I read a chapter in a book recently about the three images all of us have.  The author, John Bevere, goes on to elaborate on our projected image, our perceived image, and our actual image.  By definition, our projected image is the way we desire others to see us; our perceived image is how others see us; and our actual image is who we really are.

For many of us, our perceived image is of utmost importance.  I’m not sure whether this is more acutely idiosyncratic to Singaporeans, but it does seem that our reputation is of greater importance than perhaps the true motives of our hearts.  This leads to us projecting ourselves in the way we desire to be perceived.  It could partially be attributed to our growing affluence.  It could also be due to our cultural take on the issue of “saving face”!  Much of our efforts tend to be focused on appearances, status, titles, accomplishments, accolades, possessions – so much so that we are led to put on a false front ever so often!

If this be the case, then the ideal situation for the majority of us is to ensure that our projected image be equated to our perceived image.  Of course, this is much easier said than done.  For a start, what I project tends to be from a perspective of one person – me.  Some people call this the “I” point of view.  What others out there see in the way I project myself tends to come from a “we” perspective – a collective array of perceptions that could well be broad-based without necessarily any commonality or alignment.  The variety of perceptions the world has of us stem from the fact that the folks whom we are in contact with come from all walks of life, engage us across different circumstances, have varied levels of relationships with us.

The situation that struck me when I was reading what John had to say in his book is that many of us, and I plead guilty to this myself, have placed so much emphasis on how we project ourselves and how others perceive us, that we forget to look at who we actually are!  Author Donna Davis once wrote, “Open your eyes to the beauty around you, open your mind to the wonders of life, open your heart to those who love you, and always be true to yourself.”   

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all be who we really are and align our actual image with our projected one, as both of these are within our control.  However, some of my friends tell me that by doing this, it makes them overly transparent and in some cases “vulnerable”.  Some blame it on the stereotyping that prevails in a society like ours.  In that because you are a Managing Director, you must project this image; and because you are a school teacher, you must project that image.  And the list goes on! 

I can understand how difficult it can be to “be true to yourself” and project at all times our “actual” image.  But is this too idealistic?  Is it possible at all?  Do we want to do it at the expense of what people will perceive of us?  I’d like to think that, despite the scrutiny and judgement which the affluent and developed world constantly places upon us, there is valid reason for us to justify projecting the “actual” and accepting the consequences that come with the turf.