I was five when I was taught that perception, not truth, was reality.
The lesson was that it did not matter what I said, did or meant. It mattered how what I said or did was perceived by others.
That’s a young age to discover that my truth was not the TRUTH.
It took a while to sink in. To realize that facts and figures are likely absolutes, but thoughts and feelings – while they may have certainty in my own mind or that of others – are not.
Searching for the truth
In the last few weeks, after considering how easy it is to believe the bad things and reject the good, I’ve been paying more attention. To my words and others’. To what our words reveal about our perception, and whether or not that perception is real.
I have listened to friends criticize their intelligence, weight, beauty, capability and skills. I’m flabbergasted, as I tend to hold them in high regard in the areas where they think they fall short. They are equally perplexed by my own self-judgment.
Re-evalutaing my truth
I’ve been working diligently over the last three months to get back to my pre-surgery fitness levels.
Along the way, co-workers, friends and family have been very supportive. They share how healthy they think I look. For them, this is likely a huge improvement over the woman who could barely walk upright and who was regularly in visible pain.
They didn’t perceive me as overweight or frumpy as I struggled to find anything comfortable to wear. They didn’t see me as less effective because I was at the mercy of doctors’ visits and couldn’t control my own body. I did.
My perception is my reality. And my perception has been that the work I’ve done is not enough. That I’m not there yet. So I caveat my “thank you” with “but I still have more to go.”
In my head, I haven’t hit my goal. There are still flaws to fix. Challenges to overcome.
Is my truth the truth?
Which is the truth? For better or worse, they both are. To others, I look healthy and fit. To me, I still have work to do. Each perception is reality to someone. But it is our individual perception that drives our relationships, interactions and behaviors. Our perception of ourselves, and of those around us.
While having a high bar and setting challenging goals is a good thing – it’s what’s successfully driven me and endless others since forever – a negative perception can erode our self-confidence and the very success we aim to achieve.
To change our perception, we have two choices. Change our setting or change our perspective.
Reconsider the setting
Driving around in my ATV over the weekend, I saw a dandelion. It’s a weed and can be considered troublesome by many. However, in this moment, I saw beauty in the invasive object.
In the right setting, even a weed can be beautiful. Sometimes, an environment change may be all that’s needed to realize our potential gifts. A different role, team, desk…even small changes matter.
A co-worker recently shared that when her manager moved her desk to another floor, near the window, it was like she got a promotion. There was no other change, but it lifted her spirits and injected new life into how she perceived her job.
Putting ourselves in a different setting can change how we see ourselves.
Shift the perspective
The other opportunity is changing our perspective. Sometimes, we just need to decide something about ourselves or someone else and it may as well be true.
If we think someone has potential, our interactions with them will help reveal and realize that potential. The same can be said of ourselves. It was Henry Ford that said (loosely) – If we think we can or think we can’t, we’re right.
I often find myself in conversations where I offer a different take on the same situation. Having a second perspective suddenly opens up other possibilities. What was once black or white may now be grey.
If we think rigidly about ourselves or others, getting another perspective may provide us the space to consider an alternate truth.
Finding a new truth
The work I’ve done over the last few months has resulted in the joy of being able to “shop” my own closet…discovering items long-since forgotten. Rather than thinking that I’m falling short of my goal, I’m enjoying where I am, knowing I’ll get to where I want to be.
I may not be in the best shape of my life, but I’m healthier and fitter than I’ve been in a long time. I’m able to function without pain and am celebrating my return to 100% wellness by competing in my first triathlon this weekend.
I’m changing my setting – providing an opportunity to create an interim success. I’m also changing my perspective – seeing that interim success as the accomplishment it is.
How we talk about ourselves reveals our perception. Regardless of whether that perception is real, we make it real because we believe it.
If that talk isn’t positive, it’s time to find a new narrative, and create a new perception.
After all, life isn’t about being perfect. It’s about being perfectly human, as our flaws are what make us interesting. If a weed can have a moment of beauty, so can we all.