I think I am finally going to have a reality TV show. I have had maybe ten production companies tell me they want to do some kind of TV show with me. And all ten have backed out at various stages of making the show. So I have learned that dealing with TV people is like dealing with rich bankers who can buy any woman they want. I know it will probably be a one-night stand when they realize that I am weirder in person than on my blog.
Do you know how I know that I’m weirder in person than on my blog? Because I ask people. I ask people all the time about how they perceive me and what they expect and if I meet expectations. You might think it sounds insecure, but it doesn’t. Because most people are scared to ask so direct a question. They are scared of the answer. I have found, though, that the more I know about how other people perceive me, the more self-confident I feel about who I am. Because I know who I am.
I think self-confidence doesn’t come so much from knowing you’re great as just knowing who you are. Everyone is great for something, anyway. I mean, there are 16 personality types. Each has strengths. You can get more self-knowledge by clicking the link on the sidebar of this blog that says self-knowledge. It’s the biggest category on the blog because it’s where I put all the posts where I’m having a breakdown and telling you it’s not a breakdown but a learning moment. You can also learn about getting more self-confidence right now. Here are five things I’ve learned from years of focusing on it:.
1. Risk looking stupid in order to learn what you look like.
One reality show production company has stuck around. Now they are coming to my house to film. The Farmer, of course, hates that. He says he won’t talk to them. But I think he will. I am hoping he will think it’s really high quality TV. My TV liaison, or whatever you call this person, tells me that the show is about how I’m a fish out of water. Then I say I am not out of water but fitting in really well. Probably then she adds a laugh track.
She was interviewing me over Skype, with my kids. My son was talking about his Bionicles, and I was thinking, “Fuck. We will never get a reality show because I can’t do small talk and my son can’t stop talking in lists.” So I told him, “You can tell her about the other Bionicle, but no lists. You can’t tell her a list.”
So I am spending all this energy trying to make us look not so Aspergery that people are put off. And whoever is editing the video cuts out all the stuff like this until she has a how-to about raising kids with Aspergers.
I was going to say no to this reality show because why would I want someone else telling my story when I already tell my story here, on this blog? But it’s interesting to see my story reflected back to me. I think, actually, that’s what I like. I like to see myself reflected back to me, through someone else’s vision, so I can see who I am.
2. Control how other people see you by caring about other people.
When I was a reporter for the Boston Globe, I once interviewed Bernardo Carducci, the head of the Shyness Research Institute, and he said that most people are not clinically shy. They are just nervous about what other people think of them. That’s not shyness. That’s insecurity.
He went on to give great advice about how to make conversation by asking people about themselves. But the read advice he was giving was to get a handle on what other people think about you when they meet you. If you ask them questions and are genuinely interested in what they have to say, then they will think you are interesting.
So we are, actually, able to understand what people think of us if we are really careful about moderating how we appear to people. It’s no coincidence that high achievers are also high self-moderators. That is, people who are successful understand very well how other people perceive them and they adjust accordingly.
Rob Toomey, my favorite personality type consultant, once explained it to me this way: Every personality type has weaknesses. The key is to mitigate those as much as possible. I’m an ENTJ, and he told me I need to care about other peoples’ feelings. This is hard for me. Especially because I also have Asperger’s. So I find myself asking people directly what the expression on their face means so that I know what they think of what I just said.
3. Let other people tell your story.
I’m going to introduce you to James Maher. I love love love his street photography. So, when I was in NYC with my kids I had him trail us for a day, taking pictures, and the pictures are amazing.
You should hire him to do that for you.
James has a gift for documenting life in NYC. What I loved was seeing my family through his eyes. Because it’s not how I see us, but I like how he saw us.
And there is not really one way to see yourself. So if you let other people tell the story of you, you see yourself really differently.
It’s actually exactly the same thing I do when I rewrite someone’s resume. They can only see one way to tell the story of their career, so they think their resume doesn’t work for what they want to do. But I can see 50 stories of their career because I’m on the outside. Having James take photos of our family is like that. He widens my view of how I see us.
4. Say your story out loud all the time, to see if it sticks.
The best way to change how you see yourself is to tell new stories about how you got to where you are. Research shows that this is the best way to get through a divorce and it’s the best way to instigate a career change. Our stories about ourselves are our paths to self-knowledge.
The people we allow to help us tell the stories help us walk that path.
But there are also people who tell us our stories are stupid. They are the people at a cocktail party who excuse themselves because we bored them. They are the job interviewers who don’t hire us because we sound incompetent. The Harvard Business Review has great research about the importance of stories. Made to Stick is a great book about how to craft stories, and The Interview Q&A is the practical application of the skill — so that you can use your stories to change your life.
5. Self-delusion is good. Sometimes.
I love this post by Scott Young about why self-delusion is beneficial. He traces self-delusion from an evolutionary perspective and explains that we can project who we want to be more effectively if we are a little self-delusional.
This rings true to me. It’s the scientific basis for the saying “Fake it ’til you make it.” The stories you tell about yourself can create the life you want for yourself. You can call it self-delusion or you can call it self-knowledge. There’s a really fine line. But if you’re working hard to live your best life, you’ll find both sides of that line fascinating.
Which is why I’m able to let the reality TV people come to my house in two weeks to film. I can tell myself that they won’t wreak havoc on my life and that I will be the person I want to be on TV.
And, of course, I’m telling myself the show will actually happen. Which might be the biggest self-delusion of all.