Dealing with People – It’s Complicated
After going through some tough weeks, I’ve been reevaluating my life choices and doing some deep thinking. The truth is, interacting with people can be quite stressful for me, I become tired and overwhelmed, and it’s challenging to keep myself in check especially when stress continues to pile up from seemingly unnecessarily difficult interactions. I have found myself walking away from these encounters, reflecting more and more on how complicated, stressful, or enjoyable they were. As I try to understand why this bothers me, I have been contemplating how and why we adapt our personalities in different circumstances and interactions, and how others then perceive us differently depending on the situation. Is this what we truly want?
It often feels like I’m acting out different roles in a play. At home, I’m a caring and nurturing parent; at work, I adopt a more disciplined managerial persona, and with friends, I become a supportive companion. I don’t know if these are right and because each role requires different behaviors, it influences how others see me. Sometimes these roles overlap, and one characteristic takes precedence, further altering the perception of the person I’m interacting with.
The way we communicate and show empathy plays a crucial role in how others perceive us. Depending on the situation or context, we allow people to form different opinions about who we are. Going back to my work example, I may adopt a professional demeanor but the truth is I often feel stressed, overwhelmed, and busy, and this might lead some to see me as being “forthright and efficient,” as I move through my day, while others may perceive me as “cold and factual.” but the reality is, I am just trying to get it all done. It’s interesting to think about how my actions, not my true self, contribute to those assumptions.
The Impact On Self Image
A more significant concern is how these perceptions impact my own self-image. I see myself as someone who is flexible, curious, and caring, but that might not be how others see me. It can be challenging to understand why people’s opinions matter, but unfortunately, they often vocalize their character assumptions about us without considering the effect it has on our self-esteem and perceptions. Phrases like “You are …” or “I understand you are …” can be so powerful, shaping how we see ourselves and how we feel about our identities. I have been feeling increasingly adrift and my confidence is definitely being shaken on a weekly basis. This lack of self-confidence bleeds across other areas of my life, and before long, it adds to my mini spirals and has me questioning – my life choices.
What does it mean to be British?
Cultural norms and societal expectations also have a significant impact on our interactions. My British background has influenced me to be sarcastic, self-deprecating, and dismissive of challenges, whether they are genuine or not. However, it didn’t take me long to notice that these traits are often misunderstood in this culture, making it difficult for me to be my authentic self.
My true personality is characterized by being off the cuff, funny, and yes, sometimes a bit dark and offhand. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always align with societal expectations, so I find myself holding back and presenting a more carefully crafted external persona. It’s a way to fit in and adhere to what I perceive as the cultural norm in my current environment. Consequently, others may not always understand what I’m genuinely thinking or feeling. I suspect that many people also navigate these complexities and adapt to the cultural contexts they find themselves in. The truth is, because of this adaptation we aren’t even our authentic selves anymore and eventually it can be difficult to truly know who we are.
Beyond my Britishness, the context of a situation also shapes how I present myself. In professional settings, I emphasize competence and professionalism, while in casual settings, I showcase humor and light-heartedness. However, my darker sense of humor rarely sees the light outside of my close circle.
Realizing that we appear differently to different people in various circumstances highlights the complexity of human identity. It’s not fixed; instead, it’s adaptable and influenced by social roles, cultural influences, and subjective perceptions. Accepting this diversity in perception can foster empathy and respect toward others’ unique identities. It’s not always easy, and sometimes it requires insight and maturity to truly grasp this concept. For those of us who are neurodiverse, like some members of my household, we have to be deliberate and honest in our conversations because nuances are not easily recognizable. Expressing emotions explicitly becomes crucial, as facial expressions and voice intonations may not convey them naturally. This understanding has made me more aware of the intricacies of all interactions, not just extreme ones.
Navigating these complexities can be challenging and draining, particularly when dealing with people who have vastly different views. However, recognizing the fluidity of identity and understanding how our responses may change in different situations can lead to more understanding and less struggle for everyone involved. Being honest and clear in communication, paying attention to body language and tone, and actively listening can go a long way in reducing guilt, anxiety, confusion, or delight in understanding what others are trying to convey. I hope that by applying these principles, I can find some relief from overload and return to a more balanced state soon.