See Yourself Through a Different Set of Eyes

“But enough about me, let’s talk about you. What do you think of me?”
— Bette Middler as CC Bloom in Beaches, 1988.

As bloggers, we’re constantly defining ourselves to our readers. Through our photos, our stories, our poetry, our recipes, or our podcasts, we tell the world who we are. Even those of us who share a great deal of our personal lives still only give snippets of ourselves. We create a public persona (even our choices of blog themes reflect the way we want to represent ourselves online). We choose what we want to share of ourselves, and our readers fill in the rest according to their own points of view. Every reader might have a slightly different idea of who you truly are.

I’ve been thinking about how this applies to my daily life. I have an unconscious habit of creating stories about people I see, but whom I only know in “snippets.” The barista at my local coffee shop, the surly bus driver who never smiles at me no matter how much I try, the harried doctor’s assistant who has the most ornate manicure I’ve ever seen. Without realizing I’ve done it, I’ve developed backstories for them all:

  • The barista always has a bright smile on her face, and she seems to know all the words to all the songs played in the cafe. I think she’s newly in love and she can barely keep her feet on the ground in her euphoria.
  • The bus driver always looks grim, his uniform is disheveled, and he always has 5 o’clock shadow at 8 a.m. I feel like he’s been kicked out of his house. He’s sleeping on a buddy’s couch, and he misses his kids…he emits an aura of loneliness.
  • The doctor’s assistant has a hard time taking my blood pressure because of her nails. Her scrubs are unlike any other employee’s in the office — patterned, and bright. She wears gold and white bedazzled sneakers. I’ve decided she is practicing her act for America’s Got Talent. She cannot wait to bust out of her day job and be a star.

Without consciously choosing to do so, I’ve built backstories for all them based on observation, assumption, and projection. While the stories ring true to me, I could be completely off-base. The bus driver might just be a surly dude who hates to shave, for instance.

This has me wondering — who am I through their eyes?

They only see bits and pieces of me: I carry an extra large travel mug of tea wherever I go, I’m always plugged in to my iPod. I listen to comedy podcasts which make me shriek with laughter…of course, nobody else knows what I’m laughing at, so I might look unhinged. I seem to have accumulated a lot of T-shirts that display cats wearing glasses, and I don them for my walks. I stop and take pictures of things and people that I find amusing. The music at Trader Joe’s makes me dance in the aisles…much to the chagrin of my husband. 

What is my backstory in the mind of the cashier at TJs? Does he wonder how much baby zucchini a human can consume during the week? (Answer: A LOT.) Does he know I have a tendency to hide behind my sunglasses indoors because a) they’re prescription and I usually forget my regular glasses, and b) I’m pretty shy. Or…does he think I’m aloof, and trying to give off a cool vibe?

Have you ever tried to tell your story through another’s Point of View?

How do your kids see you as you try to rush them off for school? What does the pharmacist think when you try to convince him that you lost your newly refilled prescription for painkillers and need another? How about your speed “dates” who have noticed you sweat more and more every time the bell rings? Who are you to outsiders?

This might be something you can reflect on in a post…or maybe you can get creative and present yourself through writing or photography as if from another’s POV. I once had a creative writing assignment in college for which I had to write my obituary based on the view point of an editor who was only given 5 objects that represented my entire life. It was an interesting assignment that called for self-reflection, self-awareness, and at the same time, the ability to step out of my own skin and see myself from the outside.

“Be sure that whatever you are is you.”

―Theodore Roethke

I’m interested to see what you come up with…and to hear if it changes the way you represent yourself to your readers in the future.

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  1. I love this post! I hid who I was for over twenty years, and just recently exposed myself to the world. I’m in transition right now as to how people see me and how I see myself. So interesting to think about!

    Liked by 7 people

  2. There is a saying that too often people learn 3 things about someone and that’s it!. Name . Job …leaves room for one more so careful what you say. Liked the post by the way… Thanks

    Liked by 4 people

  3. This was such a great post. I was (coincidentally) thinking of the word Viewpoint for my “V is for…….” post. So I was amused when I opened my e-mail to find this prompt waiting.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Great post – loved it!
    I used to work in a nightclub taking tickets (and plenty of alcohol-related verbal abuse) on the door. I used to have little “contests” in my mind for Most Unflattering Outfit, Man Least Likely To Pull, Fattest Woman In The Tightest Dress, Worst Hairstyle etc etc. The “winners” were usually the rudest people! As for wondering what THEY thought about ME, well, normally I didn’t need to rely on my imagination as they were pretty direct LOL

    Liked by 5 people

  5. Very true on how we perceive others. I think we all want to maintain a certain image of ourselves hoping that in time this thoughts in our mind will solidify into real person and that is a better you.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Interesting. I used to make up backstories for the interesting people I encountered throughout my dad. Often they were espionage stories. Hmmm, had forgotten about that, might be fun to revisit…

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Everyone sees me as a toy. I am not. I am a creature. I live. I have loves and hates. I have places to go. My purpose is not to be prodded in the right direction and pet because I look cute.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. I love this! Thank you for posting! I am new to writing and already share this mind set. It’s great practice for creative writing. The imagination is endless. I am writing my first psychological thriller and character profiling and back stories have already played such a prominent part in my story so far… Thanks for sharing! Mark

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Thanks Robyn! I will definitely keep you up to date 🙂 it’s exciting! I have been well and truly bitten by the writing bug!


  9. Reblogged this on Ferryman of the souls and commented:
    A very nice prompt to look into indeed. Thank you for this!

    Personally, I am not always sure of what people make of the visible expressions and actions that I show. During the times that I am not with my friends, I actually tend to be self-conscious of the people surrounding me at school. Often times I find myself trying not to look too slouched, making sure my face is devoid of emotion because I worry that I show too much (especially the smiles of amusement), and trying my best to look a little more presentable. I always have my earplugs on, I never meet anyone’s eyes and I am essentially looking down most of the time. I can imagine it probably looks weird when I walk because sometimes I catch myself dragging my body.

    If I’m going to think about what people’s back stories might be for me, it would probably range from shallow little details to deeply analyzed ones. People could say “wow that kid just looks grumpy/sad/overly serious. He must be having a hell of a day. Maybe he failed a test or he lacks sleep because let’s face it, this is college”. Or they could say “that kid is like a ghost, sort of just floating through these halls, nearly always alone. His eyes are searching, but for what? Maybe somewhere to belong”. Whatever they might be, it would be interesting to find out. And truth is, these things are true sometimes, but most days its just me giving off my neutral vibe. Something that can be misconstrued for loneliness, sadness, or even anger. I promise though I am a pretty happy person as well.

    I’ve always prided myself however for taking the time to be self-aware. I like to reflect on who I am as a person and what I do and the circumstances I face. It helps me calm myself and it helps me evaluate myself, to find out whether or not I like the person that I am. Because I believe that forming our personality and character is a never-ending process, something that we must constantly re-evaluate. So this wouldn’t be the first time I asked myself “Who am I to everybody else?”, because it is an important step to the question “Who am I?”

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Interesting:) I usually get inspired to write from pictures, it may seem strange, but the saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ it’s right on the spot for me!
    I do wonder now, what story does my picture projects?
    Thanks for this piece Robyn:)

    Liked by 2 people

  11. This was really interesting to read! I always wonder how I am seen through other people’s eyes because I only give them a snippet of who I am 🙂 I am definitely going to think about this more throughout the next few weeks!

    Liked by 3 people

  12. What is interesting, when I read your post, was the thing which came to mind is that, like with experiments, the result is changed by observation. I have no idea how that applies to this, but it’s what came to mind. It will be interesting to try it.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Great idea, though a bit scary. I do backstories on people all the time, especially when sitting in a coffee house. I’ve encouraged my daughter (15 years old) to do them too. Our unspoken agreement is to do it with kindness. Thanks for this!

    Liked by 3 people