When people look at me, they see an illusion. They don’t see the real me.
That’s true of you, too. Some of what others see in us is the illusion we project. Another big part of what they see — probably the biggest part — comes from their unconscious assumptions about human beings. And a bit of it is actual truth that leaks out through the cracks in the masks we wear.
You could spend your life studying one solitary person — as a full-time job — and still not understand every single thing there is to know about that person. Humans are too complex on the inside. We often have little understanding of ourselves. Even the best of us keep discovering new things that later seem obvious.
Since it’s impossible to know another person completely — and few are even interested — it’s natural that we would develop quick abstractions for those we see around us. We project what we want to see onto those we perceive as good or even ideal. We project what we expect to see (or fear we’ll see) onto those we perceive as bad. We go through life with this rough shorthand about others. It’s horribly inaccurate, but it’s good enough to allow us to survive.
Most people go through life believing they are known and understood by others — and that they know others, too. Some of us know better, though, and that leaves us feeling unbearably alone.