Someone made an offhand comment to me a couple months ago that has stuck with me ever since. It was someone I had just met, and I was photographing them, and at some point I said “you look like a bad ass!” and they laughed. Not a shy chuckle, but they were genuinely amused. I asked them why they were laughing and felt surprised a bit – I was expecting to reassure them that they truly were rocking the shoot. Instead, she said “it’s just funny — it’s like being called a bad ass by a cute little kitten”. This obviously wasn’t meant to be insulting, but it’s just been stuck in my head. Do I really strike people as a “cute little kitten”? What about me and my personality made her think this? Is this something common that people gather about me, or was this unique? It really bothered me because I don’t see myself this way at all. So it has lead to many deep thoughts about self-perception.

I would be willing to bet that every single person alive has some personal idea of how they are, how their personality is, their aura, the vibe they give off to others, their demeanor. And I’d also be willing to bet that at least 99% of us are totally wrong. The way we feel inside isn’t always the way we express ourselves on the outside, which is often a shame. I for one know that I am not always openly the person that I truly am, for better or for worse. The reasons why it hides vary — shyness, insecurity, attempting to fit into some other mold. It seems impossible to be 100% yourself, 100% of the time. And you open yourself up, ultimately, to people not liking things about you. But that’s okay. My Mom is a huge proponent of this — being truly yourself so you weed out everyone who is not meant to be close to you, and you reel in those who are. I’ve watched her fully blossom into her true self over the past 7 or 8 years and it’s been awesome. She’s an encouraging example of just saying “fuck it” and putting yourself out there.

I don’t know if I want to be a “cute little kitten”, and I may never know what about me struck her that way. Is it my more positive qualities — being warm, kind, friendly? Or some not-so-positive ones — being shy, timid, lacking a sense of confidence and power? Either way, it motivates me to always be aware of putting forward my most honest and true face.

5 thoughts on “Self-Perception

  1. In graduate school I took a full class on perception and how the self is created, and ever since then I’ve been obsessed with this subject (have you read Virgina Woolf’s The Waves? It’s a hard read, but explores exactly what you’re contemplating in such a dynamic way that it’s my all time favorite book). Through exploring multiple theories, I’ve always believed what’s suggested in The Waves, which is that the self is NOT entirely created by oneself, but is partially co-created by others. I can, through every fiber of my being, push myself out to the world as being a dynamic, fabulous person through Facebook, through my body language, through my interactions with others, etc, but that’s only half of the conversation– how people read and understand what I put out into the world is just as important toward creating who you are. The end result is a multifaceted conversation that is constantly evolving and changing and not completely controllable. For as many people who think I am outgoing, there are others who I am sure believe I am shy, or a jerk, or outspoken, etc. etc. There are people who disagree with me, but I can’t entirely believe that I’m entirely the only one in control of who I am.


    1. This is very true. I will definitely put that book on my list — it sounds like a freaking fascinating read. I suppose my biggest struggle on a day-to-day basis is the thought that people may be incorrectly perceiving who I am (or how I am, why I am, etc) because I am occasionally too shy, too hesitant, too nervous to really, truly be myself 100%.


  2. I do think that we can act in many different ways all at the same time without not being ourselves. Maybe the “shy me” can co-exist with the “outgoing me” harmoniously and we don’t need to feel bad about not being ourselves with certain people, because we just are multifaceted. A “cute little kitten” is only one of the possibilities of who you are and it might not even be the one you identify with, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that this isn’t a small part of who you are either.


  3. I’ve had this happen to me on SEVERAL occasions. Some of them I found amusing, others I felt a little shafted. Usually I just end up feeling so confused because some assumptions can seem so off base (at least to me). I got a lot of it when I was a bartender. I’ve heard everything from “I was pretty sure you were a lesbian because you’re all tatted up and kind of a bitch” WAT?! people are so weird. I’m a bit fascinated with Kate’s comment though. Such a great perspective. I would take the crap out of that class!


    1. Thank you! I agree – sometimes I think they’re hilarious. Or sometimes I’m hugely complimented when someone seems to pick up on a part of my personality that I personally love. But sometimes — like this instance — I was like, whaaa? And it’s so hard to tell what people MEAN when they say things (and sometimes it’s weird to ask), so you’re just left confused. But I’m glad you can relate, since you definitely strike me as the type of person who puts herself out there a bit more than I do. 🙂


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