How to See Yourself As Others See You

Three Methods:Developing Insight by ReflectingUnderstanding MirroringAcknowledging Projections

There are multiple reasons why our self-perceptions may be incongruent with the perceptions of others. We may lack self-awareness, as is it common to develop habits without even noticing. We may deceive ourselves to guard against unwanted thoughts and feelings.[1] Or we may simply have poor insight, as a particular behavior may be a result of any number of motivations.[2] It is quite possible to see yourself as other's see you; however, this takes courage, and the development of insight.

Method 1
Developing Insight by Reflecting

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    Ask a friend to engage in reflective listening. Reflective listening is a technique that was first developed by Carl Rogers. It involves communicating the speaker's underlying emotions or underlying intent. The purpose of rephrasing or restating what the listener believes the speaker is trying to communicate is to provide opportunity for clarification. This clarification is beneficial both to the listener and speaker. Hearing our message repeated back to us allows us the opportunity to listen to ourselves and decide if we are happy with the message we are sharing with others.[3]
    • Your friends needn't be trained Rogerian therapists; you simply need to ask them to listen and paraphrase the message and identify underlying emotion, without judgement or their own opinion about the subject.
    • If your friend doesn't seem to be capturing your emotion, you just have lots of opportunity to clarify. Keep talking until you are satisfied you have helped your friend understand. You'll be surprised how much better you understand yourself by the end of the activity.
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    Engage in systematic reflection to analyze the consequences of your behavior. Recount your behavior in a specific situation, then make note of the consequences or outcomes. Making a list of behaviors and outcomes will help you to organize your thoughts. Were the outcomes or consequences favorable? If not, identify behaviors that might have resulted in desired outcomes.[4]
    • This will help you become more self-aware of your behavioral patterns and also provide a framework for changing undesirable behavior.
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    Take personality quizzes for a fun way to explore the self. You'll find an abundance of these activities online. While they're rarely valid or reliable, they do help to direct your intention inward. Doing this activity with a friend is fun and will also provide the opportunity for feedback about how others view you.
    • Taking quizzes with a friend allows you to test how well your self-perceptions match others' perceptions of you. Ask your friend to answer the questions as they apply to you, while you take the quiz for yourself. You can then compare answers and discuss instances where your answers don't match.
    • Reflection only requires an internal focus of attention, but some may find this difficult. Quiet contemplation alone may actually improve self awareness and insight into others' perceptions of you.[5] If you aren't in the habit of reflecting on your behavior, you may find doing so unproductive or uncomfortable. Engaging in structured activity will help you to feel more at ease.
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    Ask for candid feedback and take notes. People often temper criticisms or sugarcoat feedback out of concern for the feelings of others, which is why it may be difficult to understand how others perceive you. This means you need to give others the permission to share the truth without regard for your feelings. You might try explaining to them you are on a journey of self-exploration you want brutal honesty. Tell them this is part of your process of becoming more self-aware. Taking notes will allow you to compare answers from various friends over time. This will provide greater insight about your behavior and help you track changes.
    • If the person you've asked for feedback is still reluctant, guide his or her responses. Ask him or her to identify your strengths. Then, ask him or her to identify your weaknesses. You can make this constructive by asking for ideas for ways to overcome your weakness.
    • This is best done with someone who knows you well and you trust not to use this as an opportunity just to be mean.
    • Prepare yourself to hear unpleasant things before you ask the question. If you become defensive, the exercise will not be helpful. If you feel yourself becoming defensive, remember this is an opportunity for growth.

Method 2
Understanding Mirroring

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    Appreciate the value of mirroring. We are actually biologically wired to mirror one another. Mirror neurons become excited when we engage with others. This sometimes results in mimicked physical expression, and allows us to internally experience the emotional states of others.[6] This is the biological basis for empathy. We understand the emotions of others by feeling them ourselves. [7] This responsible for the connection we feel when sharing personal stories with one another. Empathy helps us to develop compassion and establish rapport.
    • The internal experience of mirroring typically happens automatically and outside of our conscious control. This means it usually happens whether you want it to or not, and may affect your outward behavior, without awareness.
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    Recognize how mirroring is effecting your behavior. As you become more self-aware you'll realize mirroring affects your posture, mannerisms, speech, emotions, and even breathing. While this is typically a good thing, in some instances you may notice you are adopting the negative emotions of others and your emotional experience intensifies as those around you become increasingly agitated.[8] If you become aware your thoughts or feelings about a particular person or subject are more negative after interacting with another, reflect upon whether there was any real change in the circumstances or if you may have been feeding off the negativity of the other person.
    • While the inward experience of mirroring is often automatic, you are in control of the outward expressions of mirroring. You can choose to respond contrary to mirroring.
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    Ask a friend to observe you interacting with another and make notes of exaggerated or inhibited expressions of mirroring. These notes will be important to help you and your friend become more aware of the specific behavior you are looking to change. Then create some sort of sign, like tugging an ear, so your friend can alert you and make you more aware when you are mimicking inappropriately. You can then consciously alter your behavior.
    • Identify when mirroring may be reinforcing particular responses or shading perceptions. Because mirroring largely occurs beyond our awareness, variations in expressions of mirroring unknowingly impact others' impressions of us. Those who fail to express outward signs of mirroring may be seen as cold and unfeeling, while those who mirror vigorously may be viewed as reactive, aggressive, unstable, or annoying.[9]
    • If you find impressions of you are skewed because of atypical mirroring patterns, you will either have to accept others' characterization of you, or consciously work to change your mirroring patterns. You may need to actively work to increase or decrease your mimicking of others. You can practice increasing or decreasing mimicking with close friends.
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    Deescalate intensifying patterns of responses. Mirroring can become cyclical in face to face interaction. As one person becomes agitated, so does the other. The interaction then becomes increasingly heated, volume typically increases, speech becomes more pressured, language becomes more aggressive, and hand gestures and facial expressions become more exaggerated. If you easily become caught up in these types of escalating interactions, you might consider whether the interaction is representative of your actual feelings about the subject. Are others witnessing your passion for the subject, or a runaway fit of mirroring. Once you become aware your participation in the interaction no longer represents how you actually feel about the subject, you can alter the tone of the conversation. The great thing about recognizing when mirroring may be resulting in a poor representation of your thoughts and feelings is that you can then use the same cyclical nature of mirroring to change the interaction. This is a way to manage impressions and make sure others see you accurately.
    • If the discussion has become more negative than you'd like, you can introduce positive expressions. Occasionally smiling softly, will illicit similar behavior in response.
    • Progressively decrease your volume and soften your language to reduce intensity.
    • Laughing will result in injections of humor from others to lighten the mood.

Method 3
Acknowledging Projections

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    Engaging in reflective listening, as the listener, to be sure your perception of the talker is accurate. Tell the talker you'd like to engage in reflective listening to make sure you are understanding. This will create lots of opportunity for you to get clarification and to verify your perceptions of the other.
    • Your responses to others may be distorted because of personal biases or projections. Sigmund Freud introduced projection as a defense mechanism and was later expanded upon by Anna Freud.To avoid dealing with our own unacceptable or undesirable thoughts and feelings, we attribute them to another person.[10] This then colors our impressions of the other person's behaviors and shapes the way we respond to him or her. This in turn, influences the other's perception of you. To be sure you are accurately perceiving others and responding appropriately, you should seek to verify your perceptions.
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    Be honest with yourself. We engage in self-deception to protect our sense of self. We all possess traits and display behavior we are not proud of.[11] Carl Jung referred to the collection of these unsavory traits and unacceptable thoughts and feelings as the shadow. Projecting our shadow onto others relieves us of the guilt and shame we experience when we acknowledge it[12]. Others will not be so willfully blind of these parts of your personality, so denying them will only inhibit your ability to see yourself as others see you. If others have commented about your jealousy, or intolerance, or any other trait most would like to deny, explore the possibility you are indeed those things and accept them.
    • If something about your personality causes you enough distress that you would rather lie or hide it, you should be working to change it. You must first acknowledge the trait(s) to change them.
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    Ask others to help you become more self-aware. As with any habit, projecting happens subconsciously. Once you've acknowledged you project, ask others to help you become self-aware by telling you when you are doing it.
    • In addition to projecting our own thoughts and feelings on others, we sometimes incorporate others' projections into our sense of self. It may be that someone in your life projects negative feelings and emotions onto you, so you then respond with negative feelings and emotions. That person then uses your responses to validate his or her characterization of you.[13] Ask outsiders to observe your interactions with the person and to share their opinions of the dynamic.


  • Involve trusted friends in the exploration process. They can help identify traits and habits you may not have noticed.
  • Keep a journal to analyze behavior over time.
  • Welcome feedback and criticism, without becoming defensive.
  • Illicit the help of a professional counselor to make the most of exploratory activities.


  • We don't always like what we find when we honestly and objectively explore the self. Avoid lingering too long on undesirable traits and instead focus on opportunities for growth.
  • Traumatic events in the past may make self-exploration difficult or painful. A mental health professional can help you work through trauma.

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