Looking In


We have already delved into the way we portray ourselves to others in pretty minute detail. We also have realized what we say is not always what is heard. The same holds true of the perception of others when it comes to the way they see us. What is it they really see?

The opinions we hold of our own quality are not those which others subscribe to us. When we look at ourselves, we are looking into a fun house mirror. What we are seeing is not the same thing others see in us.

I am an editor.

blue pencil


We have all done it. You write an email. A very important, life-altering email. You read it a dozen times to make certain it is perfect. All of the punctuation is correct. Your points are lined up in specific order. Then, you send it.

It gets no response. You go to your sent folder to read it again. What do you find? The glaring error which completely changes the meaning and tenor of your email. Now, you know why it has not been answered. How did you miss it?

You have been so close to it, been so emotional about it, spent so much time with it. You know what you meant, so when you read it, you did not see the error. You were reading what you meant to write.

Exceptions to the Rule

The same theory applies to others’ perceptions of us. We are the email.

Looking at the way we operate, we see the things we do through a filter, in the wavy glass of the fun house mirror. When we do things which seem contrary to our character, we have an internal justification. Whether it is a mitigating circumstance which governed our reaction or undisclosed motivation for our choices, we forgive ourselves the inconsistency as justified.

Our observers do not. They see our reactions and choices for what they are: contrary to the character we mean to project. Our exceptions can be seen with much more clarity than our consistency. Over time, those exceptions become the basis of others’ perceptions of us.

Seeing Through the Cracks

Quaint and Mate are often the first to see through the façade. Both know us. They know why we are behaving the way we are. Sometimes, we do not know until one of them points it out.

They see what we do as uncharacteristic. When they shine the Q-beam on the inconsistency, it is often our first clear view into the mirror. What we thought we were projecting is not what is on display for judgment. Quaint and Mate want to spare us the judgment of outsiders, but we have to listen to the clearer perception to modify our behavior.

Quaint knows me better…

…than I know myself. Why?

Unlike the concept of One cannot be loved when one does not love oneself, it is possible for Quaint (and Mate) to know you better than you know yourself. The simple solution is Quaint and Mate are not looking through your filter or in the wavy mirror. However, this does not mean they see you the way a perfect stranger or colleague will.

Stranger Danger

A complete stranger will see you based on your actions without knowing the underlying ideologies which govern them. Stranger knows of you, mostly by reputation. It was built by you and by others. Part of it is your projection, and part is others’ reactions to your deeds and words.

Stranger will not come to you and tell you your actions are inconsistent with the character you project. Unlike Quaint, Stranger has little or no emotional capital invested in you. Where Quaint can see your hidden agenda, Stranger just believes this action defines your character. Stranger justifies the belief by aligning with others who react similarly.

Work With Me

Get Smart Shoe PhoneColleagues present a different perception because their views are not solely based on reaction and reputation. Colleague perceives competence, assuming you got your position based on merit. Is it true?

If you came to your position by nepotism, conniving, manipulation or coercion, chances are good Colleague will find out in short order whether or not you can deliver. Colleague will then assign characteristics to you which will not align with your projection. Frankly, is Colleague wrong?

Just because you do not believe…

…does not make it false. What you see in the fun house mirror may be what you want others to believe. What they do believe is what they see. Just because you cannot see anything but your weird mirror does not mean what they see is not the truth.

Has Mate ever come to you and asked, What were you thinking? Better still, has Mate ever said, I would not have done it that way, but I know why you did.? Mate is standing in the middle ground between your mirror and the view Stranger and Colleague have through the window pane.

Redemption or Reconciliation?

Where do you want to be? The middle ground where Mate stands is a compromise between what you see and what the rest of the world is viewing. This means you have choices.

  1. Act in a manner consistent with your projection.
  2. Change your view and admit reality is not in your mirror.
  3. Adapt to and accept changing both your perception and that of those around you by acting differently than before you began looking.

May I have your card?

Before anyone can see clearly, you have to decide for yourself. What characteristics are you going to exemplify? What is going to be your calling card?

Super Genius

No, this does not mean you only pick out one characteristic. Just like a good business card has the name and title, numbers for telephone and fax, an address, an email and a website, your identity has more than one characteristic. What design do you want it to have?

Do you want it to have the telephone number crossed out four times and scrawled on the back because the face is too cluttered to write another one? This is what happens when we change our fundamental values. This is the outcome of the honest Colleague marrying a loveless Mate to be in a position to head a company.

Is the email inbox full of unread messages? Are you ever going to read them? Or have you deleted the senders but failed to delete the messages? Is the inbox full of spam?

Is the website a .org or a .com? Is the only ambition you own actually a mask for avarice? Or is it one with which you strive to be a better you?

Has the fax number been disconnected? Have you given up on getting more information after having been fed a diet of lies?

Is your address Memory Lane or Future Acres Highway? Or have you moved to Present Happiness Circle?

Is the name so blurry you cannot read it? Does the smudged background make the strange font difficult to read? Maybe, the color is the same as the background, making the name impossible to see?

Did the title change? When it did, did you begin doing the new job or keep doing the old one?

Have you ever looked in the window pane instead of the fun house mirror? What did you see? Would you look at an action in your life the way Stranger would see it… read your email as an editor?

© Red Dwyer
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  1. Everyone sees the world that they think is reality through their map of reality. Sometimes it’s a fun house mirror and other times a clear pane but it’s still a map and not reality. Open the window and see reality without the glass in the way. One of these days I’ll get there.


  2. I think I’ve been looking exclusively in the fun house mirror. Arggghhh!

  3. I have had my chain jerked more than once by friends who know my motivations for actions and think I am behaving like an ass. I have vast walls built, they are mine and I have held them against all comers for a very long time. In my walls I have little tiny doors, a few people over the years have found them, gently knocked and been kicked in the teeth for their intrusions. Others (Red) have bulldozed their way through my defenses and found I am not so tough after all.

    My fun house mirror is more like a dozen. I suspect I know the truth of it. But also, I have many insecurities. I know them well, they have been my playmates for years. They bite my ankles regularly, so I keep my walls well reinforced; how else would I survive in this world?

  4. Can't remember who I am

     /  February 29, 2012

    They say beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Perception will always be theirs. The wavy mirror will always leave you with doubts from time to time. Climbing away from that mirror, to an open window lets the Light shine and the gentle air brush you. Renewing the strength within you to move past the mirror to a fresh agenda..

  5. I haven’t lived in reality since the 1980’s and I blame Milli Vanilli 🙄
    Hmm, I’ve spent most of my life looking through the fun house mirror and best of all, I’ve also viewed my friends and acquaintance through that same mirror….. which would explain the strange menagerie I have collected over the years 🙂

  6. I am not sure we can fully see ourselves as we are. We all have that internal justification to explain away why we are allowed to do something, even though we may not offer others the same courtesy. I think this is what God means by not judging. We make all kinds of judgments, and need to, but we cannot know people’s motives or their inner world. We have to know someone pretty well to understand what makes them tick. Even then, we still filter it.

    • We have to filter it. If not, we risk information overload. Understanding everyone else’s agenda means knowing what makes then tick, when often we refuse to hear our own clocks.

  7. authormjlogan

     /  March 1, 2012

    I need one of those mirrors that makes you look skinny. Not that it would make my doctor any happier…

  8. I have long believed in being myself and avoiding presenting a false image, but people still attribute things to you based, not on the person you are, but how you are described by others.

    Only when they have finally torn you to shreds do they realise they are wrong and see you as you really are, but too late – the damage is done…

    One thing I have learned is that people usually project a mask to be socially acceptable and are far, far different underneath.

    The affable guy who beats and tortures his wife and children, the charmer who preys on weaker people to line his pockets, the life of the party who is just one day away from suicide – the list is endless.

    The naked soul is not pretty and often demands much of us who see the truth – sometimes we do not see until too late by which time we are picking up our own pieces wondering how we were fooled so easily…

    Love and hugs!


    • While I will never be one who will entirely forego trust, even of those I first meet, I do advocate for the extended discovery method. Keep asking questions, as to take the word of the reputation means assuming. Remember the post “Momma said”?

  9. Have you ever heard of Johari’s Window? It is an exercise I have my students participate in (and I’ve done it many times as well), and they learn the power of perception…and the labels people gives us…and all the good stuff that comes with perception and labels. Lovely read, as always. 😉

  10. I have looked through the window and it seems that every time I am “forced” to do so, it is because I am doing something terrible (and out of character) and I really hate what I see. I wouldn’t want to be looking through it all the time. Give me the funhouse mirror anytime! 🙂


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