|As adults, we rely on other impressions and opinions of us to build and nurture the idea of who we are / Photo by KireevArt via Shutterstock|
Our world is full of people, and as social creatures, it’s inevitable that we come into contact with others every day and interact with them. However, social cues and situations can be complicated, and it can often be difficult to determine if the way we view ourselves lines up with how others see us.
Others’ Thoughts About Us
Human beings are social creatures and have evolved to perform at their best in groups as social units. While there are many who say that they don’t care what other people think about them or those who try to survive independently, we all have the innate need to feel like society accepts us. Thus, it makes sense that a feeling of anxiety would arise from thoughts that we may not be accepted by our family or peers. Social anxiety, according to Psychology Today, is the result of innate insecurities and fears of being excluded from a group or society as a whole. Not being included in group dynamics can leave a person depressed and agitated.
We do not have the ability to peer into other people’s minds and see what they think of us, such as during a group activity or when meeting for the first time. Though we can ask about what they think of us, it may be uncomfortable to do so in most social settings, according to ExploringYourMind.com. This is why humans must rely on their “metaperceptions” or how we believe others think about us.
Self-Concept and Perception
Metaperceptions can be a tricky business, as imagining how others view you would hinge almost entirely on your own views of yourself, or your self-concept. Mark Leary, a psychology professor at Wake Forest University, states that the cues you filter from others are affected by your self-concept.
One’s self-concept is molded during their formative years, especially under the influence of their mothers or their primary caregivers. Their responses to the neediness of this stage in their lives influence how they believe others perceive them. Later on in life, the behaviors they have will reflect their experiences in those years. Those who had responsive mothers often grow to have meaningful social connections and have confidence in themselves. On the other hand, those with withdrawn caregivers will act the same way, or they will tend to be obnoxious to ward others away.
William Swann from the University of Texas says that as adults, we rely on other impressions and opinions of us to build and nurture the idea of who we are. Though not entirely permanent, it can be difficult to re-wire our self-concept from childhood. Thus, those who think negatively about themselves will often believe others will do the same, even goading or persuading them to judge harshly as they would prefer to be correct in their assumptions than be wrong.
People’s Actual View of You
On the other side of the spectrum, people will often see others as having a certain view of them, and this is, for the most part, true. On average, people have a consensus on how a person is viewed. However, there are individual factors that can affect this. Each person has their own lens by which they view others, which makes their views consistent. For example, an optimistic and friendly disposition will allow one to view others as good-natured and likable. The reverse would then also be true.
|Each person has their own lens by which they view others, which makes their views consistent / Photo by bbernard via Shutterstock|
Of course, it is difficult to determine just what someone thinks of you by how they interact. Research by psychologist Paul Ekman reveals that most of us cannot distinguish between real and fabricated expressions. This means that while you might’ve thought that the interaction went well, the other person may have faked their agreeability. While at first, it seems like we would easily be able to detect a faked expression, it should be considered that meeting someone involves plenty of talking, listening, and forward planning on what to say next. It makes it difficult for people to interpret someone’s words and actions until after the event has happened, and that is when people mull over what happened and try to interpret whether it was a good or bad interaction. This knowledge will have negative connotations, as it could potentially serve as a person’s justification in thinking that people are simply pretending to like them.
Helpful Character Traits
Your general disposition can, however, be a great help in realizing how you come off to other people. Those who are generally open-minded and adventurous are better able to ask people’s input about them. Those physically aware of how they present themselves can control the presentable aspects of their personality, such as their tone and body language. Those who are also in better control of their emotions are better able to interpret the expressions of others and respond accordingly.
Human perceptions, while highly intelligent, can also be highly complicated. It takes practice to learn what others are thinking and to respond accordingly.