How we see ourselves

Paul Adamson
December 18, 2016

The other day I was on the tube at Highbury & Islington – I don’t know what could have come over me as I normally cycle everywhere – and the train was stopped at the station just about to leave. I saw a man on the platform make a sudden dash towards the carriage I was in. He was running as fast as he could but the doors were just closing. He then made the split second decision to leap between the doors in the hope he could make it through. He didn’t. Instead the doors slammed into him like a horizontal guillotine and he lost his balance and fell to the floor between the doors.

A couple of passengers came to his aid, held back the doors long enough to release him, and helped him to his feet. I couldn’t hear what he was saying but he must have been English because only the English smile in that idiotic way when they don’t know how to extricate themselves from an embarrassing situation. He gave the impression that this was exactly what he had intended to do.

It got me thinking that we all of us have images of ourselves that may not be shared by others. Clearly the man on the tube thought he was fit and agile enough to beat the doors. But his good angel should have intervened and advised him to take a good look at himself – he was of a complexion that did not radiate health, was unignorably overweight and as stiff as the long umbrella he carried.

I’m struck by how often clients wish me to confirm or contradict an image they have of themselves. I find it quite touching that they should seek my opinion. We should be comfortable with the bodies we have but most of us aren't – or at least, not entirely. Doubts, hesitancies, anxieties about ourselves creep in. I look at myself in the mirror but it's rarely with any degree of satisfaction. David Beckham was a wonderful football player but has probably earned a lot more money from selling his looks. He exudes confidence in his body – and so he should. But what we see are just the myriad images of the man – not the man himself. When he looks in the mirror, what does he really see?

 

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