Thursday, December 2, 2010

First Impressions

Perhaps my biggest ally...AND my biggest enemy is my first impression.  They say that first impressions are all important.  That when we meet someone for the first time, we determine in very short order how we've sized that person up.  In my case, I've been told on numerous occasional by plenty of people that I make a, well, formidable, for lack of a better word, first impression.  Now in a job interview, legal, or professional venue, this serves me quite well.  I apparently come off as intelligent, self-confident, competent, assertive, driven, strong and direct.  Okay, well that sounds good, I suppose.

But now I'm meeting the neighbor lady who is a stay-at-home mom with a slew of kids in tow, and I think that assessment of the first impression becomes less "intelligent, self-confident, competent, assertive, driven, strong and direct" and more "know-it-all, arrogant, better-than-everyone-else, bossy, over-achieving, over-bearing, and pushy" first impression.  I've always wished that I could change this about myself.  Wishing that I could tone down my forceful personality to suit the receptive energies of the audience that was before me, however, isn't going to change anything.  I tend to alienate myself from people unknowingly.  Perhaps it is a protection mechanism that I developed and honed because of how brutally shy I was as a young person especially since we moved every year or two? Perhaps I am trying to present myself as strongly as possible out of fear of rejection?  Perhaps I internalized the same behavior I saw in my mother? I don't know.

It was never so strikingly clear to me, the impact my first impression had on those I met, as it was after my ex-husband and I separated after a 15-year marriage.  It was a devastating experience for me, and I lost my emotional footing for several weeks.  During that time, I noted that strangers that I met were so much friendlier to me.  Not just friendly, but open, helpful, happy, nice, and they even interacted with me longer.  It was the oddest experience, to have people act so nice to me.  I was perplexed, but with the emotional rug pulled out from underneath me as it was, I didn't have the personal resources to really look at it in depth at the time.  As I started healing/recovering, people started behaving normally when I met them again...more abrasive, less warm and friendly, more closed, more rigid, and briefer interactions.  It totally bummed me out.  I would love to be able to change that first impression back to that time, but without the emotional breakdown of course.

The only other time that I've found this to be less of a issue is when I'm doing my passion drummer stuff.  When I'm taking classes and am learning, some of this negative first impression apparently falls away because I meet many more people that are friendly toward me.  I am not conscious of the change in my personality when I'm following my passions, but others obviously are.  This is also true when I'm teaching.  It's strange.

For those that move beyond the first impression, and do become my friends, many have eventually confided that I was not the person they originally thought me to be.  My tough, impersonal, arrogant first impression isn't who I really am at the core of things, to those closest to me. But I sure wish I could figure out how to alter the first impression that I make.  I've changed an incredible amount of things in my life, and I hope that this will be no different.  I just need to figure out how and that's not a simple thing, at least not for me.

Therefore, just so you know, if you aren't yet my friend, keep in mind that my book doesn't really match my cover. But I'm working on that!

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