We’re kicking off a new series on The Best of You Podcast as we move into the last 2 months of the year.
How do you shift from managing the perceptions of others to showing up more authentically?
In today’s episode, I cover the 7 ways we tend to manage perceptions and why it doesn’t get us the real connections we crave.
I also walk you through an exercise you can do NOW (as in, before the holiday haze sets in) to help you make brave decisions this holiday season.
Here’s what we cover:
1. What does it mean to manage perceptions and why do we do it?
2. The 7 ways we tend to manage perceptions
3. The 2 main problems with managing perceptions
4. Why we have to “retrain” people (& their expectations of us)
5. Examples of steps you can take to honor yourself & your relationships
6. How to create your own “Yes/No List” to help you make brave decisions
7. The courage it takes to say ‘no’ and how to honor the emotions that inevitably show up when you do
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Organifi —Go to www.organifi.com/bestofyou and use code BESTOFYOU for 20% off your order today!
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Chosen—Check out Season 3 in theaters starting November 18th. For more information, visit TheChosenTickets.com.
Music by Andy Luiten
Sound editing by Kelly Kramarik
While Dr. Cook is a counselor, the content of this podcast and any of the products provided by Dr. Cook are not specific counseling advice nor are they a substitute for individual counseling. The content and products provided on this podcast are for informational purposes only.
- Learn more about the 7 P's of Managing Perceptions in Chapter 8 of The Best of You: Break Free From Painful Patterns, Mend Your Past, and Discover Your True Self in God, by Dr. Alison Cook
- Episode 25: How to Say No in Healthy Relationships
- Episode 26: How to Say No to Toxicity (with scripts)
Episode Twenty-Seven: The Best of You Podcast 20th October 2022 Managing Perceptions With Dr. Alison Cook
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Alison: Hey everyone, I'm Dr. Alison, and I'm so glad you're here to discover what brings out the best of you. This podcast is all about breaking free from painful patterns, mending the past, and discovering our true selves in God. I can't wait to get started, as we learn together how to become the best version of who we are with God's help.
Hey everyone, welcome back to this week's episode of the Best of You podcast. And we are starting a new series in honor of a new month, and also in honor of the holiday season. We're going into a busy end-of-the-year with November and December. With Thanksgiving and Christmas, and all the things that go with these two months.
Now, we just finished a series on Boundaries and the Bible, where we started on the inside. We started with this idea of making and keeping a promise to yourself. Learning to build trust with yourself. All the way through how to negotiate change in healthy relationships and how to say, "No" in toxic situations. Lots of scripts and tips, especially, in those last few episodes.
So in this series, we're going to focus on the seven ways we manage perceptions. Versus the healthy ways of forging authentic connections. And those authentic connections can be with other people, with God, and with ourselves.
I'm going to invite on some friends, in this series, as we walk through these seven different ways that we tend to manage perceptions. In the hopes that this will help you show up more authentically, show up in a truer way, going into this also busy, also consuming, holiday season.
So first, what do I mean by managing perceptions? Well, I talk about this in chapter seven of The Best of You. So if you want to go deeper, reread that chapter. But here's what I mean, in short, managing perceptions is all about managing how the people around you view you.
It's ultimately about protecting yourself, and there's no shame in it, we all do it. But if it's the only way we're showing up in a room full of other people. It leaves us feeling empty, disconnected, and not getting the very thing that we actually want.
So managing perceptions is about getting other people to see you in a certain way. It's about trying to earn approval, earn love, earn validation, earn our way into a friendship, a group of people, a community.
It's all about image management. "If they see me a certain way, I'll be okay."
"If they see me as good enough, I'll finally belong."
"If they see me as someone desirable, they'll let me in." It's about gauging what other people want from you in order to earn their approval. And there are a lot of ways that we do this, for example, you might have learned to read facial cues, and you don't even realize it.
But you walk into a room and you read the cues. If they nod, if they smile, you move in that direction. Or if someone says, "Oh, you look so cute today." You start dressing more in that way. There are all these tiny and big ways, that we work to read the cues other people are sending us. Because we want to fit in. Because we want to feel valued. Because we want to feel okay. Because we want to feel worthy. Because we want to belong.
So, again, there's no shame in these ways that we manage perceptions. But if it's the only way we're showing up in a room full of people with our families, with our friends, or even with our spouse or our kids, or a best friend, just one other person, we are missing out on being truly known.
Instead of feeling deeply connected to other people, and instead of belonging as the real person that we are. Managing perceptions, typically, leaves us feeling anxious. Constantly gauging ourselves, "Did I do it right?"
"Did I say something stupid?"
"Was it okay what I did there?"
"How did I perform?"
"How did I look in that situation?" So it can lead to a lot of anxiety. It can lead to a chronic sense of loneliness. It can lead to feeling like an outsider looking in. It can leave us feeling very far from our God-given selves.
Managing perceptions means, "I am working to earn your approval and to earn my place of belonging." On the other hand, authentic connection means, "I want to be known as I really am."
So I want to say it, again, the goal isn't to shame ourselves. So many of us we're conditioned, in big and little ways, to read the room for our cues, and this starts really young. As a child, you learn, from your parents, what's okay and what's not okay. You learn from your peers at school, that if you show up and say something you might get made fun of. Or if you wear something you might get made fun of.
Or if you play a certain sport, or a certain instrument, or if there's something you like to do in your free time that isn't cool, you might get made fun of. We come by these methods of coping naturally, there is no shame in this.
But we've got to begin to identify our go-to methods of trying to manage the perceptions of other people. So that we can learn how to show up more authentically and stay truer to who we really are.
So here's some examples; managing perceptions might be pretending like you really want to go to a bunch of holiday functions. Because you feel like you should and because other people are doing it, and because your friends will think it's weird if you don't.
And what you really want to do maybe is stay home and enjoy the silence, or enjoy your own decorations, your own Christmas tree, your own twinkle lights. Whatever it may be in silence, reflecting, quietly, on what this year has meant to you, or it could be the reverse.
Maybe it's denying your love of a fun festivity. And denying a longing that what you really want is to show up, and play, and be funny, and joke, and have a lot of fun. And feeling pressured into being very serious, and very deep, and very pensive.
When for you, what you really want to do during this holiday season is to be joyful and have some fun. It can work both ways. It's all about noticing what's going on inside of you and the way that you are tempted to, again, manage the perceptions of the others around you. Versus staying true to what's really going on inside of you.
Another example, it's spending more money than what you have, or what makes sense, or what really matters because you're trying to keep everybody else happy. Maybe you're trying to keep your kids happy. And, so, you're overextending your budget. You're trying to manage the way they perceive you versus taking the time to get curious about what your budget really is. What really matters to you, and how you can really show love in a thoughtful, kind, authentic way.
So there are lots of ways we do this at the holidays. I'll share one, a personal example, I am not someone who is great at decorating. It's never been my thing. If you come into my home, you will see exactly what I mean. It's not the latest, greatest, trends. It's not the most up-to-date, perfectly-placed furniture, and wall decor.
It's reflective of the things I love and the people I love. It doesn't always come together in a beautifully cohesive template. It's home, to me, and I've learned to accept this part of me. And even at the holidays, it's a little wonky, I'll post some pictures when we get closer. I just try to have fun with it and I've let myself go, from that "Should" idea of what perfection looks like when one is decorating.
Whether it's for the rest of the year or whether it's for the holidays. Before, when I was trying to manage perceptions, I might have been embarrassed to have someone over to see my scattered way of decorating for the holidays. I might have been embarrassed by that. I might have apologized for that.
But what I've learned is to claim that. "This is who I am. This is how I create beauty. For me, beauty looks a little different than it might look for a dear friend, who is gifted at making things look beautiful."
And here is the beauty in that, the more I accept my own way of creating beauty in my home. The freer I am to enjoy and delight in going into a friend's home, who is a master creator, a master artist. Someone who's deeply gifted and derives great joy from making things beautiful.
In maybe a more traditional way and maybe more of an instagrammable-worthy way, I end up delighting in that. I love going in and witnessing that beauty in someone else's home. And I love the freedom that I have to be in my own home and enjoy the ways that I create beauty, that doesn't always look like a postcard. And I also delight in the freedom that I have to use my talents in other ways.
There's a lot of freedom in letting go of managing perceptions. Of trying to fit in to a box that doesn't really fit right. If I spend a lot of time and attention doing something that, A, doesn't really fit a gift of mine. It's not something I enjoy; it doesn't bring life to me.
I'm trying to do it so that someone else will be impressed, that's a waste of my time. That's a waste of the talents that God has given me. It also leaves me feeling frustrated because I'm never going to measure up. I'm never going to be as good at doing this thing that's someone else's. So let's just relieve ourselves. Let's just take ourselves out of that box.
Let's each do what brings us joy, what brings goodness into our souls, and then let's celebrate each other.
So that's just one example of a way I've had to learn to put a pause. To set a healthy boundary with the part of me that wants to manage perceptions and make sure other people don't walk into my home and go, "Oh, golly, this house isn't very well decorated."
And go, "This is who we are. These are the things that we value, come on in. You'll find warmth here, you'll find an oasis." And that frees me up to go into other people's homes and delight in what they're good at.
The more we make peace with showing up as our true selves. The less we're trying to manage how other people see us, and the more freedom we discover. Both to delight in how God made us to be and to delight in how God made other people. So what are the seven ways we tend to manage perceptions? We tend to try to get the approval, the love, the belonging that we crave with other people.[00:15:03] < Music >
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All right, everyone, the wait is over. The Chosen season three begins, in theaters, November 18th. The theme of season three is "Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest." From Matthew 11:28.
This season is the most consequential and emotional chapter, yet. It picks up right where season two left off, but turns up the heat. Jesus is delivering His most famous sermon in history, and what follows are the consequences of living at His teachings. The honeymoon is over.
Both the followers and the enemies of Jesus are multiplying, stirring new troubles, tensions, and tough questions, many of which you've no doubt asked yourself. But in the midst of all the upheaval, Jesus promises and gives us rest. It's an amazing depiction of this amazing life.
Episodes one and two will begin, in theater, starting November 18th, and episodes will start releasing for free in the Chosen app before Christmas. For more information, visit thechosentickets.com.
We're going to take a deep dive into each one of these over the next few weeks. But, for now, I'm going to give you the list with the mantra that goes with each. And listen to this list and see if there's one, in particular, one or two in particular, that are familiar or resonate with you.
Number one, perfect. "If I appear perfect, no one can criticize me."
Number two, please. "I please others to earn love."
Number three, perform. "I make myself into what others want me to be."
Number four, produce. "I'll produce so they think I have value."
Number five, peace-keep. "I'll stay small, so no one can get angry with me."
Number six, protect. "I keep my guard up, so no one can hurt me."
And number seven, power over. "I dominate. I take control of the narrative."
We all do this on some level. Some of us probably picked two or three from that list, maybe without even realizing it. But ask yourself, what is the way that you manage perceptions when you walk into a room full of people?
Do you tend to play small or blend in so no one can criticize you? Or do you work to make sure everyone around you feels affirmed, encouraged, cared for, served, or helped? Are you the workhorse who's making sure everything gets done? You don't necessarily look for the attention, but you do not want to let any one of those balls drop.
Or maybe you're the entertainer who's keeping everybody having fun. Maybe you're someone taking control. You figure if you can control everything you can make sure no one sees what's really going on.
There is nothing wrong with these qualities, I want to be clear. In fact, all of them have their place, but here's the problem. If you are only working to manage the perceptions of others, two things are going to happen. Number one, you'll lose connection with your core sense of self.
You might even find yourself doing activities, saying things, even in relationships, that you don't really want. And number two, you are likely neglecting your own tenderness, your own vulnerabilities. Parts of you that need you to show up for you, in a more authentic way.
Here's the thing, I want you to enjoy relationships, activities, holiday gatherings, all the things, with people who stick around when the real you shows up. I want you to learn to turn toward those people, those activities, those conversations that bring you life. That genuinely allows you to show up in both the best of who you are and when you're having a hard time.
I want you to learn how to turn away from those relationships, from those people, from those activities that rob your joy. That force you to fit into boxes that no longer fit. I want you to find real joy in these next two months, as we close out this year. Where you learn to take brave steps, to honor the person God made you to be.
Now, it's a process, it's a journey. We've been talking a lot about it on this podcast. Real connections develop as you learn to listen to the cues inside of your own heart and body.
Pay attention to your emotions, to your bandwidth, to your capacity. Learning to speak up for what you really need and want, honestly. And it also starts with getting curious about the ways you are tempted to manage perceptions. The ways you are tempted to perfect, to please, to perform, to produce, to peace-keep, to protect, to even power-over.
It starts with that awareness of that part of you and setting a gentle boundary inside of you. And saying, "You know, I'm going to take a deep breath. I'm going to pause. I'm going to slow down when I walk into this room. I'm going to take a minute to really connect to myself and to God. So I can show up in one simple, small way that is true to myself."
Now, listen, I understand that it can be scary to show up more authentically. I want to encourage you to take a few brave steps, over this holiday season in particular. Don't go for your hardest thing, unless you feel called and unless you feel ready. But a few brave steps to show up a little bit more authentically.
Because here's the thing, we train people to expect certain behaviors from us. If we've always shown up as that producer, that performer, that pleaser, that perfect host. Other people have come to expect that from us. It's not really their fault. It's how we've trained other people that will show up.
And, so, when we start to change that, it can throw other people off. They might not like it. They might even ask you about it, and that's okay. If the relationship is strong, if the relationship is healthy, you can speak up on behalf and say, "Hey, I'm doing things a little bit differently this year."
You can use some of those scripts we talked about in the series on boundaries. To say, "Hey, man, I love spending time with you but I'm doing things differently this year. I'm going to show up in a different way."
As you stop managing perceptions and showing up more authentically, you might discover that someone else will love that quirky aspect of you, or someone will be thrilled to get to know your preferences. That someone will actually be empowered, through your modeling of a healthy boundary. That someone will see you and love you for the person you really are.
When you show up more authentically, you open yourself up to wonderful possibilities when it comes to your relationships, when it comes to your activities. Instead of trying to win the approval of everyone around you, you'll start to draw in the people, the activities, the actual nourishment that your soul craves.
Instead of managing the perceptions of everyone around you. You open yourself up to being known more authentically, and you're also more available to show up in a healing, empowering way for others.
All right, so here's just a quick example of some of the things I'm doing this holiday season. To help my own inner pleaser, producer, and performer, to show up more authentically over this coming holiday season.
I am spoiler alert, I haven't announced this yet on my socials. I'm going to be taking a six week break from social media for much of November and all of December. This is something I decided I need to do over the holidays.
I want to be able to be fully present this holiday season to God, to my family, to my friends, to myself. I'm discerning a lot about how I want to spend the new year. How I want to spend my time, and some writing projects that I have coming in 2023. Which means I need to scale back and that's one way I can do it.
There are things I love about social media, and things that really can just pull me down a rabbit trail of distractions. So I want to take this time to prioritize being present in those ways. I've said a lot of nos to really good things, and that's been hard for me. I've said no to some events. I've said no to some gatherings because I want to have margin over the holidays.
I don't want to be running around scattered, just bouncing like a pinball in a machine, from thing to thing. That's not what is nourishing to me. I want to have time in the day to think about, "Oh, what do I want to be doing for this hour?" Versus, "How do I just need to be feeling this time?"
So I've said some proactive nos that were hard to say, but that were important for me to stay healthy of body, of mind, of spirit, and of emotion. So I'm inviting you now, this first week of November, to take out your calendar and take a look at the next two months, and here's a strategy I want to share with you. I've just gone through this exercise myself. It came out of that whole boundary series we did the last couple of months. But I created a NO list, a MAYBE list, and a YES list. And I just did this in the notes app on my phone.
I have a NO list, a YES list, and a MAYBE list. And I started with the YES list. What do I absolutely need and want to say yes to over the next two months? And I tried to keep it really small. These are the absolutely YES, I am going to say YES to these few things, and get them on that list. And then if you're not sure, if you're not 100% sure, put some things on that MAYBE list.
Maybe, "I can't say no yet, but it's also not just 100% yes. So your MAYBE list might be long. And then start to put some things on that NO list. What are you going to say NO to?
Now start with the easiest things. The "Man, I'm definitely saying no to x, y, and z. I am saying no to this. I'm saying no to that. I'm saying no to this." Just get clear about the easy nos first. But there's going to be some hard nos. And when you get to those hard nos, they're going to go on that MAYBE list. This all goes back into that MAYBE pile.
The things want to say yes to but you're not sure you have the bandwidth for, and the things you want to say no to but it's going to be hard. All of those things go on that MAYBE list. And you divide that MAYBE list into two sections. One section that is the, "I wish I could say yes, I'm not sure I can." And the second section is, "I really want to say no, but it's going to be hard."
So, really, you have three lists, but that MAYBE list has two sections. And I really want you to spend some time with that maybe list. And I want you to pray over it, and I want you to talk to God about it. And if you've taken me up on that idea, to start forming a boundaries committee, you might have called it your no committee. It's that safe friend that helps you with those nos that are really hard to say. Take that maybe list to that person and talk it through with them.
But I want you to be proactive with that maybe list. I want you to challenge yourself. Why are you afraid to say those nos? Is it because you feel a sense of responsibility of calling? Or is it because you're afraid of not managing those perceptions? You're afraid of what they'll think if you say no? That there's some message you've told yourself, that you need to do this thing in order to get their approval.
I really want you to take a look at those things that are hard to say no to, and just examine a little bit prayerfully, and with that safe friend, and inside your own soul. The reason why it's hard to say no and see if you can bump some of those onto that NO list, and go ahead and take action. And, again, if you need some scripts, check out chapter six and chapter nine of The Best of You. Or go back to episodes 25 and 26 of the podcast, where we get into different ways of saying no.
But I really want to encourage you to move some of those maybes, proactively, onto that no list before the holiday season heats up and it's going to get only harder. It might be things like what you do for the holidays. Where you spend the holidays? How you spend the days after the holidays? How you spend the days leading up to the holidays?
It might have to do with the gifts that you are going to give. It might have to do with the cooking that you're going to do. It might have to do with conversations you're going to have or not have. It might have to do with events you've been invited to.
So take a look at that, and then take a look at the second part of that Maybe list, that are the yeses you really wish you could say, but you might not be able to. And I want you to ask yourself a couple of questions related to those things.
Is there a no you need to say that's going to be sad? And can you honor the fact that it's going to be sad? Can you allow yourself a little bit of grief about converting that, "I wish I could but I can't" into a no?
A lot of times we avoid saying a NO that we need to say because it makes us sad. Because we really wish we could. And, so, just notice if that's going on for you. And then, secondly, there may be a yes, you really wish you could say that you can't, because of really legitimate and hard circumstances. It might be a health issue, either yours or a family member's. It might be a financial issue that's really hard. It might be a mental health issue that's hard to talk about. That you're struggling and you need to be really careful with your time.
And, sometimes, it's just really hard because it brings up frustration. It might even bring up anger about this set of circumstances. You might find that you come face to face with frustration with God. Like, "This isn't fair. I want to be able to do this thing and I can't because of this set of circumstances." Or "These other people are going to be mad at me, and I can't tell them why I don't have the bandwidth right now. And that's just a bummer, man, that just stinks, I hate it."
And, so, you may have to give yourself permission, again, to grieve. You might have to give yourself permission to lament. You might have to give yourself permission to be a little bit angry even, and God can take it. God can take that anger. And I want to tell you, I'm so sorry, if you're finding yourself in that set of circumstances. Where there are some really good things you want to say yes to and you can't, and it's hard, and I'm with you in that this holiday season.
I hear you and I want to honor that with you. I want to honor that pain with you. And I'm inviting God right here right now to say God sees that pain too and it's hard, and God doesn't minimize that. God doesn't bypass that. And God also honors the courage that you're showing to say a hard NO, to honor this hard thing that you're going through.
It's hard, especially, at the holidays, to be brave. To honor, sometimes, even the hard things that we have to honor, that are going on in our lives. That means we have a reduced capacity, and it makes us mad. And it might make you sad, and I just want you to know I see you and I hear you, and I'm right there with you this holiday season.
So make those lists and give yourself permission to honor whatever emotion shows up. Especially in that middle category, where it's a big MAYBE. Where you're probably feeling stuck and you can't make that decision because it's hard and it brings up some emotion.
Be gentle with yourself. You're not going to get it exactly right. And that's the last thing I want to give you today, is you're going to make some mistakes, and you're going to muddle your way through a little bit. It's going to be messy. You're going to do some things you wish you didn't. You're going to overextend yourself in certain ways, and you might even say some nos that you later regret. This is not perfect. This is not a zero-sum game, as they say. It's not about getting it right. It's about giving yourself permission to show up a little more honestly, with a little more integrity, a little more authentically.
Because as you do that, here's the paradox, there's freedom in giving yourself permission, to make some mistakes on this journey of becoming more true to your God-given self.
All right, so make those lists. Be brave, and I can't wait to join you here next week with some friends of mine. With some different guests, who are going to talk us through how they've learned to be brave in their lives, in so many of these ways.[00:38:05] < Outro >
Thank you for joining me for this episode of The Best of You. Be sure to check out the show notes for any resources and links mentioned in the show. You can find those on my website at dralisoncook.com. That's Alison with one L- cook.com.
Before you forget, I hope you'll follow the show now so that you don't miss an episode. And I'd love it if you'd go ahead and leave a review, it helps so much to get the word out.
I look forward to seeing you back here next Thursday. And remember, as you become the best of who you are, you honor God, you heal others, and you stay true to your God-given self.[00:38:43] < Music >
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