Each of us journeys through our world with our senses at the ready, evaluating and interpreting what we experience. We often assume that what we perceive is some sort of an objective truth. That it must be true because we have seen it with our own eyes or heard it with our own ears. We are accurately recording a universal constant which is there before us.
In actuality, life is far more confusing than that. There isn’t one permanent reality which we all see from different viewpoints. Our individual sense of reality is crafted by our perceptions – and it will be different from every other person’s reality.
Every Person’s Sensors Are Unique
Let’s start at a fundamental level. We all have different DNA. We all experienced different physical injuries and changes while growing up. It could be that my ears simply don’t hear as well as yours do, so where you heard an announcement for “7:30 train” I heard something different. Or maybe my eyes have more cones and rods in them than yours do. Maybe you think two shirts are the exact same shade of blue, where I can see that one is more blue-green and the other one is more leaf-green.
This kind of difference could be objectively measured by a third party. A tuning device could determine that the violin’s string was slightly sharp off A4, even if neither of us could hear that with our ears.
But that doesn’t change the fact that, as we move through the world, the way we perceive our world is wholly dependent on the signals coming in to us. On the sounds we hear. On the sights we see. On the inflections and tones and body language we pick up on.
Every Person’s Foundational Experiences Are Unique
What we bring in with our senses isn’t just plunked as-is into our neural circuits. It goes through layers of interpretation. Studies find that men who see a photo of a woman in a red frame generally judge her to be more attractive than the same photo in a different frame. The men don’t even realize this alteration is happening – it’s all subconscious. Much of how we perceive life is based on past experiences, subconscious tendencies, and evolutionary traits. We generally are wholly unaware that these biases and slants are occurring.
Sure, sometimes the bias is known and obvious. If we were attacked by vicious dogs in our childhood, we might be well aware that we perceive all dogs as dangerous. But in other cases the bias is wholly hidden from us. We might spend more time helping a red-head out than a blonde, and not even know it’s happening. We feel as if it’s the same amount of time, but our perception of time is being altered by our mind.
Perception Works Both Ways
True, the way you view the world is based on many layers of meaning. But how about the ways in which the world perceives you? If you present yourself as calm, knowledgeable, and trustworthy, with the body language and clothing to match, the world will tend to lean toward that mindset. Just change out the clothing, attitude, and language, and suddenly the world perceives you in an entirely different manner. Every person in our world makes those kinds of subconscious evaluations and decisions.
We can use that to our advantage. We can craft the way in which we wish to be perceived and influence people to take that stance.
That’s where the phrase fake it until you make it comes into play. The more we present ourselves in a certain way, the more that people react to us from that angle, which then makes it easier for us to be that way, and the cycle self-supports.
Perception shapes our own reality. It shapes the reality of all those around us. The more we can be fully aware of this fact – and come to understand it in all its facets – the better we can be more present in the now we inhabit in a way which is authentic and fulfilling.