I am about to do something that shakes me to my core…repeat Kendall Jenner. She has adopted the Shane Koyczan quote “If you can’t see anything beautiful in yourself, get a better mirror.” Believe it or not, this is not just deeply profound, but rooted in brain science.
The human brain relies on the five senses to create a sense of reality.
When those senses are not calibrated correctly, the information it takes in is flawed. This is where Kendall The Philosopher comes in. The truth is, all mirrors reflect a flawed and incorrect version of our appearance. So by basing your reality on what you see in the mirror, you become a slave to a flawed external input.
Every day, we each face an onslaught of solicited and unsolicited feedback from our world. Our mirror– your boss, friends, the media, family, significant other… the list goes on. This barrage of information can be overwhelming.
The only way to manage this onslaught is to restructure its value, which in reality is very small. All input is simply that: input. Like a computer with bad programming, if we accept all this input, our poor brain will become confused, overwhelmed, and shut down.
Follow The Rule of One Third
Remember this simple truth: A third of the external world will love everything you do, a third will hate on everything you do, and a third either aren’t paying attention or just don’t care.
Keep Feedback Contained
Are you the person who hears one negative comment and three complements, but only remember the negative?
Ultimately, the only opinion that matters is your own, but trusting your own instincts and perspective requires a balanced and healthy understanding of self. Most of us do not have this. Which is why I am not an advocate of ignoring all outside input. What I do advocate is an understanding that wherever the feedback is coming from it is merely someone handing you their own filter.
I could write an entire book on exploring the motives of negative people, but what it boils down to is this: criticism says more about the person giving it than the person receiving it. Even criticism from someone who is supposed to be an expert. Once we remove this feedback from the realm of fact and place it in the much less important category of biased personal opinion, it loses most of its power.
Criticism has a place in the life of a healthy individual. They are able to receive it, evaluate it and then put it in its place. If you start with the idea that it is merely one-third of feedback, then evaluate the motives of the person providing it, you will be much better able to determine if it is helpful or not.
Put Praise in Perspective
Compliments have the power to change the course of your day. Getting told you’re good at your job or that you look good, is a wonderful feeling. But if you only listen to people who tell you that you are always right and perfect, you will miss out on important information that could help you learn and grow.
This may be controversial, but I believe when someone tells you how amazing you are, the motive is very often more about them than you. Do they want you to continue the behavior they are reinforcing because it benefits them? Did you make their life easier by being nice to them or doing your job well?
Do they really care about you and want you to feel good? These are not bad motives. But they aren’t about how wonderful you are. When someone tells you you are doing a great job, putting this in its place means acknowledging that it feels nice and that person went out of their way to be kind to us. That’s awesome. But it doesn’t definitively mean this is true.
Remember the rule of thirds. One person will say your report is amazing and someone else will think it’s crap. Neither is correct. What do you think about your performance? And what parts of their opinion can you use to reinforce your instincts or belief about what you should be doing?
Axe Your Addiction to Attention
Attention can be close to heroin for our brain. Whether you grew up being ignored by parents or having so much attention that not having it feels like withdrawal, seeking the attention we missed in other people becomes a drug.
I don’t care who you are, you have felt the physical and emotional rush of having people like your Instagram post, or getting hundreds of retweets. Social media has given us a perfect example of the human need for attention. In my earlier work as a child development specialist, I documented the fact that for little ones under the age of 5, attention is a matter of life or death.
If caregivers don’t pay attention to us, we might not eat, or get cleaned, or be protected from danger. The stakes are as high as they can get. This sets the stage for us to see a lack of attention as dangerous. But once we are past the age of 13, this is no longer true.
Attention is not a matter of life or death. If you are making choices in your life that are rooted in getting people to look at you, you are going to make bad choices. Not everyone is going to pay attention. And the ironic truth is that if you start being who you want to be and stop trying to be someone who everyone is looking at, you see your attention quotient spike.
Choose Your Mirrors Wisely
Learn to recognize people who genuinely care about you and are invested in who you are and who you are becoming.
In essence, they are slightly more accurate mirrors.
This group should be small and include people who are in your real life, not your virtual life. I’m not knocking internet friends, but the people who are physically present and actually spend time with you are the ones who have an investment in you. This doesn’t make these people “right” about you or mean that they get to tell you what to do or where to go. But it does mean they’re feedback has more value than the rest of the one third.
In the age of social media, coping with all of the information we get from the outside world can be overwhelming. It is easy to get pulled into attention seeking behavior or start listening to people who are just trying to use you for their own gain. But you have to power of ignoring the mirror, getting a new mirror, or just embracing the flawed image a particular mirror provides. But whatever you do, don’t buy the lie that the mirror is all there is.