The Eye Of The Beholder

Today this question popped into my head: what is more important, your perception of yourself, or the way that others see you? It's a tough one, isn't it? I like myself. Really, I do. Don't get me wrong, I'm as flawed as every other human...perhaps more ;) Still, I'm content with myself. But despite being happy with who I am, I definitely fall into the people-pleaser category, big-time.

Years ago, I had a discussion with a (sort-of) friend about self-perception. I asked her whether she would rather be average-looking, but feel completely confident and happy with herself all the time, or be strikingly beautiful but filled with self-loathing. Without a beat, she answered, "beautiful."

"But what if you were beautiful to everyone around you, but couldn't see it in yourself?" I asked. "Doesn't that ruin the whole point of being attractive?"

It was like I was speaking another language. "The point of being attractive is to attract others," she answered. "Who cares if you like yourself or not?"

"But you're stuck with yourself from birth to death," I explained. "If you have to live all those years filled with insecurity and misery, who cares whether you're attractive or not? It's like having this delicious meal in front of you and never actually being able to eat it. If you spend your life unable to appreciate your own beauty, then the beauty itself is negated. It has lost all of its pleasing properties."

"I'm happy when other people are happy looking at me," was her answer. "If people find me attractive, I'm happy. If they don't, I'm sad. End of story. There's no separation between my perception of myself, and the perception of others, because they are based on each other."

To me, this was a sure path to misery. How could you possibly ever be content, constantly basing your worth on what someone else thinks of you? It saddened me, but I've become well-aware over the course of my years that you can't change the way people think-they need to do that themselves. The last time I saw this (sort-of) friend, she was still pretty, and still miserable..and her looks weren't holding up well with all those years of unhappiness shining through. Maybe one day her perspective will change. I hope for her sake that it does.