Aunty is a nice person or at least tries to be. I am sure there are others with a different perception, but this is only their opinion and they are entitled to that. I like to think I have everyone’s best interests at heart and generally want everyone to have a good time. I also believed I have a knack of knowing exactly what this means for everyone I meet. What a load of rubbish! I was basically saying, “If we do it my way, we will all have a good time”.
At a recent training session, this belief went out the window. Us students were put into little groups, given a board game and told to make up our own rules. The point of the game was to see how we would work together. We were not told that at the beginning. The first group I was in was great. We were the cool group! We laughed and laughed, everyone got a turn and there were no real winners. A delightful thirty minutes passed by. All too soon, the fun stopped because you can only have so much fun in one day. We had to mix around, form new groups and play the game again.
This time, and only in my opinion, I ended up with a group of over-competitive, ego-driven men and two non-competitive women. The boys’ rules meant us ladies didn’t get one go so we sat bored out of our brains for a rotten half an hour. As we prepared to change groups once again, as I knew we would, I was ready. I knew the right rules to play and what worked to ensure a terrific game.
I rushed right in and took control of the newly formed team immediately. I explained the difference between the good group, where we had cool rules and the second round where the rules were terrible. I said, “If we do it my way, we will all have a good time”. The chap sitting next to me replied, “How do you know?” Bewildered, I answered, “How do I know what?” “How do you know that if we do it your way, we will have a good time?” It was quite obvious to me, so I explained, “I have this weird way of knowing what makes everyone happy”. Everyone in the group laughed while I considered the difference between my perception and everyone else’s. In actual fact, I had no idea what the best rules for the game actually were. Extending my well-intended perception, ‘If we do it my way, we’ll all have a good time’, is terrifying. Think Hitler in World War II saying, “If we do it my way …”. I am sure you get the idea.
“The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Anderson is a wonderful story which highlights the remarkable difference between perception and reality. The Emperor desires a beautiful new suit and no one in the land can meet his unrealistically high standards. Enter two dodgy characters who play up to his ego, telling him they can make the Emperor a very special suit. No one else in the world owns a suit like it this because the suit is invisible. They measure up His Highness, making a big show of sewing the invisible cloth then fussing about as they fit the invisible garments to his rotund body. They tell the Emperor he looks amazing. His Royalness is happy because he knows, in his mind, he looks incredible. The Emperor’s perception and his personal truth is that he is wearing the world’s most fantastic suit. He is a stud-muffin!
The fact is that he is not wearing a stitch of clothing. His courtiers are too scared to risk upsetting the Emperor by revealing his royal nakedness. They tell him what he wants to hear – that he looks amazing. The factual truth is only revealed when a little boy points and laughs, shouting out, “I can see the Emperor’s willy”. Up to that point, the Emperor had been very happy. When we don’t know what we don’t know, we are blissfully happy, thinking we have things under control. We like this state of mind very much and may become furious when someone presents us with facts to the contrary.
If one person puts one hand into very cold water and the other hand into water at eighteen degrees Celsius, he will feel the eighteen degree water as warm. Another person with one hand in very hot water and the other in the eighteen degrees bucket, feels the eighteen degrees water as cool. The truth is the water is at eighteen degrees Celsius. Perception versus fact.
Our world overflows with strongly held beliefs that were shown as false. For example, our world was flat until it wasn’t. Then there are beliefs that are true for some and not for others. At 10.23pm in New Zealand and 8.23pm in Australia, it is time to think about bed. In Perth, Western Australia, it is 3.23pm, so time for an afternoon coffee, biscuit and break. Each time concept is true in that moment for those people in those time zones.
Then there are those beliefs that are only true at a certain point in time for certain people. When you ring and complain about your phone service to an unknown and unseen call centre operator, do you treat them with respect or do you abuse them in anger? In fact, you might be the nicest and most generous person in your town but if you abuse that operator, they will perceive you as horrible. Their truth but not yours.
Our beliefs are our personal reality and, while they may not be true at all, are true for us. Perceptions vary between people depending on individual experiences and values. It is a waste of your valuable heartbeats to argue with someone whose perception is their reality. An easier path is to take some time to understand another’s perspective and appreciate their beliefs even if you do not agree with them. Try seeing things from someone else’s point of view as you challenge your own long and fast-held beliefs and wonder whether these were based on facts. Ask if those beliefs are adding value to your life. If your self-talk goes something like: “I can’t do it, I’m not good enough, I don’t deserve this”, change it to: “I can try to do this, I’m absolutely good enough and I deserve everything in my life. I am a good person”.
Perception is reality.