A common theme that runs through most human brains is “what do people think of me?”. Now, it doesn’t happen to all of the people all of the time, but it has happened to you, it has happened to everyone. Life is all about perspective and it’s a vital part of your self-development to understand who you are, a great way to do this is to look at how others see you; not how you think they see you but how they actually see you.
Take a good look at this picture – the very famous and utterly fantastic Alan Rickman on the left and largely unknown chemistry teacher John Nettleship on the right. Yet together with the observational skills, knowledge, and creativity of JK Rowling they became Professor Severus Snape.
How we see ourselves is how rarely how others see us, in fact its normally quite surprising to us; I personally have been called brave many times which I just don’t see (doesn’t mean its not true though does it) as I am just living my life making the best decisions I can – like every single one of us.
As you can see from the words in the picture Mr Nettleship didn’t see him self as ‘that bad’ but was aware that he was stricter than some of his peers. To be fair science teachers were not really known for their patience were they! He was a teacher many years ago where it was the plan to be feared – or it certainly felt that way for so many of us who were educated in the 80’s and 90’s.
I didn’t know the man Alan Rickman (sadly) and neither did I know the man John Nettleship. However, I did know Mr Nettleship the Chemistry teacher because he was my Chemistry teacher! At school we called him Stinger (never to his face obviously, few of us were that brave) and he was strict, impatient, dished out lines to a lot of people and vitally, he was very passionate about his subject. His wife worked as a lab technician and he referred to her as ‘wifey’ – I am sure (as I reflect) he was trying to engage with us somehow. As a teenager I just thought he was a ‘right bastard’. That was the perception and that was our reality. I am sure I am not the only one that used to feel that the man came to school everyday just to piss us off – but now that I am an adult I perceive it differently – I was no where near a top set student – imagine teaching the subject you love, the subject you feel so passionately about that you spent years learning and it gets you excited so you want to share with the world and then suddenly you are trying to teach a bunch of ungrateful teenagers who were more interested in trying to set fire to each other’s school bags with a Bunsen Burner.
How we believe we are perceived by others is a warped version of how we see ourselves and it is how we see ourselves that really matters. Personal development is about learning, adapting, and changing but it is never about rewriting our own story. Our education doesn’t stop when we leave school in fact it is when it begins; learning about ourselves is key when it comes to developing self-confidence. Becoming grounded in who we are really is the difference that makes the difference in so many ways. The most simple way to find out how we are perceived by others is to ask people... it doesn't feel that comfortable thing to do but the benefits are HUGE. Keep it really simple, ask with permission; that is all you need to do. Ask the question of someone you know, like and trust; "if you were to describe me to a stranger what would you say about me?" and give the permission to the person you are questioning to be totally and utterly honest, you are questioning to understand not to receive an ego stroke. You will be surprised with what comes back; take those words and sentences and write them down (use lots of colours and make it pretty) and stick it on the wall. The next stage of this exercise is to understand more about the words and phrases and what they mean for you and then you can decide if you want to change anything. In a world that is changing around us at speed it is important that we learn more about ourselves, it will show us who we are and will enable us to navigate unprecedented times (what a silly phrase, cant believe I used it) much more confidently.
Most of us will not have the experience of Mr Nettleship and see the characterised versions of ourselves, for years he denied Professor Snape was based on him… I would have done too to be fair – however by the end of the books we discover that Severus Snape was actually hugely selfless and did everything for love. Having never known John Nettleship the man I can never know if the same was true for him and as much as I would like to think so I still remember the lines, the detentions the sarcastic passive-aggressive tone, and the fear that surrounded our science lessons - not always fear of him but fear that someone would snap back and it would all kick off (it often did).
Did you go to Wyedean School? I would love to know your thoughts on which Harry Potter characters were based on which teachers.
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