This article will show you why this is the case and offer suggestions to improve your moods.
The Austrian philosopher Martin Buber may have been the first to point out the not-so-obvious: Our perception of others has everything to do with self-perception.
How you feel about yourself – moment to moment – is inseparably tied to how you view others.
When you make this connection, you have a new avenue of self-healing. Here are some examples of how it works. We’ll deal with the chicken-and-egg question that will arise as you read – at the end of the post.
1. Seeing others as critics
Imagine going through the world seeing others as overly judgmental. They look down their nose at you, incessantly search for your flaws and think they are better than you.
How would you feel? Judged and criticized at a minimum. You may develop chronic social anxiety. Seeing others this way might lead to an inferiority complex, feelings of ineptitude or worthlessness – and perhaps a feeling of hopelessness.
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2. Seeing others as having it all together
Imagine seeing others habitually as happy, well-adjusted people who don’t have serious problems. They are gliding through life doing very well for themselves and don’t have major hang ups and personal issues. They have it all together, obviously!
Seeing others this way might lead you to feel broken. By comparing yourself to others in all their perfection, you will obviously suffer by comparison and feel like a reject; an especially flawed person who obviously doesn’t belong.
3. Seeing others as idiots
You might see others as total idiots, low-IQ numskulls who aren’t much ahead of apes as far as intelligence goes. How do these people even survive? How stupid can you be?
Seeing others this way obviously puts you in an one-up position – and leads you straight into self-righteousness. You’ll think you are better than everyone and that others don’t have a right to question you. So, when they do, you’ll get defensive or smug or uppity or take on a ‘how dare you’ attitude. Most people will know you’re self-righteous, too.
4. Seeing others as the means to an end
In this case, you’ll use others for your purposes, without necessarily appreciating their efforts or sacrifice. Others will be tools in your hand – and only good for your purposes.
Seeing others this way, you’ll most likely see yourself as overly important. Your goals are so special that if others are taken advantage of in the process of achieving those goals, so be it.
You won’t get much love in return. Others will learn that you’re a user and resent you – so closeness, kinship, and intimacy are out the window. You’re likely to feel a deep loneliness, despair or existential depression.
There are so many ways to see others in a negative light. Each way simultaneously adjusts your own attitude accordingly. The consequential thoughts and feelings may be hard to bear.
Of course, we have what appears to be a chicken-and-egg issue here. Do your feelings of worthlessness, for example, lead you to see others as better than you? Or does seeing others as better than you lead to you feeling worthless?
If you see others as controlling, you’re likely to feel like a puppet on a string. But, which is true? Are others really controlling or are you really just a puppet?
In a way, it’s misleading to believe that one issue comes before the other, as both the puppet and puppet master are part of the same system. All the issues rise as part of the process of perceiving and responding to other people.
And the issues can be addressed from both perspectives. Work on your individual issues and you will gradually come to see others in a more positive light. Work on seeing others in a more positive light and you will gradually overcome many of your individual issues. It all goes hand-in-hand.
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