The concept that one’s perception is their reality is not new. I didn’t originate this idea but I want to spend time talking through it today as I find it tremendously valuable. So let’s first pull it back and define what that means. From the moment we’re born our perception is being formed. It happens through relationships, developmental milestones, culture, experiences, and the list could go on. There are millions of ‘input’ areas in our life. Our view of the world, therefore, is unique. We see or interpret things through the lens of that worldview.
Now, I’m not at all advocating for an ‘anything goes’ mentality. I do believe in right and wrong and am not speaking to those ultimate truths in this post. Instead, I’m focusing on how our perception shapes the way we interact with our surroundings. Just thought I needed to lay down that ground rule before moving on.
Okay, but why would this matter? I see the answer to that question as two-fold: the first part has to do with our internal self, the second to do with our response to external things.
It’s important to recognize and accept the fact that we possess a distinct worldview. To think that our viewpoint will perfectly line up with someone else’s is helpful to no one. That leads to assumptions, misunderstandings, and (at worst) egotistical behavior. We wind up believing everyone thinks and sees the same way we do. This will likely frustrate friends, offend strangers, and annoy family members.
If you haven’t considered this idea before, take some time to examine your ‘reality.’ What has shaped your core values? What experiences have influenced your outlook? It’s not a perfect science and there is no right or wrong answer. But meditating on those points will give you a place to start. What are the perceptions that shape your world?
Now onto the second part: we’ve acknowledged our perspective but so what? Just because we have a certain way of perceiving things doesn’t give us carte blanche to ignore any other approaches. In fact, it urges us to be all the more understanding of someone else’s reality. When we come up against situations, experiences, or conversations that contradict our viewpoint, it’s not a time for war-of-the-worlds.
Let me be clear: I’m not being naïve here. In no way am I assuming that we’ll all be swinging on rainbows or sipping on sunshine if only we could recognize that our perception becomes our reality. But I do firmly believe it’s a place to start. With this knowledge we can develop a thicker skin to differing opinions while opening up a softer side of ourselves to understand where those divergent opinions come from.
Next time you’re met with controversy, pause for one extra second before you respond and ask: is this stemming from a difference in perception? If yes, could I approach this in a more constructive way?