Do you ever think about what other people think about you? I mean more than the usual, “Oh my god, I’m so fat” way that people worry about. What I’m trying to get at is what people really think about you as a person. Where do others see you fitting in their world, and what do they think you’re really like?
Questions like this constantly fascinate me because the answers are so odd. The instructor for my Intro to Ethical Theory class in college brought up and interesting point one day, namely that people are walking contradictions. It’s true. People carry around wildly contradicting beliefs, and yet somehow they manage to make it through the day without a core identity meltdown. A few people I know claim to believe in religious principles of equality and fairness, yet they’re the first ones to justify low tipping on the grounds that, “Well, they should’ve gotten a different job if they wanted more money.”
Other times it’s not so simple. Even thieves believe stealing is wrong. I’m sure plenty of politicians believe lying is wrong, even though they’re perfectly aware that many promises made during campaigns aren’t going to get a follow-through. People aren’t strong all the time. We have weaknesses, systemic and momentary. What’s more, there’s a certain part of us that only we see. The mind is perfectly transparent, but it’s a one-way window. We know deep down what we really think, want, and believe. But other people see something else. It’s filtered by what we let out and what they observe. We are distortions of ourselves in the eyes of others.
Recently somebody told me that I’m a constant source of optimism. Ha! I tried to correct the fellow, but he wouldn’t believe a word of it. It makes me wonder what he sees in me that would make him see such a thing. Yet somehow, through that strange alchemy of observation and action, it’s the picture he formed in his head. How does that happen?
I think he’s the optimistic one. It’d take an endless font of hope to think I’m one of the joy-ridden people.