Others are mirrors

It is said that what you are is far more important than what others think you are. Does this mean that the opinions others hold of us can be dismissed altogether? Certainly not, because, as the poet John Donne put it, ‘No man is an island’. 

The person who isolates or cuts himself off from society does so at the risk of harming himself. A great deal of happiness consists in mingling and interacting with others.

That belonging and mutual esteem are human needs strong enough to make a person even lay down his life is well illustrated in the following true incident. A soldier, seeing that his friend had not returned from the battlefield, requested permission from his commander to go out and get him. 

The officer knowing he was probably dead refused to grant it. All the same the soldier went. An hour later, he returned mortally wounded, carrying the corpse of his friend. The officer was furious. ‘I told you he was dead,’ he thundered. ‘Now I have lost both of you. Tell me, was it worth going out to get a corpse?’ 

The dying man replied, ‘Oh, it was sir. When I got to him, he was still alive. And he said to me, ‘Jack, I was sure you would come!’Each one of us projects an image and creates a certain identity for himself. 

A good part of it is shaped by the opinions that other people have of him. How he dresses, talks and behaves contribute as much to the personality as one’s thoughts and ideas. However, this is where a problem arises. One of life’s most difficult tasks is to see ourselves as others see us.  

All of us have our blind spots about our attitudes and our beliefs and so are unable to perceive the way in which we project ourselves. 

In simple words, our habits are often enough invisible to our own eyes and we could end up creating the wrong impressions. 

There exist two ways in which we can help ourselves. One is to listen carefully to others, decide where we have slipped and then avoid such behaviour. 

The other is to ask trusted family members and close friends for advice. This can turn out to be a great learning experience that results in salutary changes of outlook.‘We know so many things, but we don’t know ourselves. Thirty skins or hides as thick as a bear’s cover the soul,’ exclaimed Meister Eckhart, the German mystic. According to Aristotle, the great Greek philosopher, ‘Knowing yourself is the beginning of wisdom.’
 This cannot be achieved without going inwards, reviewing one’s words and actions and analysing them. Importantly and rather paradoxically though, it also consists of studying the reactions of other people and listening carefully to what they have to say. 

This is important as well as enlightening. In short, it is a mirror that not only accompanies you wherever you go but also speaks a great deal of truth! 

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