In Others, We See Ourselves

There is a teaching I learned first in the name of the Ba’al Shem Tov. Then years later I heard it again in the name of another teacher/master of a different faith.

The teaching goes like this:

When we see faults in others, it is really our own faults we are seeing in them.

Like, we notice the flaws in others which we have in ourselves.

A simple example would be thinking someone is loud, when the person thinking that is actually loud themselves.

That is how I always interpreted it.

But on the heals of the forest therapy retreat this past Sunday, I have more ideas percolating.

I’ve also learned that the good we see in others reflects back what we value in ourselves, and/or aspects in ourselves we want to grow/nurture/cultivate.

And I’ve also learned that the reality we know, the one that feels like objective reality is really subjective in that it is formed by the perceptions and projections of our own brains.

So put that all together and what do you get?

Everything we see in life is like a mirror, in that it reflects something back to us.

What we see is a product of our unique perception of the world. And when we perceive other people, we are seeing them through the lens of ourselves—our life experiences, our thoughts, our emotions, our ego, our separate self.

This statement can be put in a family tree style model as the father of “When we see flaws in others, it is really about the flaws we feel we have in ourselves.”

Everything we see is filtered through the lens of our specific self’s perception.

Knowing that, it’s no wonder why what we see in others we are really seeing in ourselves,

Because everything that we see is a projection from our separate selves.

You feel me?


Going further. Sometimes we may see strengths in others which we acknowledge we have. Other times, we see strengths in others which we feel we lack and wish we had. But I’ve started to believe that that “wish” that we had that aspect within ourselves is actually a bud, if not a seedling of that very quality itself.

Let me explain.

I admired how my boyfriend in college did stand up comedy as well as wrote funny, intriguing blogs.

Five years later, I was writing my own blog posts, and three years after that I was doing stand up comedy.

Not because I wanted to copy him.

Because when I knew him these skills were dormant within me,.

At the time I thought of these skills as “other.” Then seven years later, after I had already been writing for a couple years, it hit me, “I am writing! I used to admire how he used to write…”

Or how I often had crushes on guitar players. I never got more than 1.5 years into playing guitar but I did end up picking up the ukulele last year and did very well with playing kids songs as well as some fun pop songs.

And in recent months, I have been writing song parodies and rap parodies.


Then there was my second boyfriend at the end of college, whom in the months after dating him, I discussed with.my. therapist how that relationship was a vehicle for me to connect with my more adventurous and playful self, whom I had hidden away for the previous decade of being a very studious and obedient young woman.


I always considered it a cop-out statement when after a break up people would say, “Well, you learned about yourself. You grew,” Yada yada yada. Whatever. I miss the dude. Stop trying to turn this into some metaphysical, spiritual growth thing.

But in the family tree model, if the father statement is, “The whole world is seen through the lens of our separate self.” And one offspring/offshoot of that is “When we see a flaw in someone else we are actually projecting OUR flaw onto them.” And another offshoot of that is, “When we value something in someone else, we are really valuing that aspect in ourselves (even if at the time is lies subconscious and dormant! Part of us knows it’s there!).” Then learning about ourselves through a relationship is not only a cop-out idea, it’s like the only idea. Cuz everything in our world is like a mirror, reflecting our separate selves back to us; with the potential to be a catalyst for introspection and growth.

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