January 7, 2014

How You Can Tell Me Who I Am

As a writer, the best part of my job is also the hardest. I work from home. And whilst I love working from home - particularly the part where I can have a nap after lunch - it can actually be quite isolating. Apart from the baristas at my local café (who I visit most days for their cuteness coffee), I can go for days without seeing anyone. I have to make a concerted effort to see friends and meet people, so as to save myself from falling into a slump in which I forget the powers of speech and can only communicate by typing on a screen.
And so I frequently reach out to acquaintances and online friends, inviting people I have exchanged tweets or emails with to coffee or lunch. As a result, I have shared innumerable cappuccinos with people I barely know. Some have been celebrities, some ordinary citizens like myself, but all have been friendly and interesting in their own ways.


But what is equally as fascinating to me - beyond what I have learned about other people - is what I have learned about myself. Because, as I have discovered, the quickest way to learn who we are is to see ourselves through the fresh eyes of others.
I think with our longstanding friends and our family we fall into familiar patterns of interaction that make recognising ourselves difficult. Being with a new person allows us to have a clean slate, start anew, be whoever we want to be. There is no history and there are no expectations, there are just fresh reactions. And in these fresh reactions we can see who we really are.
And of course, every person brings out something different in each of us. I always thought of myself as anxious, until I began meeting people who believed that I am courageous. And I always thought of myself as being fairly conservative, until I met people who brought out my wilder side.
As counter-intuitive as it may be, I think that the key to learning about ourselves is, sometimes, to stop looking inwards, and begin focussing on others. Get out amongst the people. Socialise. Make friends. And without effort, without conscious thought, amidst all those interactions, your true self will begin to emerge.
Try it. And let me know.

23 comments:

  1. Wonderful perspective and thought provoking as usual. Thanks Kerri :-)

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  2. I think I'm the opposite - I find that other people find it much harder to understand me or see "the real me" than I do myself. This can throw me sometimes, because people will make assumptions about me that are so wrong... in fact, sometimes if I listen to other people's views of who I am, I can actually feel lost and lose my sense of self...


    I'm not doubting your experience - I'm kind of jealous that you have that experience with other people - but isn't it interesting how different our experiences are. :)


    Maybe it's because I'm an introvert and need time to myself to find balance in my life...

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  3. I love that you put yourself out there and reach out to all kinds of new people. I think that's so important :) Every now and then when I feel a little isolated as a stay at home mum, I know it's time to get out and about (even if it's a pain in the arse for whatever reason). Gotta stay sane! x

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  4. This x infinity: "the quickest way to learn who we are is to see ourselves through the fresh eyes of others"


    Whenever I get over my shyness and manage to meet new people (well ok, people I've met on social media ... as if I would ever be able to manage a conversation with someone totally new to me) - I always find it so interesting to find out that the way they view me is so very different to the way I see myself. Usually in a good way (usually!)

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  5. I'm not sure how people view me. Not many people tell me. Except for the first time I met Foxy and the first thing she said to me is "You're so much prettier in life than in photos!" Which is, of course, my claim to fame and I'm taking it with me to the grave.

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  6. I agree with John James. Being an extreme introvert as well as shy ( they are different) and having Asperger's I feel people never really see who I am when I meet them for the first time. I am slowly learning not to care about this as much (what others think of you is none of your business, as the saying goes) but still a work in progress...


    I definitely think you are courageous for putting your battles with anxiety out there, without having met you. I still find it hard to talk about with close friends and family.

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  7. Lana (Sharpest Pencil)January 7, 2014 at 5:11 PM

    I love all the people that you are - even the one that texts in state of heightened anxiety at midnight (a state I don't think enough people see you in ;-) )

    So proud of you for just being you.

    xxxx

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  8. Actually I don't think ANYONE else sees me in that state!
    THANK YOU for loving that crazy midnight person!!!! xxx

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  9. Thanks love. Glad you can at least acknowledge it a bit online x

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  10. That's SO funny. I remember clearly Mia Freedman saying that exact same thing to me the first time I met her. I was so proud!! x

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  11. Yes. It was hard initially but it's certainly got easier over the years and now I really don't think twice about it. Otherwise I would go a bit crazy stuck at home!

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  12. Maybe! But I found you very easy to talk to when I met you.....

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  13. Most people do! :)


    But we didn't chat for that long either... It takes a long time to really get to know me, I think... Rhonnifer says I'm a very "closed" person, which is true also... friendly, but closed. :)

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  14. When I first met you Kelly I thought you (a) looked younger than your photos, and (b) were WAY more chatty than I was expecting! ;)

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  15. What a terrific insight. Am glad to be one of your lunch/coffee randoms

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  16. I totally agree with you Kerri...you can learn a lot about yourself by interacting with others. I used to be socially anxious...or at least thought I was and thought I came across as very awkward but last year since pushing myself to be social and get out in large groups, I realise that it's ok and others don't actually see me as being anxious! And the new people I have met in the past year have only helped my more confident and fun self come out...

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  17. I have to agree ... I have been online since the 1980's and started meeting people I met online shortly after. It has been an eye opener in many cases. Even today I enjoy meeting people who I have considered friends online but hadn't met IRL. They only know me from my online persona which actually tends to have less filters than my real life one.


    As for you ... I do see someone who has had the courage to pursue what she has wanted more than once in her life - and has been successful, even if success comes in different degrees. I do think you hide your insecurity about many things behind humor ... and that is a strength as well.


    My wife sees you as someone with whom she can relate, and on those times her OCD/anxiety has her wanting to hide from the world for a bit - she takes your books with her, and that always seems to help for a bit.


    Since you haven't yet invited me for a cappuccino, I offer you a standing invitation to coffee with me when you next come to NYC. Unless, of course, Simon Baker is here filming and invites you first. :-)

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  18. A lot of people don't see me as I see myself or even as I actually am. When I have told people that I see a therapist they always seem shocked and presume I am a confident, happy person. I have to admit that I like when I hear people say that.
    BTW, next time you want to meet someone new and have a coffee, just message me!

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  19. I agree, Kerri. Get out, and meet people. All those people I've *met* via Twitter, without exception, turned out to be lovely people when we met irl. Especially YOU ! xxx :-)

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  20. Such an uplifting post Kerri. And a great excuse to go out more for coffee and cake . xx

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  21. I love chatting to new friends over a coffee (or something stronger) and finding out their story and telling them mine. Its always an entertaining exchange (well I think so anyway, can't talk for the other party!). Even if I do get nervous sometimes I push myself because that's what life's all about - connecting.

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