There’s Power In Our Perceptions

Living Well

As a single parent of three sons, the license plate on my car read BOYSNI, because most of my statements seemed to begin with, “The boys ’n I….” But after seven years, my girlfriend said to me, “Grace, if you don’t lose that license plate, you’re never going to find romance!” She meant that manifestation requires not only a practiced intention but also a vacuum to fill. So after a lot of consideration, and a change in perspective, I ordered a new license plate that read GRACEFL. It was a passage marker for me, an outward indicator of an internal transformation.

If we can’t change a situation, we can change our perception of it by viewing it differently. And then we’ll live in a different reality. People may say, “You’re in denial.” Good! Why would we choose to keep focusing on something we don’t want and don’t want more of?

Some of our perspectives don’t serve us.

We develop problematic perspectives by interpreting reality instead of letting it be what it is. Each of us views life differently, because we see it through a personal filter that we’ve created from our beliefs and our experiences. Based on our filter, we attach descriptive qualities to people and conditions – good, bad, right, wrong, acceptable, unacceptable – so that we know how to relate to them. Then we let our interpretation determine how we feel. We describe something or someone as different from us, then we say that different is a problem for us, then we say that the problem makes us mad. And in that way, we give something, which has no ability to affect us, the ability to affect us. In truth, nothing has the ability to affect us until we decide what to believe about it and what our response should be.

We tend to tweak reality most in our perceptions of ourselves. We underestimate ourselves by not recognizing our strengths, and we overestimate ourselves by overlooking our points for improvement. In both cases, we have a picture in our mind of who we are, and we translate reality so that it matches that picture. And then we build a camp of people around us who will confirm our truth for us.

We sometimes put people in boxes and leave them there.

We judge people for being different from us, because we judge ourselves most of all. And if we believe that we’re not all right, we probably see others the same way.

One of my friends holds onto outdated perceptions of people long after they’ve outgrown them. She continues relating to her old versions and brings up events from years ago as evidence that she’s right today. Because she won’t acknowledge the change in people, she doesn’t encounter those changes in her relationships. Instead, she keeps interacting with her beliefs.

If we only accept people when they behave the way we want them to behave, our relationships will be based on fear and manipulation. So if we hear ourselves making suggestions for how the people around us can improve themselves – and what we really want is for them to change into what we want them to be so that we can feel better – it’s not real love.

Our perceptions are shaping our future.

When we see, hear or read something, and then we think something about it based on our belief about it, and then we feel a certain way based on whatever we’re thinking about it – and we do it over and over and over – our interpretation is training our attitude, which is determining our behavior, which is reinforcing our expectation, which is planning our future.

So the question we’re all facing is: What am I going to do with what’s in front of me? Every day, we’re presented with people and conditions that we can push against. And in every situation, we have the ability to not join the masses. To instead deliberately focus on something that makes us feel good, walking away if necessary. To choose a gentler, kinder, better-feeling thought, in order to maintain a positive attitude as our norm.

When we drop fear and resistance toward people and situations, our perceptions instinctively become supportive. And then we can see the harmony in life. And the good news is that, if we relate differently to people and circumstances, our experience of them will change accordingly, because they can only be for us whatever we believe they are.

Try it out. Treat people differently and notice what happens.

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Author, Blogger, Contributor to Thrive Global, The Good Men Project, InspireMore and HuffPost