Love, Life Stories

When others judged me, it helped me get to know myself better

When you label yourself inaccurately it’s just as harmful as labeling someone else inaccurately.

How do you realize things about yourself? I’ve been talking to two friends lately, and both have been confused when I’ve mentioned that I have misperceptions of myself. This is probably because an oft-given piece of advice is to “know yourself.” And I think I do spend a fair amount of time in self-reflection. But one of the paradoxes of knowing yourself and being with yourself all the time is that you can’t get away from yourself to get perspective, and sometimes you hold on to the same beliefs for too long.

Being with yourself means you can’t get away from yourself to get perspective, and you can keep mistaken beliefs. Click To Tweet

As human beings we all want to categorize other people. It helps us to organize the world. What we don’t realize is that all too often we label ourselves in the same way. And when you label yourself inaccurately, it can be just as harmful as labeling someone else inaccurately. If you say “I’m not a dancer,” or “I’m not funny,” or “I am a shy person” those things are going to impact how you act and deny you the ability to learn to dance or realize that you are funny or interact with others.

When you label yourself inaccurately it’s just as harmful as labeling someone else inaccurately. Click To Tweet

I mentioned I was quiet, and I’ve always seen myself as a textbook introvert. I don’t do well at large gatherings, I’m not one to strike up a conversation with a stranger if I’m standing around, and I often need time alone when I’m the most tired or stressed out to “recharge.” I assumed because of this that I was shy.

But just this week I went to a concert and struck up a conversation with the lady behind me after she asked me the time. “Oh, I’m not that much like my brother,” I mentioned offhandedly at one point, “He’s very outgoing, and I’m much shyer.” She seemed surprised “Really? You didn’t strike me that way at all.” Then a few days later I was talking with a new co-worker and the topic came up again. I mentioned I was shy, and she also expressed surprise.

If only the first woman had made the comment I might have dismissed it as a fluke. When two people brought it up I started thinking a bit about it. I’m still an introvert in the way that I get my energy. But I now think that I can be pretty outgoing and charming when I want to be. The needle has shifted a bit from “totally introverted” to “maybe-less-so.”

Sometimes you can learn about yourself not just through verbal statements from others, but also through reactions. For years I thought I wasn’t funny. I am a quiet person, and I like to study and think about serious things. I wasn’t the type to butt into a group conversation and make people laugh, so I assumed I wasn’t a funny person. Eventually, though, I realized that I could make my friends laugh when I was with them. Oh, that’s just a friend thing, I thought, I’m just using old personal jokes. For another period of time I thought that I was just funny with my friends and people who I was comfortable with.

I never would have realized these things about myself it if it hadn’t been for those two women. Click To Tweet

Then I went on a choir trip, and my friend fell sick right before we left, leaving me with no one that I knew. I was worried about how the trip would be for me socially. I had to push myself to talk to a lot of new people. And you know what I realized? I could make people laugh very easily. By watching other people’s reactions I realized something about myself that I had never thought was true before.

I never would have realized these things about myself it if it hadn’t been for the comments from those two women that I was talking with. So sometimes the judgement of others can help you to learn valuable lessons about yourself.