Do we ever really see ourselves the way others see us? If we are lucky, we've had courageous and loving people in our lives (who hopefully possess great tact) that have reflected back to us what they see. If we've been given this gift, and if we choose to listen with open minds, we can grow.
Granted, not everyone sees us the same way, but there are undeniable traits we possess that are obvious to all. I'm sure I'll never know all the impressions I've made on others (thank God) but I have learned some good and not-so-good things about myself.
I've been told I can come across as a "know it all." Not very flattering and not what I want to project. I just read a lot and love to share what I learn. (And, hey, I will readily admit if I don't know something....) Maybe I just mistakenly assume that sharing something I've learned, especially if it provides a little insight to life or relationships, will be embraced by all. I've spent my life in education and counseling psychology and among colleagues who also love to read and share what they learn. I imagine in my "teaching circle", we have an unspoken understanding of the way we communicate stuff, but perhaps to those outside that circle, it comes across as "preaching" or "know it all". But more likely, this image is just the fault of me alone, my mannerisms, my attitudes, my words, because I don't think people would say all teachers come across as know-it-alls. I admit I am passionate about some topics. So, my challenge is learning how to talk about things in a way that truly facilitates discussion, instead of offending or annoying people. It may not always appear so, but I am working on it.
On the up side, I'm open and accessible. A colleague of mine once told me that my most appealing quality was my openness. But he also said to be careful with whom I am open, because "some people will hurt you with that." (I have been too trusting at times.) I'm not sure why openness comes naturally to me --- maybe it's because since childhood, I've frequently felt misunderstood and I don't want to be. Or maybe it's because it feels dishonest not to be. Like I'm hiding secrets by not being open. Or that I'm ashamed of something. (Of course, there are enough things I've done or said that I regret. It's only human. But admitting them openly is healing, and it seems the more I can do that, the more I can accept/forgive myself.) Or maybe it's because it's important to me for my "outside" to match my "inside", so that it's easy to know me. Then if you don't like what you come to know, well, not everyone can like us. But if you do like what you come to know, then you like me for myself, the good and bad. Besides, it takes an awful lot of energy to project an image for the world rather than just being oneself.
So do you think I've heeded my friend's warning? Here I am spilling my guts, in writing no less.
Maybe right now, my need to self-express is greater than my need to self-protect.