Constantly comparing myself to other people is a bad habit of mine. I know it’s not helpful or productive. At my overindulgent worst, it leaves me feeling anything from restless to insecure to downright unhappy. In the past months, it’s become more pronounced. It reminds me of that old joke,
Patient: Doctor, it hurts when I do this.
Doctor: So, don’t do that.
I’m still actively looking for full-time work and freelance copywriting while some of my friends are retired or semi-retired. They mirror status, achievements, stability and well-being I think I should have attained for myself by now. Instead, I’m still rambling around in the desert; deciding what I want to be when I grow up.
Using people as mirrors plants seeds of niggling doubt in my mind. But what if the opposite was true? During my career, several people have written letters of recommendation, and I am always surprised by what I read. I remember one letter in particular making me do a double take – was that really what I was like or was the letter writer being “nice?” What if I borrowed their reflections of my looking glass self to discover the me that they see? Would it be effective in changing the paradigm of self-concept?
The writer of a very recent letter of character reference described me as “…highly loyal and dedicated to her work at hand.”
When an ex co-worker made a comment about me, another co-worker remarked on my honesty and the fact that a person always knew where they stood. This one stuck in my mind because I previously viewed this as one of my more “prickly” characteristics that I needed to work on, while the woman who made the remark appeared to see it as a plus.
In an email, another friend described me as “sensitive, thoughtful and intelligent.” (Yes, I did check that I hadn’t accidentally been cc’d.) But the comment that sparked the idea of really paying attention to someone else’s perception of me was, “Your writing resonates with me and inspires me.” It really meant a lot to me to hear that.
I know that ultimately it only matters how I see myself. But on the days I wake up a little shaky, it’s good to be able to use the more positive perceptions of others as mirrors.