For all the time and effort we put into appearances, with designer clothes, extravagant trips, VIP experiences, and methodically executed social media posts featuring all of the above, it’s impossible to control the way other people see us. Even the people we are closest to, the people we spend the most time with, only see our lives in fractions, and therefore are incapable of seeing the appearances we work so hard to uphold. Think about it this way. Your children see you as their parent. Your spouse see’s you as a partner. Your parents see you as their child. Your boss see’s you as an employee. None of these people see the wholistic view of your identity, incorporating all of these parts, because you are the only person who can.

Furthermore, every person you come into contact with is viewing the world through their own shade of glasses, maybe they are rose colored, maybe they are blacked out and operating more as blinders. Whatever the case, these glasses further distort an already misperceived view of who you are. Let’s revisit your boss who see’s you purely as an employee. He had a tough upbringing with a borderline abusive father. His dad got rough and aggressive when he thought his son wasn’t working hard enough, in sports, school, or otherwise. They now have a good relationship as adults, mostly because the father thinks he instilled the right values in his son for him to become the boss of your company. Your boss is a good guy, but as he was taught, he get’s angry and accusatory when he see’s people who don’t seem to be working hard enough. Because he only see’s you as an employee, he is angry that you’ve been leaving the office at 3:00 everyday, not knowing or understanding that you drive your kids to sporting events after school. You might see yourself as a hard worker who gets more done in less time so that you have family time in the evenings, but your boss see’s you as someone who is slacking off. He can’t perceive you the way you perceive yourself because he doesn’t see the totality of who you are, and he’s seeing you through a pair of glasses shaded by his experiences.

Even though it is completely out of our control how others see us, we continue to try our best to be seen a certain way. Even as adults, we still strive to impress the cool kids, as if we are still in middle school. When a new brand becomes popular, we are sure to be seen in it. We position our families as being perfect on social media, with the trendiest filter on all our pictures of course. We engage in social activities more for the clout than for the experience itself. And in living life to construct a certain image, that will inevitably crumble, we lose sight of who we actually are.

When you step back maybe you’ll realize, you would much rather hit the gym after work than go to another happy hour. Maybe you actually have no interest in clubs on the weekend, but instead you want to try your hand at camping. Maybe unplugging from social media feels 100x better than posting your every move.

There’s only one person who fully see’s and experiences the identity you create for yourself, YOU. If you build an identity for other people, you’re setting yourself up for both failure and unhappiness. You’re much better off building an identity that impresses you.

So check in with yourself now. How do you perceive yourself? Is the answer something you’re proud of? If you’re not, it’s completely in your control to make changes until you are proud of who you are. Stop living to impress others, and step into the person you are meant to be.

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