Have you ever walked into a meeting feeling super confident, competent, on top of the world, and ready and raring to get down to business?
And have you ever walked into a meeting feeling like you don’t belong, like you don’t know what you’re doing, like you’re an imposter and someone’s going to find out any second and kick you out?
Likely you’ve done both. Yet how can that be?
Perceptions, of our self and others, go to the heart of our identity.
Not only can how we see ourselves radically change but also, how other people see us can change as well. (And sometimes the two never shall meet – our perception of our self and someone else’s perception of us.)
And identity is a funny thing, it’s fluid and highly dependent on context – who’s doing the ‘identifying.’
When I’m doing training workshops about culture I often stand at the front of the room and ask people ‘what do you see when you looking at me?’
The results have been astonishing everything from a hockey fan to someone who loves to iron clothes. I am emphatically neither of those things (despite being a proud Canadian). My idea of ironing is wetting down a piece of clothing, smoothing it out with my hands and hanging it up to dry in the shower.
Identity – yours, mine, ours
That’s why this social experiment caught my eye. Six photographers, one subject, six different perspectives.
The catch was that each photographer was told something vastly different about the person they were photographing, even though the subject was the same for each photographer.
Here was their brief about who they were photographing:
- Self-made millionaire
- Saved someone’s life
- Ex inmate
- Commercial fisherman
- Former alcoholic
Take a few minutes and watch the video above that recounts the experience. And look at the resulting photos below.
‘A photograph is shaped more by the person behind the camera then by what’s in front of it’ …
…says Canon who created the experiment.
No one sees you like you. Yet who’s the author of that perspective? Here are some things about your identity that may shift according to how you’re feeling, where you are, who you’re with and a multitude of other things:
- How smart do you feel?
- How do you feel about your body?
- How do you feel about your role as _______ (fill in the blank eg parent, partner, worker, boss, sister, brother, community volunteer)?
- Do you have lots in common with the other people in the room or not?
So what does it all mean?
Remembering that questions of identity and perspective are fluid and changeable helps. And realizing that especially when you’re feeling frumpy, grumpy and like an imposter, your identity can be a matter of the mind. When the (negative) self-talk is all in your head, be deliberate and shoo away that uninvited guest.