by Valerie Nusbaum
We see ourselves a certain way. Unfortunately (or fortunately), that’s not necessarily the way others see us. Keep in mind that the public self we present isn’t always our whole self, or even our real self. We know what’s going on in our minds, but luckily, those who interact with us don’t. We can change from day to day or moment to moment, and we adapt differently to every situation.
For instance, the Valerie you read about and perceive from this column is only one part of the whole Valerie. In other words, I write about the things I’m comfortable having people read. The events you read about are always based in truth, but sometimes things are omitted or added for the sake of the story. Sometimes, my memory is faulty, and I have to wing it. I never, ever write about (and usually don’t discuss) my big problems, and I make it a point not to discuss touchy subjects like religion and politics. I write about my own life because telling stories about other people might cause hurt feelings. Sometimes, I say or write outrageous things about Randy, but I assume that people know I’m kidding. They don’t always. So…this is me, for sure, but not all of me.
With that being said, I recently set out to discover if other people see me the way I see myself.
As some of you know, in addition to writing, I also have a small art business where I sell my prints and jewelry online as well as at shows, exhibits, and shops. The big focus on sales these days is on “branding.” What is my brand? Well, I tried to figure that out. The most recent study I read stated that in order to correctly label my products, I first needed to find out how others perceive me (i.e., I am my brand and my brand is me).
Armed with this information, I contacted my closest circle and asked each person to get back to me with three words they’d use to describe me. I asked for total honesty, but reminded everyone that I’m old and my ego is fragile. Out of 15 people, only 1 didn’t respond. She has been demoted to Friend Tier #2.
Creative was the number one word people used to describe me, with variations of artistic and talented. Second was fun or funny, and tied for third place were friendly and generous. I’m also seen as loyal, honest, caring and thoughtful. One person used the word beautiful, one mentioned integrity and compassion, another said smart, and one person called me bossy. That was my mother. I can’t demote her. Both Randy and my mom gave me long lists of words because each of them said that three words weren’t enough.
This exercise was an eye-opener because I see myself as a strong person and no one mentioned that word. It’s because I don’t share my problems and worries with everyone. You won’t find me on Facebook posting about the bad things that happen in my life. I keep it to myself and am very selective about sharing. People tend to think that I don’t have any problems and that my life is all unicorns and rainbows because they don’t see that side of me. I’m a very private person, but no one mentioned that either.
My friend Gail had a party a while back. I was there and met some of Gail’s other friends. At lunch afterward, Gail asked if I was interested in hearing how other people perceive me. Sure. Why not? Turns out that one of Gail’s friends had asked her who that very proper lady in the lavender sweater was. Gail said she had no idea because, “the only woman wearing a lavender sweater that day was Valerie, and she’s about the funniest person I know.” We both had a good laugh over this, but being seen as proper isn’t a bad thing. Another friend once told me that I remind her of Thelma Lou on the old Andy Griffith Show. I did not ask why. I was afraid of the answer. I cautioned her not to tell Randy that he reminded her of Barney Fife. She, very seriously, asked if he gets that a lot.
Anyway, I have always seen myself as organized, decisive, clever, private, intuitive, perceptive, and sympathetic, but those are only the good words I’d use to describe myself. I’m not going to tell you the bad ones because you don’t need to know about those.
Did I figure out my brand? Well, I guess my art is creative and it’s friendly and generous, too, because I’m often told that my prints remind the buyers of happy times in their lives. They evoke good memories, and while the pieces aren’t necessarily funny, they do make people smile. I didn’t figure this out on my own. Randy had to explain it to me, which might be why only one person said I’m smart.
My point in all of this is that we all might want to remember that there are many, many facets to every single person we know, and we likely don’t see all of them. It’s all a matter of perception. Just FYI: Randy is strong, nurturing, and thoughtful, and that’s only the beginning of all of his good qualities. My thoughtful, loving, and entertaining mother is bossy, too. I get it honestly