How you project yourself may not be how other people see you.

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Photograph by Eric Snell (@esnelldesign)

We’ve all had that moment.

We are projecting one version of ourselves, yet a completely different person is being reflected back at us.

We see ourselves one way and others see us in a completely different light.

Where do these two perceptions clash?

Most of it is based on people’s own stream of consciousness and not what we project.

We think no one is noticing us, while there are clearly people drawn to us, our energy, and who we are. Or the idea of who we might be in their head. We hardly notice or welcome people’s gaze, attention, or reflections of us, in a society where everyone is on social media posting every aspect of our lives.

Yet… with all this communication, there is clearly a big deficit in actual communication.

I’ve done this many times and I’m sure everyone does. 

I fantasize about who people are, rather than actually seeing them for who they are.

My exploration of these dual realities and images comes at a very pivotal time. I have only recently discovered what I can simply call “my authentic self”. I am still battling with my perceived awkwardness of the pimply shy teenager I used to be, the one no one wants to talk to, and everyone makes fun of, and there are plenty of times I think I’m still that awkward girl. I often hope I go unnoticed, lurking in the shadows observing others.

I battled that fear of exposure, and people taking notice of who I was, or who they thought I was,  when I posed for various photographers in the five years I’ve lived in New York. Some nude, some for Yoga purposes, some for fun. I continue to be open and vulnerable in my recent work performing my poetry in front of complete strangers. (that was a challenge!)

In every instance I haven’t seen myself as particularly attractive, interesting or photogenic, but more theatrical and obscure. A curiosity.

Yet the response I get from people, is that of someone who is quite different. After I turned 40 all the shyness and awkwardness of my youth has slowly faded away.

Claiming space, claiming my worth, my voice, beauty, or image as a woman; has been a very interesting exploration. But I’m still baffled at how others perceive me.

How we see ourselves may not be hour others see us. 

We are shaped by a myriad of references. Cultural experiences being one of them. I grew up in Greece in the late 70’s and 80’s  and then again in the early 2000’s. Despite my American accent and passport, everything about who I am and have become is shaped by my life in Greece. Recently a friend said to me “oh you’re such a Greek-American!” which is a blatant fact. I belong to two worlds, two camps, two realities. Often opposing each other vehemently. Depending on my surroundings; like a chameleon I absorb cultural references I grew up with, and mold them to my current reality. You never know what you’re going to get!

Yet time and time again, others who observe us, will see something purely based on their own perceptions. We ALL do that, sometimes to our advantage, sometimes to our detriment.

Next time you observe someone, before you impose your idea of them, let them unfold in front of you unobstructed by your own perceptions.

You might be surprised by what you receive.