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Psychology | perceptions of self

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The only perception that early man had of himself, was what he saw when he looked at other people. Looking at their reflection in a pool of water was probably quite intriguing. We can see our reflections using mirrors at any time.

Is what we see in the mirror a true reflection of what we look like? We often try to change that image with changes in hair style and clothes, women change that image with cosmetics. The way we look in the mirror also changes with our mood. We have a perception of self and that perception frequently changes. Designer details on clothes change our perceptions of clothes and minor details that we see in the mirror changes our perception of ourselves. Tiny wrinkles become  important, the single grey hair that no one will notice must be hidden.

Mood also changes our perception of ourselves when we look in the mirror, when we are happy we always look better. Sadness and anger make us look quite ugly. Recognition is an important skill for survival and even small babies have in-built pattern recognition abilities. They are able to recognise their mother and respond to their mother. Baby ducks will follow a human that they think is their mother, because that ‘pattern’ was what they saw when they were born.

Our identity, our sense of self, is partly because of what we see in the mirror, but like early man partly what we see in other people. Other people reflect our mood and behaviour. If we are friendly, people are friendly to us. If we are aggressive, others will respond with aggression.  Other people mirror our souls.

We project an image that is dependant on our mood and behaviour. We can try to think positively and behave in a acceptable and non-judgemental way to improve relationships. We can be more aware of our image. Do you want people to think of you as a idiot? Then don’t behave like one! Do you want respect from people? Then show them respect and listen to what they say. Respect their beliefs and culture; encourage them, rather than condemn them.

We live in a sophisticated world where images can be as video or as photos. We not only see what we look like in the mirror, but have to look at passport photos that make us look like criminals. We have Gravatars and profile pictures, much of our background is on the internet for all to see. Even a bad mistake in our past can change the way people perceive us and make us appear untrustworthy or disreputable. In some ways, our entire environment now mirrors who we are. We can be judged on how tidy our home is, how well groomed the garden is; how clean and polished the car is or how well dressed we are. It is our behaviour that we are most judged on though and it is that which we have most control over.

Please share your thoughts in the comments box.

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