Thursday, April 24, 2008

Is Our Self Perception always Accurate?

The other day while at Borders, I cracked and bought this book, StrengthsFinder 2.0: A New and Upgraded Edition of the Online Test from Gallup's Now, Discover Your Strengths. I generally shop at Amazon but I had read about this book and online test to determine one's strengths and thought I would try it out--for academic reasons, of course. If I don't know my strengths by now, something is probably wrong--but I like tests like this and thought it might be fun.

The book is a small hardback that has a sealed envelope inside with a code--good only for one test (great marketing ploy) at The test, it states, is about 35 minutes and then you use the book as a guide to understanding your various career and other strengths. It's an easy test asking the user to agree or disagree with a series of statements.

Shockingly, I came out as a "Relator" --defined as someone who enjoys being with people, mainly close friends, and talking about ideas. Funny, I have always considered myself more as a loner, so I was sort of surprised to see this. This got me thinking about how many of us view ourselves in a way that may not be accurate. The angry loner thing for me was something I carried with me since I was a child. It was easy to tell myself that being an angry loner was the reason people didn't like me and that there was no reason to try. Yet, over the years, I have found that my perception of myself as an angry loner is not really accurate, I actually like being around people to some degree--if they are people who like ideas and facts. I still don't like the idea of caring if people like me or not, but I do care if the people I like or care about, want to be around me.

What about you, readers, have you ever had a perception of yourself as X, but found out with time and experience that you were not really that way at all?



Blogger Eric said...

This looks like it could be a very valuable book (at least for me) because like many people, I find it very difficult to perceive myself as others perceive me. Being able to check these things out with a test in a book beats asking people to tell you how they perceive you.

(That's because, frankly, most of us are not comfortable asking, and the people we ask are probably unlikely to be comfortable telling!)

9:38 AM, April 24, 2008  
Blogger Helen said...


Yes, and other people's perceptions of our traits can often be skewed, that is, if we know them for long periods or they are family members, they may see us as we were when we were kids etc. or knew us at different life stages and our traits may have shifted since then. I think most people have a set personality but it can move on a continuum, a person who is a loner might become more outgoing, but not a social butterfly or a person who is very social may become more introspective with time.

9:44 AM, April 24, 2008  
Blogger Cham said...

If you notice, a large number of people on the Internet proudly claim they are introverts. People see themselves as they would like to see themselves or how it is convenient to see themselves not necessarily as they are. If you say that you are an introvert, whether you are one or not, you have an excuse to stay inside and avoid people. For example, many people who have recently lost a great deal of weight struggle with the idea that they still look fat when they are not. That is because they used their fatness as an excuse to avoid contact with others and they are still find comfort in that shroud of the invisible fat suit.

So when one calls themselves an angry loner that comes with certain social advantages, the excuse to avoid the party or golf outing with the gang. But really, can you really call someone with a popular blog with hundreds of regular commenters that needs daily moderation and input an angry loner? A forensic psychologist by nature must interact with clients and the legal system on a daily basis. The blogger happy hour in Knoxville probably wouldn't be the bash that it is without Helen. The angry loner moniker may have been useful on a subconscious level at some point but it has probably has worn out its welcome.

10:08 AM, April 24, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

What about you, readers, have you ever had a perception of yourself as X, but found out with time and experience that you were not really that way at all?

When I was little, I was painfully shy, and until high school, I thought I was an introvert. That wasn't true at all -- I actually love to be around people, and I'm a chatterbox once I'm comfortable around them. The key is that I have to be comfortable. I'm a lot better now than I used to be -- not really less shy, but a lot better at pretending to be outgoing. :) It helped matters once I was old enough to realize that other people can feel just as awkward about meeting new people as I do.

I'm still useless at small talk, though.

10:55 AM, April 24, 2008  
Blogger Marbel said...

Sounds like an interesting book and test.

I am always surprised that people seem to see me as confident and self-assured; I still see myself as the shy, timid kid I was in high school.

11:14 AM, April 24, 2008  
Blogger Sloan said...

I don't know about self-perceptions, Dr. Helen, but you and Glenn are welcome down to our home in Atlanta any time. :-)

12:25 PM, April 24, 2008  
Blogger Derek said...

I've been informed that I can come across as a know-it-all who bludgeons people with information to get his way.

Admittedly, I do have a propensity towards verbose exposition in explanatory conversation (hah!). But I'm not trying to show that I know more than others. I'm concerned that they take me seriously and understand that my position is based on more than opinion.

Often our understanding of others' perceptions of us isn't accurate either. And that produces a-whole-nother set of problems.

12:59 PM, April 24, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

What about you, readers, have you ever had a perception of yourself as X, but found out with time and experience that you were not really that way at all?

No, but I've been something before and then purposefully changed. Natural growth and change could give the illusion of finding out you were not really the way you thought.

This whole thing sounds like a concoction from the start.

1:04 PM, April 24, 2008  
Blogger Helen said...


"But really, can you really call someone with a popular blog with hundreds of regular commenters that needs daily moderation and input an angry loner?"

Ummm, yes, I think you can. There seem to be plenty of bloggers like that out there--I think it helps to be an introvert that likes being inside avoiding people to be good at blogging to some degree. But I get your point. I do think that it works on some subconscious level to not have to deal with things.


"I'm still useless at small talk, though"

So I am or at least, I often find it useless.


Thanks, that's very nice of you.

1:27 PM, April 24, 2008  
Blogger Gary Cruse said...

"Is Our Self Perception always Accurate?" might be better asked as, "Is Our Self Perception Ever Accurate?"

1:34 PM, April 24, 2008  
Blogger vanderleun said...

O would some Power, the gift to give us,
To see ourselves as others see us!
It would from many a blunder free us,
And, foolish notion:
What airs of dress and bearing would leave us,
And even pridefullness! ....

1:44 PM, April 24, 2008  
Blogger Serket said...

I think it is a good idea to know your strengths.

2:18 PM, April 24, 2008  
Blogger TMink said...

Blogger ate this the first time. I will try again.

I used to think I was not so bright. A lot of us with ADD think that. I did OK in school, but was not happy there and struggled to do a little better than average.

Then I got far along enough in school that I could understand standardized test scores and realized that I was intelligent, I just had problems doing boring work. It made a huge difference. Then I just had to figure out how to do boring work.

Grad school went much better!


2:34 PM, April 24, 2008  
Blogger M. Simon said...

I have just written a blog post on a tangentially related subject:

It's Good To Be Wrong.

Which is about reprogramming the human biocomputer for more effectiveness.

7:29 PM, April 24, 2008  
Blogger DEK46656 said...

My sister (recently passed) was a martial artist (3rd Dan) and swore by "The Ennigram". It is also a personality mapping system that has some interesting insights. One of those was that a person couldn't really map themselves, it took someone else that knew them to do it.

One of the ideas that it presented was that a person had 2 personalities (mappings); one when you were comfortable / happy, and the other when you were under stress. I'm not familiar with the system myself, so I'm probably not describing it accurately. However, I have noted that I approach things differently under those 2 scenarios, so it may have some validity.

8:10 PM, April 24, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe this is worthy of a study, now that blogs are big but still relatively the "new thing," but my guess is that those of us who consider ourselves loners and introverts are the blogging types. It's self-expression without having to be around people to do it. It's also a great way to develop some friendships (or just plain, relationships, good or bad) when doing it the traditional way is painful for some of us. The Internet is a great "wall" in which we get to pick and choose whether we open doors or windows.

I do like people, and I do like relating, but I very much feel intimidated around lots of people. One on one and small groups are my style.

Thanks for the link to the book. I'm going to look into it.

8:36 PM, April 24, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to like Cat Stevens' "Moon Shadow" song. But that was before, you know.....

Cham, you really crack me up. You love being the tack on the chair seat, don't you? Has it increased the traffic to your site yet? It should, by default if nothing else.

Hell, I've been there once.

6:40 AM, April 25, 2008  
Blogger Cham said...

549: Having Helen say that she is an angry loner is like having the hostess of the Grand Ball say she is an angry loner. Sometimes I feel obligated to point out the obvious, that's all.

7:21 AM, April 25, 2008  
Blogger Joanna said...

Very late to this conversation and nothing to add, really except that when I first read your results I thought you said:


Which gave me pause. 'Cause while I can see that a realtor might enjoy being with people (perhaps even mainly close friends), the "talking about ideas" thing seemed rather out of blue.

So then I went back and read more closely. Relator, not realtor. 'Made me smile.

4:40 PM, April 25, 2008  
Blogger Stacy McMahon said...

Interesting. I could write a book on this topic myself, but I've generally found it's true that we see ourselves not exactly as we really are, and that we may have no idea how others really see us. Like the commenter above, both my wife and my best friend have told me on different occasions that I come across as a know-it-all and unnaturally calm and collected. Like Helen I was an angry loner in high school and am now - at 33 - still getting used to the fact that I've become gregarious and something of a socialite. I suspect I'm still a knowitall, and I am quite sure I still come across as putting on a facade of calm perfection.

One thing I know for sure about myself -- few things interest me more than finding out how I really look to others.

7:19 AM, April 26, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I heard my own voice playing back to me from a recording, the first time, as opposed to how it sounds when I'm talking, it was not what I expected at all. It was almost foreign. Is that what I sound like?

The face I see in the mirror every morning is the one I am used to. I have seen myself in photos taken of me, and it is not quite the same. And not always what I would hope. I'm considering using make up.

9:41 AM, April 26, 2008  
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