Believe it or not, perception is not reality. Period. Rather, my perception is my reality. Whatever I perceive to be is what’s true for me. A perception is a perception. It creates our lens, which then creates what we believe to be reality. It should go without saying that just because we perceive something to be true doesn’t make it true — just because we perceive something a certain way doesn’t mean that it actually is that way. Although it should go without saying, it still needs to be said sometimes and I find it personally necessary to do so.
Perception is not reality. A perception is a perception. My perception is my reality. Your is, too. We spend so much time worrying about the perceptions of others and even more time taking in how we perceive others that I think we forget that perceptions are just that, and they shouldn’t matter as much we think they seem to matter. Because one day we’re going to find out that what we perceived to be true that one time isn’t true and that our perceptions misinformed.
When I taught my first college course, Introduction to Communication, this lesson on perceptions is one that I shared with my students. I felt compelled to explain to them that the old cliche, “Perception is reality,” has no place in my lexicon and it shouldn’t have any place in theirs. It’s short-sighted and at one point in time had it’s place in the world. I felt very strongly that we shouldn’t be teaching Millennials that what they perceive is what’s true and what’s real and what ought to be. I simply couldn’t do that. I couldn’t give them cause to perceive someone one time and get it wrong forever. That’s where bias lives forever for the better and for the worse. I couldn’t give them a reason to never challenge what they’ve perceived, ever, because it’s reality.
So many times I’ve been misperceived (as have you) where things others perceived about me simply weren’t true and weren’t even remotely true. I can think of several significant instances where I’ve suffered as a consequence of attitudes or behaviors I didn’t exhibit. If I’m not that person, there wasn’t a crime therefore there shouldn’t be a punishment. Yet, somehow I was perceived otherwise. How can that be?
Perception is not reality. Period. But my perception is my reality. Whatever I perceive to be is what’s true for me. Merely perceiving something to be true doesn’t make it true. I think we all know that. But lately it seems like we need a reminder.