One thing I’ve come to believe is that the person you believe yourself to be is key to being the person others perceive you as. How you see yourself is largely how others will see you. To a point that is…
It’s always worth checking out every so often; how you are viewed by others around you, in order that the way you see yourself is in line with how people you interact with size you up. If you find that how you come across differs from how you view yourself, you should be asking yourself what it is your doing and saying that’s projecting this image that differs from how you believe your interacting with those you meet.
Take a moment and think about how you want others to see you. Do you want others to see you as helpful? Are you going for ruthless? Aggressive? Assertive? Innovative? Self-assured? We are multi-dimensional; meaning there are many sides to us and how we wish to be perceived will vary with the people in our lives we wish to interact with. So for example, we may want to come across as knowledgeable when we meet with our Supervisor at work, but when we talk to someone to buy our snow tires, we might wish to come across as wanting to be informed on what’s best for us and defer to their wisdom.
Whether we do it consciously or not, whenever we interact with others, we send signals about who we are, what’s important to us, how we see ourselves and all of these signals give others an impression of how we see ourselves. This is a key to interacting with the world around us and coming across to others in the way we wish to be viewed.
Take two people you see on a subway platform. Without having a conversation, you see them both from 20 feet away; one is a person in a formal suit, polished leather shoes, pressed pants, crisp shirt and tie, carrying a leather folder. The second is a person with green and blue hair, denim pants and sneakers, long-sleeved shirt, wearing a backpack and a tattoo on each forearm peaking out of the shirt sleeve. You know nothing about their character, their intelligence, their occupation, income level, hobbies, attitude, etc. but if you’re honest, you start to form an opinion about them just the same.
Did you choose a gender for both of the people above? None was given in the description, although to view them on the platform you’d have this information. That first impression you began to form in your brain is based largely on how you’ve perceived and interacted with other people of similar looks in your past. So whether you saw the person in the business suit as successful, determined and confident or conceited, hard-nosed and full of themselves is largely an individual thing. Were you to watch them longer, observe them closer, have a conversation perhaps, your view of them would either be reinforced or change based on further information you gather.
Just like the two people I’ve described, you present yourself to others (the world around you) both in how you look, how you act and what you say. Both the people above may be on the way to work, be very successful by their own definition and be friendly.
The choices we make right from the start of our day go a long way to determining how we are perceived. So what are some of these choices? Showering vs. not showering, brushing our teeth or not, how we wear our hair, the clothes we pick out, (cleanliness, colour, style, fit). There’s also the way we move. Do we saunter along, looking at the streetscape around us and the people we pass or do we walk with a purposeful stride, focused straight on the path ahead, not looking anywhere but at the destination we are moving toward?
Whether older or younger, some thought going in to how we dress, move and act will change how the people we interact with start to size us up. If you’re older and feel your age is a problem, I have to tell you that it’s possible this self-perception is coming across to others in your choice of clothing, grooming, how you behave and your movement. Look at yourself as objectively as you can and note the people around you that you perceive favourably. How are they dressed? How do they move? What’s their posture like? How are they groomed?
One thing you can do to check on how you’re coming across is to ask people you interact with and trust for their views on how they perceive you. As there is little value in only hearing what you want to hear, ask for honesty. Without leading them by saying, “Do I come across as confident?”, just ask how they see you.
Do this with one person and that’s interesting. Do this with two or three and it’s somewhat helpful. Do this with many people and you get a clearer idea of how the world perceives you. Now the question is do you like what you hear? Is it consistent with how you want to come across? If so, great! If not exactly what you hoped for, what is it you’re doing to create that image in their minds? If change is wanted, you act on it.