Thursday, May 6, 2010

How do you see yourself?

Sometimes it's funny to me to think that nearly everybody knows only parts of me, and that I know only parts of nearly everybody. There are some obvious exceptions, people I would say know me wholly and in every mood, but they are few and far between.

Most people only see parts of you, and that's OK, it's normal, it's to be expected. Most people haven't known you your whole life and they don't know your past and the things you've done before. Most people don't see you in all your contexts, at home and at work and with friends and with family. Most people don't hear your innermost thoughts and fears and confessions, or even if they do hear them, it's some of them, not the whole picture.

So of course it's rare to find someone who knows us, truly and completely. And it's totally OK. I can still see the picture even if a few pieces of the puzzle are missing, you know? I mean all of us censor ourselves on our blogs to a certain degree, or present certain aspects of our lives and ourselves and our backgrounds, and yet I don't feel like people are withholding, or not sharing all of themselves. Because that's how we see people, in general.

It's how we see the world literally, really. We have two eyes and they don't see the exact same thing. They see two slightly different visions, each one with a slightly different range with a little gap in the middle, and our brain takes those images and puts them together into one cohesive picture. That's what we do with our friends, we take what we know and we fill in the gaps and we know that it's enough.

And it is enough, really. But sometimes it's weird to me to think that nobody knows everything. That every time someone dies, even if they have shared their life with many others, so much dies with them. Maybe, maybe if someone died and you got everyone who knew them into a room and had them all do a brain dump of everything they knew about that person, maybe you'd start to come close. But you'd never get the full picture, not quite.

The things that are weird to me are little things. It's not like "Oh god nobody knows me, nobody understands me, I am alone and misunderstood." Quite the opposite. I feel generally very well understood and supported and I am quite able to express myself and if there were something that I wanted somebody to know, I would share it.

No, it's the stupid things that don't matter. Like for example I've gone through phases in my life where my hair was pretty short, and phases where it was very long. I generally think of my default haircut as short. It's longer at the moment and I like it but I won't be keeping it this way forever, and when at some point I cut it short again I think it will feel like returning to my natural state.

But some people met me when my hair was long and that's how they think of me and everything else looks weird and wrong to them. And some of those people are people who didn't remain in my life long enough to ever see otherwise. Like my hair was really long when I moved to Senegal. Shortly after I got back from Senegal I cut it off to donate to Locks of Love. So all those people who knew me in Senegal only know me with long hair. Whereas all the people I knew in high school only know me with short to medium hair.

And it doesn't matter, you know? And also it's weird that I pick a side here, that one length of hair feels more normal to me than the other. Shouldn't it all be me, since I have the big picture with no missing puzzle pieces? But I have picked a side and I almost feel like an imposter to people who see my default as the other side.

The hair is just an example. There are a lot of things like this. I don't need to get into detail; I think the hair sums it up pretty thoroughly. It's all me, but different people see it differently, and I myself see all of it but still lean toward one as being more expressive of me. Does that make sense?

What about you? Do you have things about yourself that have changed over time, but still stick in your mind as being more you one way or the other? Does it weird you out to think about how different people in your life know you in very different contexts and think of you in very different ways?


  1. My oldest friend (who I still am in contact with) used to love to hold me accountable to all this crap I said at 16 about work and money. I finally had to sit her down and ask her to let it go, because I was not that scared, posturing 16 year old anymore.

  2. My law school friends would have been shocked to see me in college with a tongue ring. It's funny when you think back on those things and are amazed at how young you are!

  3. I think that this is so true, especially on the Internet, that we don't know ALL of somebody, but only bits and pieces.
    When I see someone on FB that I knew in HS and think about how different they are now, I have to remind myself that they were just a kid then and it's been 10 years.

  4. The other day I was telling a friend about a fight I'd had with my bf and I admitted I was probably being irrational. She said "Really? I can't imagine you being irrational." I was like whoa, I feel as though I'm irrational pretty often. I was surprised I'd never come off that way to her.

  5. I think we all change over time. What pops to mind is family friends who will always see you as the 10 year old kid. Clearly, we've changed in so many ways, but they've frozen that memory of us and I think that's ok, too. It serves as a reminder of who we are and where we come from.

  6. I see myself as a nerd, and I think everyone else sees me that way too. I used to hang out with a group of guys in college all the time. One time I was talking about working on my thesis for the Honors Program, and they were all so shocked that I was in the Honors Program. And then I was so shocked that they didn't expect that from me.

  7. How funny; Dave, my best friend, met me will long, one-length hair down to my waist. He has been sad ever since it has been shorter than that. Funny, huh?

    I see myself as very outgoing and social, which I was before the depression crap hit. Now I am much more reserved, and many people only know me that way.

  8. Yes. Exactly.

    Every time I cut off my hair for Locks for Love, I do have that thought every time I meet someone new that they are just not seeing the "real" me, but the "transition" me between hair growing/cuttings.'s weirded me out so much that I've almost decided NOT to do Locks for Love again--because I almost can't bear that two year transition period anymore of dealing with a hairstyle that is NOT me.

    And yet--it DOESN'T MATTER! Why obsess about something so unrelated to the ACTUAL me?

    And yes, people can surprise you sometimes. You think you know someone, and then they do something unexpected. It always makes me wonder if I had just never picked it up, or if they were holding back. What does this person think of ME? heh.

    You do write some of the most thought-provoking posts.

  9. I think of this in terms of if I die, too. Like, if I die, will David and all the other people in the girls' life do things "that your mommy would have loved" for the girls? Only, would they get it right? It bugs me that they probably WOULDN'T get it right. Like "I bought you this necklace to remember you mom"... only it's gold and I hate gold. Or something. Does that make any sense?

  10. I wrote a long post a while back about self perceptions and how people perceive me. Its very interesting to think about, even if the thought process never really gets ya anywhere.

  11. There are things about me that I don't bring up -- phases I've gone through, etc., that only those who went through them with me can get the full picture. Even things I did before I met my husband, he can't completely understand.