It has often felt to me that I have been a person about whom people have generally had strong opinions about and reactions to. I have strong opinions and reactions and it seems to elicit them from others… certainly when I have bombastic failure interactions with people (and I do) it doesn’t help that person’s opinion. Certainly a history with fairly systemic bullying doesn’t help my opinion of my own life based on what I have experienced. The flipside to this is that I’m a shy person in most public spaces and it is hard to remember shy people, which I remind people of when they get down on themselves for not remembering my name.

So I believe my history influences me towards worrying that people are talking about me if they remotely dislike me. It is something I have a well versed pattern for understanding and the effects of this are things I try to deal with as I can; as I become aware of them.

At this point in my life, I am an adult capable of dealing with my problems far more effectively than when I was a child mired in a total instition wherein I was subject daily to the people who didn’t like the cut of my jib. While I am still affected by the experiences I’ve had, there are a few things I can be aware of that will help me in moving forward.

  • I mishear things, and my brain has a history with hearing rotten things said about me: I spent roughly nine years actively hearing nasty things said about me in a class room, hallway or playground setting. Not only am I actually hard of hearing; but my brain has more practice piecing together rotten nasty things for people to have said about me than anything else.
    • Asking for people to repeat what they said either gives them a chance to clarify confusion on my part, or consider that if they DID say  something hurtful that I might have heard them. Either way, its a win.
    • Sometimes if someone is prone to conflict, asking that person to repeat what they said might be seen as an invitation to fight. There’s a time and a place for everything.

And the crown jewel in my current thought palace: That people’s opinions of me mean more about them than they do about me… and that I have done very well making my life out of people who are deeply and intensely emotionally aware and who are open to the lessons life has to offer. People have opinions about the other people in their community: I cannot escape this and neither can anyone else.

People have negative opinions about us sometimes. This article by Miller discusses the concept of projection and how to deal with it when it is happening to you. While this article by Ford discusses the concept of projection and how to deal with it when you catch yourself doing it. I liked both of them equally but feel like a more personal approach to projection is more appropriate, we can only really diagnose it in ourselves. But Miller’s article about dealing compassionately with projection has something that I would like to reference directly:

Most of us are familiar with the two selves we usually have in play in our interactions: one is our authentic soul self, the whole constantly-evolving rainbow of which would take thousands of years to reveal adequately in time. Then there is the public part of us that we lead with.

But it may surprise us to learn there is a third “self” in play that we have no control over, and that is the other person’s projection of us.

For the sake of this article, I’m going to call this third self a “fetch,” which is a term from ghost lore: a fetch is an apparition of a person who is still living. A fetch looks like us but isn’t: it is an apparition of us, but not really us at all.

We might not ever experience the more supernatural fetch, but we all are pretty sure to encounter its modern counterpart. (Miller, 2016: http://mariashriver.com/blog/2013/08/the-mask-and-the-mirror-how-to-deal-compassionately-with-projection-laura-miller/)

The idea that you have a third ‘self’ running about; that which is others’ perception of you based on the you they see with no context, the you that they see at events, online and the you that is a stranger to them. Miller goes on to discuss what to do when direct evidence that your fetch is out of control in someone’s perception of you and references this as being challenged to rise up to the fetch: I perceive this as calmly changing someone’s opinion of you based on authentic interaction. Be this authentic interaction some kind of joyful play interaction, a display of vulnerability to connect and empathize, or a calm discussion that allows the real you to shine; I believe we have an amount of control over our fetch insofar as we are able to meet each person; that might or might not be projecting when they challenge us, with a clean slate and without projecting ourselves.

If you are challenged to rise up to the fetch that someone is projecting, you might be able to achieve more and stretch your limits because of that.

But the other thing a fetch can do is make you more aware of how you do come across to others. It can help you consider yourself as part of an intricate network of vulnerability and feeling among people.

It’s commonly understood now that people’s projections are about them, not about us, but that doesn’t mean that their projections, our fetches, are only their problem.

We can only deal with our fetch in a completely roundabout or completely direct way: I don’t believe there is a middle ground.

  • The indirect method, which is my generally prefered way because it is simple. Stand tall and be who you are. Work on what you are working on and surround yourself with people that treat you well. Attempt to be kind to all you meet; for we are all fighting a hard battle. And address problems the best way you can with the information you have at the time and wait for things to occur before you worry.
  • The direct method is for once you are aware there is an issue. Issues big enough to make you aware of them come either in an indirect or direct form themselves. Indirectly you might hear someone is displeased with you; it best behooves to remember that the person telling you this might be projecting on your behalf, or directly someone might come to you with a problem.
    • If it seems like someone might have a problem with you big enough that other people know about it: checking in is probably the best thing to do and if done gently can cut a lot of problems in half. Examples: “So I heard you been talkin’ shit.” NO. “Wondering if I could check in with you and see if there’s anything I can explain or amend for, I’m worried about your opinion of me has suffered recently.” BETTER.
      • This might not go well no matter how you do it. If someone’s cheesed off enough that you’re hearing about it from other people this is probably not a situation you are going to enjoy no matter how well or poorly it goes.
    • If someone has come to you directly about something there’s a few reasons why they do it. No matter what, I believe it is best to address them as if they are a friend who is worried about you and taking your response from there.
      • If they are a friend who is worried about you, they want to be addressed. They MIGHT not be an awesome communicator and their direct confrontation of you might be terribly uncomfortable. They might be a decent communicator who is terribly angry about one thing or another and this is probably worse; because getting a direct communcation full of insults to your person that you’re supposed to respond to kindly is being set up to fail.
      • If they are not a friend, you might get direct communication from someone who doesn’t like you specifically to throw you off balance. People do mean, vindictive things sometimes. Sometimes a person who is not a friend might send a nicer letter than someone who is a friend because they aren’t invested in the situation at all beyond trying to leverage it for power over you.
      • Your job: is to address this as authentically as you can which involves letting the person know they have been heard. Don’t address insults or unreasonable requests. And explain only so far as you feel comfortable explaining things. Friends get explainations for things sometimes, enemies will use an explaination against you, but friends don’t always need an explaination immediately: what I’m looking for in a friend is to make sure I know they heard me, understood me and might take my position into consideration in the future.

If someone’s opinion of me is based in fact and other people share that opinion of me based on their interactions with me: who the hell am I to say that’s not who I am? But if all those people are stringently avoiding me I don’t have to pay attention to what they think. I can just be who I am as per I know it.

If my opinion about someone is not based in reality and isn’t shared by or similar to many peoples’ in my communities: what the hell does it matter that I hold this opinion? And if someone has an issue with my opinion of them based on my direct experience, why would they strike out at the people they’re supposed to be friends with who still view me positively for refusing to change their opinion… or mine.

I seek to let my own experience of people form my perception of those people for precisely the reason that for so many years my direct experience was formed and affected by the negative perception of me by my peers.

 

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