The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Not my responsibility?

As people deal with themselves, a question they find themselves confronted with is how they are being perceived by others.

It’s a natural question, one we regularly use beneficially. Receiving recognition, feedback, evaluation all serve us in assessing our relationship with others and our environment. They are ways we use to decide if we want to change something and if so what and how.

The more we look out for them, the more ways we’ll find appearing. Athletes participating in competitions. Researchers seeking to publish in peer review journals. Friends and colleagues updating their news feeds on LinkedIn and waiting for reactions.

From a group’s perspective, it’s all about status and belonging.

From an individual’s perspective, it’s also all about existing and identity.

In her visual spoken word pieceNot My Responsibility”, Billie Eilish describes how these perspectives compete with one another.

She starts by showing both perspectives and questioning if others can really know her, and yet have ideas about her.

Ideas leading to judgments.

A stream of observations that feels like interpretations to her.

They generate doubt. They question what it is the other might want.

Making sense of them, possible conclusions pop up.

Opening the door to an assessment of self-worth.

Having described this journey, she ends with

“Or is your opinion of me

Not my responsibility?”

Leaving me with the same question that existed at the beginning. How much can one contribute to someone else’s opinion and how much of it do we have to let go as we don’t own it?

It’s a question everyone finds his or her answer to. One that depends on the existing relationship. And one that is influenced by our respective histories. It’s a search for an equilibrium between how much to value someone else’s perspective and how much we value how we see ourselves.

There is no one answer. However, we do generalize it whenever we relate to groups and stereotypes.

The real challenge in this process is how much we fear to hear the truth about ourselves.

Not the one others share, but the one we don’t ask them about. It would require us to leave our interpretation of the situation aside. Knowing how others perceive us is a threat to the identity we’ve given ourselves.


PS. much gratitude to Andy for sharing the lyrics with me during one of our wonderful conversations.

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