The Perceptions of Others are None of Your Business, or Are They?

Who we turn to for honest feedback matters on our journey to know ourselves, to own our lives, and create unique pathways of service. Sometimes trusted others’ perceptions and experiences of us light the way. At other times, people project their own pain, expectations, or limiting beliefs onto us. Learning to sift through what might be useful to our growth, grab the treasures, and dump out the rest can be quite a process.

People seem to love to share opinions solicited and unsolicited with others. Add another soundtrack called the thoughts in our mind, and it is no wonder that we end up a bit confused about who we really are and what we are supposed to do with our lives.

A while ago a dear friend in my network let me know that he saw me as a visionary for Cherish Your World. I was touched by this inspiring perception of me. I shared this feedback with a different friend. She fiercely advised me not to include this in anything I said or wrote about myself. She felt it to be “bragging.” Her words: “If others say this about you, that’s fine, but don’t you dare say it about yourself.” I heeded her advice.

Just recently two very close friends let me know that I’m really smart and intuitive, but sometimes I come off as emotional. They invited me to keep integrating my intellect with my intuition and emotions. This made sense to me as I do cry easily and most likely am sometimes perceived as soft with no backbone or little intellect even though this remains far from the reality of who I am.

I sometimes openly get teary-eyed with this mix of grief and gratitude in front of others, including people I’ve recently met. Knowing my whole life that public crying is definitely not cool has not made a great deal of difference to my heart and eyes. I may continue to work on this one or radically accept that I have a tender heart and leave others to deal with their discomfort.

In my past, I learned to shroud my intelligence. Being a smart young woman was not cool. I noticed in different settings when I shared insights about our political world or football, I got asked when I was getting married and having children. Even today, I can see how others may not know I earned higher degrees and that I really am smart. And I also know intellect means little if you are unable to apply it to life situations.

You have to be brave enough to examine what you don’t know that you don’t know about yourself. You may walk around with misperceptions of yourself, and others can show up as seers.

Others, who actually have your back and want you to be fulfilled, are often amazing at sharing what they see about you. Sometimes it’s easier to see others’ blind spots, but not our own. Alternatively, it can be easy to see the best in others, excuse or even deny their gaffs, and painfully notice our own flaws and imperfections. And others may tell us they are perfect exactly the way they are, and that nothing needs to be altered or be refined.

When others see your goodness and the parts of your “work in progress,” you have a richer picture of yourself. From this place you can run all of it by your own inner guidance system to see if it resonates with your heart. Finding that quiet place of bearing witness may be helpful in shedding any limiting beliefs and embracing the deeper truths of who you are. You hear others’ feedback and your own thoughts as possible truths. More important, you can choose what you create, what actions you take, and what you give to our world.

Who do you listen to for honest feedback about who you are and why you are here? Has this been helpful to you? Have others helped you see your gifts and places where you could shift words or behaviors to be the best version of yourself?


Laura Staley
Laura Staley
The founder of Cherish Your World, Laura Staley passionately helps people thrive by guiding them to a holistic transformation of space, heart, mind, body, and soul. Laura knows that there’s a relationship between the conditions of our homes or workplaces and the quality of our lives. Trained and certified with the Western School of Feng Shui and seasoned by almost two decades of working with a variety of clients, Laura uses her intuition and expertise to empower her clients to produce remarkable results in their lives. Her trifecta of serving people includes speaking, writing, and compassionate listening. As a columnist, Laura writes personal essays focused on self-discovery, feng shui, emotional health, and transformations from the inside out. Laura is the published author of three books: Live Inspired, Let Go Courageously and Live with Love: Transform Your Life with Feng Shui, and the Cherish Your World Gift Book of 100 Tips to Enhance Your Home and Life. Prior to creating her company, Laura worked as a fulltime parent and an assistant professor at Ohio Wesleyan University. She earned a Ph.D. in political science from The Ohio State University. Her joys in life include laughing with loved ones, dancing, reading, meditating, running, being in nature, and listening to music she loves. She resides in Black Mountain, NC with lovable dog, Layla. Laura is a contributing author to the inspiring book Crappy to Happy: Sacred Stories of Transformational Joy

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  1. It is proven that the belief that one person has about another can influence his future behavior; this effect is called the “Pygmalion effect”.
    Depending on the type of label in question, it can positively or negatively influence a person’s development; this can affect a specific area of a person’s life or his or her personality in general. In other words, attributing a specific label to a person at a specific moment can influence it throughout one’s life: it can affect one’s personality, feelings, emotions, one’s vision of oneself and the way of dealing with the events of real life. In reality, this “judgment” should be something temporary, nothing more than a stage in life.
    The suggestion is to eliminate the labels, since we are all beings with great capacity for change and adaptation. The only thing these judgments cause is to create limits in people; even positive beliefs, in the long run, can acquire negative connotations: we are not always equal in the eyes of others.
    We transform into what we believe we are and often behave in a certain way only to obtain labels (“genius”, “successful person”, …) or to avoid them (“weak”, “person to avoid”, …) and not to follow our interests.
    On the other hand, it is important to ensure that no one sets limits, that no one tells us what we are or are not capable of doing; we chase our dreams, we fight for them and we never stop trying!

    • Oh, I so appreciate your thoughtful and valuable contribution to this discussion, Aldo. You’ve stated many meaningful ideas as I do believe that something can shift around placing labels on people or shaming them. Words can shape realities. Yes, indeed! I especially appreciate your encouragement to “ensure that no one sets limits, that no one tells us what we are or are not capable of doing; we chase our dreams, we fight for them and we never stop trying!”

      I recently learned from a number of people that they are afraid to ask for help-not feeling safe to learn new things, to make mistakes as we learn seems to be quite a challenge for many people-as these responses to another post indicated. Creating safe places, environments for human beings to develop, to become could be essential—eliminating judgment, shame, criticism and allowing curiosity, wonder, imagination to flourish…

      Thank you, again, for these valuable ideas you’ve shared. Aldo!

  2. Laura, I love this and your question is something we often ask our self often. I was taught a way of being as a child and it has been part of my life always. I think we have to be mindful about to much self reflection. I am because of how I lived my life and to be honest I don’t ponder about who I am. I just live my life as it comes and I try to live by these words from my Daddy, From Daddy, I learned a way of being that would stay with me for a lifetime. He taught me that we give quietly, help without expectation, and always have a cool bucket of water by the well for the dusty traveler. He would say that’s who we are and what we do. It is the way of being in our family. it is very uncomplicated.

    • Oh, Larry, what a simple, yet eloquent message that your Daddy offered you-wise words to live by. I appreciate you offering this perspective as I had a very different childhood. I’m grateful to know that you haven’t had to struggle with years of introspection to discover simple truths about yourself, about being human. Your reflections definitely feel like that “cool bucket of water by the well for the dusty traveler.” I’m certain I’ve been that dusty, muddy, burr covered, nettles underneath the fingernails traveler. Because I lived with so many hidden, unspoken traumas and cruel words spoken to me about me, I have found the process of pulling apart truths from introjects, reality from twisted perception essential to healing and becoming. t Thank you so much for your insights, for sharing the simple wisdom that you’ve embodied since childhood. Beautiful.

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