Perceptions are a funny thing, some might say fickle, even.
A perception, simply put, is the way we think about things. The way we view the world around us, the people in it, the situations we find ourselves in, and so on.
We each have the power to shift the perceptions others have of us based on the things we say and do. The way we present ourselves, the way we speak and the way we act all play a role in how others view us. The same can be said of how we view others. So, at what point are the things we are seeing real, or simply the creation of what someone wants us to see? How do you know if your perception is based on the truth or carefully crafted pieces designed to trick you? What about the perceptions you put into the world? Do you put out a certain facade for people to see, a shield of sorts? Or do you allow people to see the truth and simply create their own perspectives of who you are?
Look at these photos for a minute. Take in the subject, the surroundings and the feelings that they exude.
How do they make you feel? What perceptions were you able to make based on those photos?
If I had to guess what you were thinking, I’d say those photos give the impression of a confident woman who is capable of what she sets her mind to. Someone who is strong and dependable, kind and loving, and fiercely independent. There may be plenty more to it than that, of course, but as a baseline that’s what I’d consider you to think. I can safely say that, of course, because the woman is me and that is the perception that I put out to the world.
Now, what if I told you that the woman in those photos has spent the last fifteen years in a consistent cycle of mental/physical abuse? Or that she’s fallen into a depression more times than even she realizes? What if I told you she’d thought about giving up on things mid-cycle, the things everyone applauds her for? Or that there are nights when her kids fall asleep and she simply cries, out of sheer exhaustion and fear? Would you believe me if I told you she was more afraid than she let on, or that there are times when she asks for help simply to have someone to talk to? Would any of that make sense based on what you are able to perceive from those photos?
I’d wager a guess that some of you reading this, those that know me especially, are sitting here wondering what the hell I’m talking about. That right there though, that concept, is the power of perception. You would never know any of those things unless I said them out loud to you, simply because I don’t present myself in a way for you to know them. I am inclined to present myself in a way that paints the best possible picture, as we all are, as is human nature. Yes, some people are allowed in to see the depths of who we truly are, if we choose to let them or they care to search for it. We all have people we are willing to let see us as we are, the deepest of flaws and scars, but everyone else gets the perception we put forward.
On the point of who we choose to let him, I will say this, as it has been my experience, both having done it and been on the receiving end, that sometimes we want to spill the tea to people, close or not, simply because we can’t keep it in anymore. Those people though, the ones who randomly spew word vomit at you without warning, the ones who seem like they are telling you every deep, dark secret, are often the loneliest. And in that moment, the words come and they don’t stop, that is when they’ve realized they simply need someone to listen and hear them, even if you say nothing in response. Those are also the times, IMO, when people are more likely to stop them mid-vomit and say something like “I don’t need to hear all this” or “that’s a little TMI, isn’t it?” and the words stop. The feelings return to their place in the depths of the darkness, and the facades shift so that you once again perceive them to be just fine.
So, why do we insist on continuing this cycle? Why are we so afraid to let people perceive us in a less than perfect way? What holds us back from letting everyone see us exactly as we are, flaws and all? Will we ever learn to look past the facades or is it inevitable that we believe what people put out there?
Personally, I think fear is the real motivator. We fear that if people know the real us, the things we’ve been through and the things we do, they won’t accept us as we are. They won’t see us as equals, or as the strong and capable people we are, but they’ll look at us differently if they know the whole story. It’s in our nature to want to be accepted, and we fear that people won’t accept us if they know the whole story. Myself for example: most people don’t know my full story, nor do they ask about it. They take what I show them and that’s what they think it is, and if they catch a glimpse of the truth, they usually back off (and this isn’t for everyone either). And yet I share it, over and over, sometimes on a blog and sometimes in person, without fear of rejection or being accepted. Why? Because if I’ve learned anything from the things that I’ve been through it’s that loving myself is what matters the most, and telling my story might help someone else do the same.
What are your thoughts? What perceptions do you put forward to shelter people (or yourself) from the real you?