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The fool’s errand of changing other’s perception of you

Slightly broken white statue of a man's face

One of the most common and pointless pursuits in life is trying to change what other people think of you.

The statues in other people’s gardens

Imagine this: everyone you have ever met has a statue of you in their garden. This statue represents how they see you. It might be dirty, it might be poorly maintained, and it might not be a particularly accurate representation. You may not like how some of these statues look. You don’t like how one of them is dirty, or that another one has an inaccurately crooked nose. You may not really like any of these statues.

Solution 1

One way to approach this problem is to try to run around everyone else’s garden polishing and fixing up their statues. This will eventually become absolutely exhausting. And not only will it be exhausting, but some people will also get really upset that you run into their property, not even asked, changing their garden statue.

Solution 2

Another way to approach this problem is to come to peace with that other people’s statues may, or may not, be a misrepresentation of you. First off, you don’t really know what they think when seeing that statue. But perhaps more importantly, you do not even have the right to change their statues. You do not have the right to run into other people’s property and try to change their garden decorations. It is actually quite insulting. They might want the statue to look like that because then it fits in better with the other statues, which gives them more mental peace. Or maybe they want that crooked nose there because it provides the perfect sun shade for their favorite reading spot.

The point of the statue metaphor

The point of this metaphor is that you cannot spend your life trying to change how other people see you. That would be absolutely exhausting and provide so little time for anything else. It might organically change with time as they change their perception of you. But it would be a fool’s errand to try to force this change on others. Not only is it pointless, but you also do not even have the right to do that. People have the right to their own thoughts and experience, and that includes how they view you.

I’ve found this metaphor incredibly useful for resisting the urge to try to control how other people see me. The fact that it is impossible, too exhausting, and not even within my right, has helped free me from that kind of thought pattern.

Isn’t it actually kind of cool that we all get to have our own unique perceptions of people around us? And that each of us has the freedom to perceive others however we want?

Only you know who you are

When I find myself feeling insecure, and wondering if other people see me in a certain way, I can remember this metaphor. They do not actually know who I am — only I do. It is almost like a secret that only I get to know. I think it interesting to think about how many different versions I get to be, depending on the person that currently perceives me.

However, at the end of the day, I am still the same person, and only I truly know who that is.

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