The window is unclear – that is, the one between our view of ourselves and the view others have of us. It’s probably a good thing we remain so blissfully unaware of it, too.
The dichotomy is something we start feeling as kids. Remember when we wanted to be seen a certain way, regardless of whether it was accurate? That gap between self-perception and how we are perceived is felt very early on, even if subconsciously. And think how precipitously that gap grows if the “self” part is still a work in progress…
The past three years have been prime realization time for this. It started when I opted into Korean language classes my freshman year, a decision that had the biggest domino-effect in possibly my entire life. One major domino was my family, where so many of my relationships just bloomed. Channels of communication opened, and I began to see who my family was (which is not the same as just seeing them). I began to see how they saw themselves. Finally, I began to see more of how they saw each other. And suddenly I saw how these things didn’t match up. At all. Most of the time.
Coming from a highly non-nuclear family, learning all of this has been dynamic and dramatic, to say the least. I’m piecing together a boundless puzzle depicting how certain family members connect to/disconnect from the others. Yes, much of it is based on basic incompatibility. But I’m sure more of it has to do with imperfect information. Someone, for example, thinks they are being very generous and open, and thus will not contribute more to a relationship than they already are. However, if the other doesn’t interpret that behavior as compromising in the least, there’s clearly an opposition of assumptions.
And yet, how would either of them know? We can fly forever ignorant that these fundamental misunderstandings are the troublemakers. Lack of knowledge overlap is surely the cause of so many riffs and tiffs – and greater. It’s serious, because relationships can get serious, but it’s also inescapable.
Currently, the phenomenon is shining through between several of my friends. As a third party, I’ve heard them each talk independently about the situation at hand. And honestly, it’s like they’re discussing two completely separate experiences. It comes down to the fact that they each see their roles in the conflict so drastically differently. One of them is being misinterpreted. Another is not acting how she thinks she is. Few have the foggiest idea. (And I’m on the side, delicately trying to determine if I can even effectively mediate…)
All of it makes me wonder about who in my life sees a me that is not me, and if I even know who is “me.” But as of now, I’m okay with accepting that unsolved mystery. It’s just the other side of the fact that, ultimately, we human beings definitely, fortunately, don’t hold the world’s big picture.