Not long ago, I was at a Women’s’ retreat in Napa Valley. I was with some amazing, accomplished, Godly women whom I did not know well, or at all, before that weekend. Over the course of our weekend of activities and self-reflection, various members of the group allowed me to see their perceptions of me. Because they are kind and positive people, those perceptions were flattering. I felt honored and seen. A few of the ladies also shared their visions of what they thought I could achieve in the future and what impact I could possible have. I have to admit, their vision far outreached the dreams I have dared to dream for myself. It really made me reevaluate as to whether I sell myself (and my God) short by not setting higher goals.
I have generally been a proponent of not paying too much attention to what others think of me. I certainly don’t want to allow myself to be limited by the skepticism of others or brought down by the haters. However, sometimes it may be beneficial to at least listen to what others are saying. Maybe they will see me better than I see myself. The flip side (and the side requiring more bravery) is that we might learn some hard, but true, facts about ourselves. Maybe we say or do things that, unbeknownst to us, hurt or offend others. Maybe our view of ourselves is overinflated. The tricky part is being able to gain perspective. In seeing ourselves as others see us, we gets a different perspective. The next step is to honestly and bravely examine that other perspective. Is it valid? Is it partially valid? Or is it just empty flattery or hateful lashing out? To discern the difference requires introspection and some knowledge and understanding of the source. If we can make that distinction, a lot can be learned from seeing ourselves through the lenses of others.