I recently saw a meme in which a person is smiling or laughing in the first panel, then looks utterly dismayed in the second. The second panel’s overlay reads: “Tfw [that feeling when] I realize I’m being perceived by everybody else who ever interacts with me.”
This meme is one of many that exemplifies Zoomer (Generation Z) culture. It’s a joke — probably not unrelated to growing up with social media — that encapsulates a very human emotion in a very absurdist way.
Of course everyone knows they’re being perceived — we’ve all known it since we could consolidate memories. The joke is realizing that we have internal perceptions of ourselves (the truest “us” there is), and that there are external perceptions of us — fragments of ourselves that we present to others. The delta, or difference, between the two is what scares us.
We think we know how others perceive us based on the experiences we’ve shared, but human memory is a notoriously fickle thing. How can we really know how others perceive us? Chances are that our shared experience involves three stories. As the late film producer Robert Evans put it, “There are three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the truth.”
Our experiences are defined by many factors: our mood, whether we are really present in the moment, our preconceptions about someone, our preconceptions about their preconceptions about us, the weather, and whatever else we are currently perceiving at the moment. This is true for you and everyone you interact with. Both of your perceptions are filtered through these factors.
There’s a reason a mother’s golden mantra is, “When people are mean to you, they’re jealous of you.” It seems so cliché and cheesy, but there’s something to it. Think about it: People are mean to those they don’t like, but why do we dislike someone? Maybe because they are rude to us, or one of their characteristics rubs us the wrong way.
Consider people you have disliked in the past. Did any of them have a characteristic you admired but didn’t possess? Maybe they were comfortable with who they were. Maybe they were confident, disciplined, or appeared to have accomplished more than us.
Whatever it is, we tend to project our insecurities onto others. We tend to view everyone in our light. We believe that if we’ve overcome struggles, other people should overcome struggles — otherwise, they’re not as tough as us. Or we think the people who overcame struggles when we failed had an extra advantage: “If I had just a bit more time, I would be so good at playing guitar. My job is busier, so they have a time advantage.” These are weak excuses, and really, they’re just insecurities.
Consider your insecurities for a brief moment. (I know it’s difficult to honestly look in the mirror.) As a gesture of good faith, I’m going to consider my most authentic insecurity — and nope, it’s not cystic fibrosis. It’s my height. I am 5 feet, 7 inches. I have struggled with cystic fibrosis in many ways, but have never been insecure about it. Luckily, I learned at a young age that I could embrace my disease and leverage it to enact change — either through advocacy or by using it to convey the importance of compassion and empathy to others. For whatever reason, I’ve not felt the same way about my height. They’re both out of my control, defined by my genetic code at birth.
But that’s how insecurities work. They are rooted in something potentially rational, but they manifest irrationally. Other people are not thinking about us nearly as much as we think they are. Everyone is so preoccupied with their own lives and insecurities that they don’t have enough spare time to think about others that much. When they do, their thoughts are probably far more boring than we imagine them to be.
Insecurities have another layer: We need not be preoccupied with people who intend to amplify our insecurities. Anyone who is willing to make you feel worse about yourself is not a true friend. And it’s on us to emanate that energy into the universe.
Whether it’s height, cystic fibrosis, or another issue, we all know how bad it feels when someone makes us feel worse about our insecurities. Why would we want anyone else to feel that way?
Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.
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