Perception: A Quick Reminder About The Human Experience

Maybe at one time or another in your life you’ve read or heard the phrase “perception is everything” by some well-meaning elder trying to drop some seeds of knowledge on that oftentimes barren, dry mass of gray matter ensconced between your temples. Right? Ring a bell? No? Well, whether that phrase resonates with you or not I’m here to tell you: Perception is everything.

I repeat, perception is everything.

Don’t believe me? Okay. I’m willing to allow you your right to disagree with me because I’m a fair person. However, I’m willing to bet you that after a bit of focus on the phrase itself, the meaning behind the words in it and a few cleverly displayed examples, you’ll be inclined to believe me.

Okay, let’s begin with the first word in the phrase, “perception”. As defined by Dictionary.com, perception is:

Capture

And for further insight into the definition let’s look at how “perceive” is defined:

perceive

I need to mention that I don’t doubt the intelligence of anyone reading this but I have found that even the most intelligent of people don’t always realize the importance of the words we use and what they mean. We get caught up in the commonality of things so much so that oft-heard and used phrases and sayings are spoken less and less with regard to their actual intended meanings.

If to perceive means to identify by means of the senses, to recognize, discern, envision or understand, then this indicates that our perception is based upon how we identify by means of the senses; how we recognize, discern, envision or understand things. Because the truth of it all is that everyone identifies, recognizes, discerns, envisions and understands in different ways, for different reasons and based on their life experiences. We’re all different.

weird
Clearly, we’re all different. Right, Sarah Palin?

I wonder how Sarah Palin would perceive my use of this snippet of her silly wacky interesting display of individualism. The world will probably never know. But one thing that is probably obvious to you right now, dear reader is how I perceive Silly Sarah.

I won’t get too deep into my personal views on Silly Sarah but I will say that she helps me segue effectively into the point I was going to make next. I would say that there was a large population of The US that seemed electrified by Mrs. Palin when she was named John McCain’s running mate and that she definitely became a household name. But for what reasons? Depending on who you ask, you may get an answer you either agree or disagree with but I can bet ya a Russia view from a porch in Alaska that any of the opinions you get on her will all be due to how each individual perceive(d) Silly Sarah and her shenanigans time in the limelight. Love her, hate her, cheer her on or deny her existence, not one opinion on Silly Sarah is given without a person first identifying, recognizing, discerning and understanding who she is based on their life-long built set of opinions and experiences. But all those perceptions on Sarah Palin comparison (hahahahahaha couldn’t resist) to the varied perceptions of important yet sometimes small things we deal with in our daily lives. Those perceptions are either hindering or helping us to thrive, whether most of us realize it or not.

Allow me to give you a few examples of why perception is everything.

Giving A F@ck Vs Not Giving A F@ck

I want to preface this example of perception being everything with one of my favorite articles ever called The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F@ck by Mark Manson. Besides it being super awesome for the advice it gives and thoughts it provokes, it also effectively helps to define some major pieces to this perception puzzle I’m trying to pull together for you. If you haven’t read it and have an extra 12 minutes to spare (Yes, Mr. Manson lets you know prior to reading the article how long it will take you to read it) STOP READING THIS POST RIGHT NOW AND CLICK HERE! I promise you that not only will it have been worth your while to read but that it will help you better understand this particular example.

If you heard me say “I don’t give a f@ck!” (and please, I know I shouldn’t have to explain this but no, I do not mean I don’t give a “fack” and if that’s how you read it instead of it being my attempt at lame censorship then I perceive you as not being too bright) what do you think I mean?  What does not giving a f@ck really mean to you? We all use this term so often yet never really ponder it. It would seem most people would equate the phrase with not caring about anything, but is it really as simple as that? Allow me to blow your mind.

mind.blown
Yes, just like this!

How do you perceive things? If a heavily tattooed, muscular, 6 foot 7 tall black man with a mohawk was described as “not giving a f@ck” to you, what picture would first enter your mind? Would he be a criminal blatantly destroying and stealing property? Or part of a biker gang, maybe? Or could he possibly be going balls-to-the-wall fighting for an important cause that all of humanity would benefit from? Your opinions on tattooed men, black men, tall men, muscular men and a colorful amalgamation of a few if not all of those types will determine whether or not the man described is one to be feared or admired.I think it goes without saying that we all grew up in different circumstances with varied experiences, values and ideals thrust upon us by our respective family units and surroundings. We are shaped and molded by what happens to us, how we process it and that makes things very complicated.

Mark Manson mentions in his article that:

“When most people envision giving no fucks whatsoever, they envision a kind of perfect and serene indifference to everything, a calm that weathers all storms.

This is misguided. There’s absolutely nothing admirable or confident about indifference. People who are indifferent are lame and scared. They’re couch potatoes and internet trolls. In fact, indifferent people often attempt to be indifferent because in reality they actually give too many fucks. They are afraid of the world and the repercussions of their own choices. Therefore, they make none. They hide in a grey emotionless pit of their own making, self-absorbed and self-pitied, perpetually distracting themselves from this unfortunate thing demanding their time and energy called life.

My mother was recently screwed out of a large chunk of money by a close friend of hers. Had I been indifferent, I would have shrugged my shoulders, sipped some mocha and downloaded another season of The Wire. Sorry mom.

But instead, I was indignant. I was pissed off. I said, “No, screw that mom, we’re going to lawyer the fuck up and go after this asshole. Why? Because I don’t give a fuck. I will ruin this guy’s life if I have to.”

This illustrates the first subtlety about not giving a fuck. When we say, “Damn, watch out, Mark Manson just don’t give a fuck,” we don’t mean that Mark Manson doesn’t care about anything; on the contrary, what we mean is that Mark Manson doesn’t care about adversity in the face of his goals, he doesn’t care about pissing some people off to do what he feels is right or important or noble.”

Mr. Manson makes several good points about not giving a f@ck, specifically when he speaks about it not meaning being indifferent. Sure, there are plenty of people we’ve probably described as “not giving a fuck” who are definitely indifferent. But if giving a fuck isn’t about being indifferent to the happenings of life those people are well… posers.

You ain't bout that not giving a f@ck life!
You ain’t bout that not giving a f@ck life!

It’s very common for the most stone-faced, seemingly emotionless, non-reactive of the population to be masking how much they indeed do care or give a f@ck about things. People like that tend to be hiding a lot of hurt and pain and don’t want to show the world any vulnerabilities because they fear being viewed as vulnerable means they’ll get hurt. Does that really sound like a person who as Mr. Manson puts it “doesn’t care about adversity in the face of his goals… doesn’t care about pissing some people off to do what he feels is right or important or noble.”? Nah. Not giving a f@ck takes courage and there’s nothing courageous about living in fear. Nothing at all.

How Things “Should” Be

One of the things I’ve realized about dealing with people is that they are preoccupied with their own perceptions of how things should be. The problem with this is they operate from their own standpoint of how things should be without taking into consideration that every person they interact with has their own idea of how things should be. Mastering the art of identifying how people think things should be will save you a lot of headache and time when it comes to dealing with them. I’ve survived many a difficult call in Customer Service management and the one thing that helped save me from verbally executing people was the ability to discern quickly how the caller wanted things to be; or better yet what they wanted ultimately out of speaking to me. Identifying this allowed me to maneuver appropriately around initially irate people until I had either completely solved their issue or at least come to some mild resolve. In our lives every day there is an opportunity to use this skill. I shit you not, it works wonders!

If you work in an office environment then I’m sure you’ve come across co-workers who have tested your nerves and tap danced all over your patience. The worst part of it being that because you work with them, you can’t escape them and whatever it is about them that drives you crazy. But do you know what you can do? You can take what you’ve heard them say over time, break it down to its most basic elements and navigate from there how to deal with them. I’ll give you an example.

I once worked with an older lady (old enough to be my mother) who just flat-out refused to actually absorb any basic computer knowledge required for successfully performing her job functions. Copy and paste? Foreign concept. Saving a file and remembering where you saved it? O-friggin-blivious. Then there was “office talk”. The particular co-worker I’m speaking of was the oldest person in my department and would sometimes seem lost among the many subjects we all giggled about. She randomly would add to conversations with random off-topic comments which everyone found annoying but I realized one day what was happening. She believed that at work she should be involved in conversation. Realizing that one small thing made me realize that we hardly ever included her directly or asked her simple things like how her weekend was. She wanted to be included. I started talking to her more and finding out about her life which allowed me then to focus on her personally instead of the things that annoyed me about her as far as work went. That shift in focus completely changed how I felt about working with her and I was glad it happened.

I realized in that work situation I thought that the way things should be was that my co-worker shouldn’t have been so annoying, which amplified my annoyance towards her and made me dread dealing with her at all. By engaging her in conversation I found out that she had no relationship with her grown children and had dedicated most of her life to mothering them. I then saw her as a person who simply wanted a connection to others. I saw her as someone in need of someone to care. I saw someone in need of a f@ck to be given.

It is so very easy to get caught up in our own lives and problems and to forget that while we’re dealing with our trials and triumphs, so are others. Everyone you encounter is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Everyone you know has a different set of bricks that built them into who they are today. By showing a little compassion and empathy towards people we have the power to transcend our perceptions of them and truly make a connection. Amazing things can happen when we realize that finding common ground with people when there are so many differences in our experiences and opinions is truly a beautiful thing. I challenge you to examine how you perceive things and then to try paying attention to how others perceive things. At the very least by doing so you’ll have realized how important perception is. At the very most you’ll realize it’s everything.

Namaste.

Oh and…

Use it wisely.
Use it wisely.

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