Perception Is Not Reality

Perception Is Not Reality

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It’s actually a stupid statement, whether you mean it literally or figuratively, but it’s been so often repeated over the last several decades and in so many places that it bears making the point again.

Perception is not reality.

But people do react to their perception, and the picture they built in their heads of you is a reflection of how they perceive you. It’s entirely reasonable to remember that every person you have ever met has a different perception of who you are. That perception can never be based on complete data and always comes coloured with whatever life experience and mental baggage they are bringing to it as well. That’s a piece that most people miss. Who you think I am is in part based on your experience of the world and how that experience has shaped you. And you probably no more know the real me than I know the real you.

And most the time, that doesn’t occur to most of us.

Perception is not reality but people react based on their perception of reality.

I do think it’s reasonable, however, that once you learn of some person or group’s perception of you that you examine that perception. Not so much to find out if you agree with it not, but to examine your actions and motivations to see if that perception might be reasonable in their eyes.

Let’s say your perception of me is that I’m a giant jerk. What if the way I see things is that I’m constantly in a position of having to make quick and concise decisions without the ability to be able to explain those to everyone every time. If I examine that through your eyes, can I see how you might see it that way? Can I then soften my approach?

If your perception is that I’m slow to act and wishy-washy, but my reality is that I’ve strong preference for information gathering and making as informed decision on something as possible, and then, perhaps, changing course when new information becomes available, can I see how you might view me that way? Can I see that you’ll be surprised if I pull you up short and cut you off on something when a decision changes because I’ve got new information?

In either case, I’m not responsible for your perception of me, but in both cases I am responsible for my presentation me.

And let’s muddy the water a little more. Can both of those perceptions result from the same set of actions? If you only see the quick, decisive action, then maybe I come across as a giant jerk. If you only see the slow gathering of information, slow decision, and flip-flop, then maybe I seem slow to act and wishy-washy. If you see some piece of the slow gathering of information and after perception that I’m soft and weak but the decision, when it comes, is quick, decisive, and doesn’t fit with your view, am I both wishy-washy and a giant jerk?

Are both perceptions true at the same time? Is neither? I don’t know. I can’t see inside your head.

Only I know the reality of who I really am. But I can also fool myself, and many people do.

Perception is not reality, but it does matter.

Be well, everyone.

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