Can You Read Your Own Label?

How do you see yourself?  As human beings, we tend to have a view of ourselves that is probably different than others see us.  As Shakespeare said, “Oh, would some Power give us the gift to see ourselves as others see us!” It is said that perception is reality, so the way others perceive us is reality – or at least the reality that we need to accept.

Our self-reality is the picture we have of ourselves in our head.  It is summed up in a great little saying, “You can’t read the label from inside the jar.”  We are in our own bubble, living in our head – inside the jar – so we can’t see ourselves as others do.

So what? We are living our life, trying to be the best we can be.  If others can’t see it, is that our problem?  Yes, it is.  Because other’s perceptions of us affect every area of our life – from our career to family to friends.  There is another saying, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.”  When we are too close to a situation we lose perspective.  Other’s perception is reality because they can read the label on our jar.

At the beginning of our coaching engagement, I take my client through some self assessments, so that they can begin to see themselves as others see them.  The most eye-opening is a 360 degree assessment, with feedback from 10 to 15 of the client’s peers, supervisors, and staff.  This is where there are often surprises for the client.  The feedback about the client’s perceived strengths and weaknesses from this group  is usually consistent.  Those co-workers all read me the label they see on the client’s jar – and they all pretty much read it the same way.  When this information is shared with the client, he/she is often surprised.  They don’t recognize these perceived weaknesses or strengths as others do.  This gap in the way they see themselves versus the way others see them is a topic we then can explore in the coaching sessions.

How can we make sure we are reading our own jar labels? One way is to work on our own emotional intelligence.  Emotional intelligence is a term coined in 1995 in a book by psychologist Daniel Goleman.  It’s defined as “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.”  I think of emotional intelligence as what our parents called being mature – understanding and exercising self control in our own emotions and in our relationships with others.

To succeed in our relationships, we can’t blindly disregard how we come across.  We need to make efforts to see how we are viewed and make adjustments when there is a gap with how we want to be seen.

So, get out of your bubble, away from that forest and take a look at your jar label.

Shakespeare will approve.


Lee Ann Pond is the founder of Engaging Leadership, which provides training and support for business leaders, with a focus on employee engagement.  She has an MBA, 15 years “C” suite experience in finance and HR, and is a certified executive coach.




Being Present, Presently

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about being present in the moment.  Like many people in this age of devices and social media, it’s easy to get distracted.  Or, maybe, I want to be distracted.  When facing a challenging task, it’s too easy to pick up the phone to see the latest cute kitty post on Facebook and put off the work.  Many studies are showing that we get “high” on dopamine when we interact on social media.  I think of it like eating a piece of candy – easy to grab, feels good while you are doing it, but it doesn’t give you the fuel that you really need.

I had a sweet visit with my 3 year old granddaughter, Zoë, this week.  She asked me to go into her playroom and play with her, but what she really wanted was for me to sit beside her while she played – just to be present next to her while she was in her own make-believe world with her dolls.  It wasn’t easy to settle in.  I was itching to grab my phone, since she didn’t seem to need my interaction.  But she wanted to feel my presence, focused on her and what she was doing.  So I hunkered down and sat on the floor next to her and was there for her.  The gift of being present.

My husband and I love to entertain.  I also set up events for various groups.  In both of those scenarios, there are the inevitable “no shows” – those who accept the invitation, but neglect to attend.  As the host, I find this frustrating and rude.  A lot of preparation goes into an event.  I am not sure why people do this, but my theory is that something comes up or they just don’t feel like coming at the last minute and they think their presence won’t be missed.  But they are missed.  Their presence was to be a gift – and they have yanked it away.

When I was growing up, we had a family friend we called Aunt Fran, who had the most amazing ability to be present.  When she was around it felt like she had all the time in the world for you.  She wasn’t rushing around to the next task.  She could just  be in the moment – or in the afternoon, or in the day.

Part of my business is coaching – coaching leaders, executives, entrepreneurs.  Coaching is the ultimate “be present” activity.  I cannot be thinking about myself, the time, or my next appointment.  A good coach needs to be totally in the moment with their clients – listening, curious, and asking the right questions.  As a coach, I don’t need to know the solutions to the challenges being discussed.  The client knows the answers.  I just need to ask the right questions, until they realize they knew it all along.

Fred Rogers said: “If we can be present to the moment with the person that we happen to be with, that what’s important.”

Being present in the moment.  Sometimes it takes awhile to get there.  But as I learned from Zoë, Aunt Fran, and Mr. Rogers, I can do it. Presently.