How we see ourselves vs how others see us

fat woman

There is the person we see when we look into the mirror, then there is the person that others see when they look at us.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

A colleague had me doubling up in laughter recently when she recounted the embarrassing way in which she realised she had piled up the kilos during the almost two years that some of us worked from home at the height of Covid-19.

In preparation for returning to work, she decided to buy a few new clothes, and went shopping, having done some research online and identified a shop that had the kind of outfits she was looking for.

One of the factors that motivated her to choose this shop was because the clothes were grouped in sizes, which would save her the hassle of having to sort through an assortment of clothes in different sizes. All she had to do was browse around one spot.

Anyway, this colleague got in and asked where size 12 clothes were displayed, only for the sales girl to look her up and down, not rudely, rather, with an expert eye, and tell her that size 14 would be a better fit.

My colleague tells me that she was so offended, the next words that came from her mouth came out in a stutter,

“Excuse me, I’m a size 12…” she said haughtily, and resumed her ‘rudely’ interrupted walk to the size 12 corner, nose up in the air. To cut a long story short, she fitted every one of those clothes, and they were many, but all got stuck at the hips. By then, she was sweating like a pig – struggling out of one outfit and into another and then another can be exerting…

It is then that it dawned on her that she had piled on a couple of kilos. Meekly, and with as much humility as she could muster, she approached the sales girl and asked, sheepishly, where the size 14s were…

The sales girl had seen what she hadn’t.

This story brought to mind another similar one, though in this case, reflective glass was involved. This friend was running errands in town and instinctively glanced at her refection while passing by a building whose walls were partly clad with reflective glass.

Staring back at her was a familiar-looking overweight woman wearing too-tight clothes. For a second, this friend was puzzled, until she realised, with horror, that she was the person in the mirror. She could not believe that she had gotten that big without realising it. She did not need any more prompting to hit the gym and start checking her portion sizes.

But this article is not about weight gain and how some of us are either in denial or don’t realise that we are overweight until someone points it out. I simply wanted to illustrate how we sometimes are clueless about ourselves, yet we’re supposed to know ourselves better than others know us. The fact is that most of the time we have a vision of ourselves that is totally different from how others see us. There is the person we see when we look into the mirror, then there is the person that others see when they look at us.

In most cases, the person we think we are is a figment of our imagination, we look at ourselves in the mirror daily, so to speak, and our mind’s eye tends to see what it wants to see, not the actual reflection. However, when others look at us, they see us with new unbiased eyes, which is why it is important to, once in a while, listen to what others have to say about us, and I’m talking about constructive criticism here. Who knows, we might just learn something about ourselves that will motivate us to become better people.

The writer is editor, Society & Magazines, Daily Nation. Email: [email protected] ke.nationmedia.com

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