “Child of God and a follower of Christ.”

Now that you have heard how I see myself, take a few minutes to consider how you see yourself. To make it real, grab a pen and paper or your journal and ask yourself:

  • “How do I see myself at the core of who I am?”

“To grow yourself, you must know yourself.” John C. Maxwell (1947-present)

How do you think others see you?

The main reason to examine how others see us is to uncover and challenge our assumptions. As you know, the word assume is well known for making an a** out of u and me (a**/u/me.) It is best not to assume anything because too many assumptions are flawed. The more assumptions you examine about others, the better you will understand yourself.

While we can never know exactly how others see us, we have thoughts about how we think they do. We can spend too much time being influenced by these thoughts, resulting in behaviors that may not be true to who we are. Why do we do this? Because we are human and often seek the acceptance of those around us.

“Until we become fully free, we put up afalse front, a façade, to others for the purpose of winning [their] acceptance and approval…” Lester Levenson (1909–1994)

How do you think others see you? Let’s not look at the superficial but at how you believe they see you behind your façade.

Once again, let me lead by example and tell you how I think others see me. I will break this into three areas of my life.

Since I have solicited feedback from others for years about how they see me, some of what I say may be accurate, but there is no way to know absolutely.

Firstly, I believe my wife and close friends see me as a decent man with a heart for Christ, trying to live right and staying healthy. They may also see me as thoughtful, considerate, faithful, loyal, and a hard worker, even in retirement. I am sure they know many of my faults, how I fail sometimes, and how I try to do the right thing.

Secondly, for the last couple of decades, before retiring, many employees saw me as their boss, fair yet tough when needed. I imagine they saw me as decisive and wanting to help people develop their abilities. Most of them thought I was good at delegating and not micromanaging while holding them and myself responsible for doing good work and getting results. I am also sure some saw me as very hard. The great relationships I maintain with many of them to this day tell me I earned their respect as they did mine.

Lastly, I am curious how people at church see me. I barely know some of them, and I wonder if they think of me as a bit introverted, maybe even a little standoffish, but an okay person. While I had a lot of feedback from those closest to me and former colleagues, I have received little from people in the church. Then again, I have never asked!

Of course, there is no way to know how anyone sees me other than my likely flawed assumptions.

How do you think people see you? Ask yourself:

  • “What are my assumptions about how people see me in different areas of life?”
  • “How am I allowing what I assume others think to influence me?”

How can you become truer to who you are?

“Would you rather live your life according to the approval of others or aligned with your truth and your dreams?” Robin Sharma (1964-present)

The primary way to become truer to who you are is by simply being yourself.

Can anyone not allow others to influence their thoughts and actions without putting on a façade? Is it possible for us to become that detached from what we assume other people think? What are your thoughts about this?

To be yourself is possible only if you want it to be. It can benefit you to modify your behavior in certain situations. There are undoubtedly social conditions that dictate social norms. You may benefit from behaving a certain way when subject to such activities.

I often wonder if it is even possible for most people to be true to themselves on social media, where so many live out their fantasies. Then, there is work etiquette that influences what we do and how we behave in various settings.

How about when you are dating someone and are around your potential in-laws? Do you think you can be entirely true to yourself then? Maybe, maybe not.

So long as you are comfortable with yourself, don’t put on a façade, and feel no stress, you are probably true to yourself. Otherwise, you are compromising, which you may or may not find acceptable.

“Inner peace doesn’t come from getting what we want, but from remembering who we are.” Marianne Williamson (1952-present)

Final thoughts

The main point of this article is that the better you understand who you are, the less you worry about what others think, and the more you can be true to yourself.

Why would anyone want to go through life living falsely? Yet, many of us do because we don’t take time to examine who we are on the inside, at the core of our being. This core is less subject to change than how we appear on the outside, which can be almost chameleon-like!

The great thing about free will is we can choose to be true to ourselves. No one else can do it for us unless we allow them to determine who we are. Does that sound fair or logical?

Take a good look at who you are to understand yourself and live a better, less stressful, more fulfilled life.

Ask yourself the following questions and give them serious thought in writing:

  • “How do I see myself at the core of who I am?”
  • · What are my assumptions about how people see me in different areas of life?”
  • How am I allowing what I assume others think to influence me?”

As a writer, I can think of no better way to learn about ourselves than to write. Therefore, I leave you with the wisdom of a great Dominican-American author and poet:

“I write to find out what I am thinking. I write to find out who I am. I write to understand things.”Julia Alvarez (1950-present)

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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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