When I was a teenager, I used to volunteer for Kidsline. Kidsline volunteers got to attend training camps which focused on self-awareness and community (an awesome experience that I think should be offered to every young adult). On the last day of the camp, we were asked to write affirmations for each other. Just one or two lines stating what we appreciated about our fellow volunteers.
I remember being amazed to read that people saw in me the qualities I aspired to have and admired/envied in others. They described the person I wanted to be as the person I was. It was the first time I really understood that my perception of myself is not necessarily how others perceive me – it is only one story out of many. It was also the first time I felt like I had been seen. I held onto my collection of affirmations for the next seven years, until the earthquake. I wanted to keep that feeling with me: I am understood, I am accepted, I am loved.
Despite living in an individualists society where we are encouraged not to care what others think of us, I really care what other people think of me.
This can be dangerous when I make assumptions about what people are thinking, and these assumptions get mixed up with my (often negative) projections. It can also be valuable, as it makes me aware of the way I interact with people and what I can offer them.
I want to give people the best of myself. So it’s important to me that they feel relaxed and at ease when they are around me; that they feel heard and supported; that they enjoy my way of being and what I have to say. It matters to me that the person at the supermarket checkout knows I’m grateful for their help bagging my groceries. It matters to me that my colleague feels like I’ve listened to their ideas and has confidence I will do something worthwhile with them. It matters to me that my friend feels good about her or his self whenever we spend time together. It matters to me that my parents believe I will use the hard-earned wisdom they share with me to create happiness in my life. It matters to me that my boyfriend thinks my snoring is cute.
Most of all, it matters to me that people see I am trying to live my values and contribute positively to the world, and in seeing my stumbling along, they see me.