It’s All Our Perception

It’s All Our Perception

I was flipping through a magazine a few weeks back, and a quote I saw nearly bowled me over.

It was from Dr. Phil, a guy I used to really enjoying listening to—and probably still would—but I’d heard him utter the phrase a soft place to land once too often and had to let go.

Anyway, this time I found his words in print, and his wisdom once again struck me:

There is no reality, he saidjust perception.

Have you ever heard that before?! I hadn’t. A pretty simple thought, yet so profound.

It was the perfect explanation to something I’d been contemplating for a long time.

It all goes back to a conversation I’d had with a friend—a good friend—a year or so ago. This friend {Friend A} is an amazing gal: kind, generous, and fun, but she had a less-than-flattering impression of another gal I knew, whom I’ll refer to as Friend B.

Friend B is unbelievable.

She’s fantastic.

She’d do anything for anyone and is just as kind and wonderful as Friend A, though I’d say their personalities and strengths varied.

So HOW could one kind-and-wonderful person not recognize kind-and-wonderful in another? And how could I see something so drastically different than this woman whose opinion I valued and admired?


We See Things As We Are

photo via Poster Inspired @ Etsy

There is no reality, just perception.

And Friend A had a slightly different perception of Friend B than I did.

We believe reality IS the way we see things, which, of course, is affected by our own {sometimes stubborn} thoughts on how things should be and how people should behave: our personal set of standards. We hold ourselves as the measure of whether someone’s up-to-par or not: if we perceive someone to be like us or we admire them for something we wish we were, then they earn our seal of approval. If we perceive them to be different in a way we don’t value, then they’re off our A list.

That’s not to point a finger at Friend A. We all do this at some point in time. Admit it.

I know I’m guilty.

An example: I met a gal in college who came off to me as snarky. She was curt and often sarcastic and standoffish, which, to someone who appreciates warm-and-fuzzy, was not cool.

I’m actually quite suspicious of folks who don’t hug or find it hard to crack a smile.

That first semester, we only had brief encounters, and my impression of her didn’t change. In my mind, the reality of it was that she was downright rude. Until one day in the spring, when fate—and our study schedules—had it that we sat at the same table at the library, and both ended up heading outside for a break at the same time. And we talked.

And then laughed a little bit. And talked some more.

And I realized she could smile, and had a great sense of humor beyond sarcasm.

And my perception changed.

She’d always had these facets to her personality. She didn’t just—at that moment—develop those qualities that I’d sworn she never had. I just perceived that they were lacking, and would’ve testified to that fact if I’d been asked just a day before.

I was so wrong.

And let me be honest, it’s happened time and time again: me judging someone in a certain way and being way off-base.

I think this concept should be taught early on, before we all grow old and so set in our ways. Say your prayers and please and thank you, look folks in the eye when you’re talking to them, early to bed/early to rise, and oh, there is no reality, just perception, because I’m 43, and—if it hadn’t been for that bold Texan—I never would’ve had that epiphany.

Of course, we don’t all have to like each other, and that’s okay, too. Friend A can not enjoy the company of Friend B and that doesn’t lessen either of them in any way. We all value different things in friends and can choose whom we surround ourselves with and include in our dear inner circle.

But maybe, we could all just take a step back before we decide to size someone up, and give folks the benefit of the doubt. And realize that there’s more than one way of seeing something. There’s more than our perception.

And just understanding that seems to me like a nice little gift to the world.

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  1. Wow, that is really good. I started reading it thinking it was going to say something completely different than it did. I thought it was about Dr. Phil. Haha. Really good to keep in mind. Figuring people dynamics out is an obsession of mine, and sometimes this one concept that you discuss just boils it down to why folks sometimes differ in opinions of not only people but how a certain conversation or confrontation even went. Thank you for this!

  2. So wise. So very wise you are. It’s so true and we could go weeks, years, without realizing that there really is no reality and we need to be aware of our perceptions. Thank you so much for opening my eyes this morning.
    Tricia just wrote this gem …August dislikeMy Profile

  3. Perception is everything! And you are so right: it can be changed. I used to be a rather rigid first impression kind of gal, always tending to feel toward someone the way I did in those first few moments of introduction. In doing so, I’m sure I’ve lost the opportunity to have some amazing people in my life. This tendency, which is partially a symptom of introversion, has improved drastically with age and a mellowing spirit, but it’s something I keep in check always. Great post!

  4. First of all- HA about Dr. Phil!!! I know!!! I used to watch him religiously when I was pregnant with Cass….. soaked him UP!! But then he got all ‘reality tv’ on me… neh.

    This post is awesome Michelle. Dr. Phil got this right for sure. It’s amazing how our ‘reality’ is simply coming from our own projections! I have had the same experience with SO many friends… it’s incredibly difficult to gauge a person.

    Everyone sees EVERYTHING differently. I guess it’s like the human condition…
    Chris Carter just wrote this gem …Leave A Trail Behind You…My Profile

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