My recent article titled “Reality versus Perception of Reality” got me thinking about just how important self-perception is when it comes to one’s survival. In fact, I am convinced that self-perception pretty much guides every aspect of a person’s life, which places a huge premium on his ability to accurately interpret reality.
When it comes to accurate perceptions of the world around you, your challenge lies in sorting through the endless false perceptions of others and not allowing them to influence your thinking. This includes people whom you have never met, such as those in the media, because even their perceptions have a way of swaying your thought processes.
But while your perceptions of how the world works impact your approach to life in general, how others perceive you and how you perceive yourself (the two being inextricably entwined) play a far more important role in how your life plays out.
The important thing to recognize about how others perceive you is that even though such perceptions can negatively impact your life, they can do so only if you grant them permission — and such permission should be granted sparingly. The obvious problem with allowing others’ perceptions of you to affect your self-perception is that their perceptions could be false.
To underscore this point, consider that most of us tend to form images of actors based on the roles that most define their careers. When I think of Al Pacino, Tony Montana comes to mind. When I think of Janet Leigh, she’s the beautiful blond getting hacked to death in the shower in Psycho. And, of course, Marlon Brando will always be Don Corleone in The Godfather.
But in reality, all of these perceptions are false, based on nothing more than actors doing their job — which is to pretend to be people they are not. These actor illusions serve as graphic reminders that everyone with whom we come in contact forms perceptions of us based on how we look and act.
If someone catches you in a lie, he will think of you as a dishonest person whenever your name is mentioned. If you present a weak posture when interacting with someone, he will remember you as a weak person. If you take five minutes to give someone an answer that could have been given in thirty seconds, that person’s perception of you will be of an individual who has difficulty getting to the point.
Does this mean you should put on an act in an attempt to please others? Quite the contrary. The problem most people have is that they often do put on an act, albeit often unconsciously, when they engage others, which leads people to adopt a false perception of who they really are — much the same as with their perceptions of actors.
All other things being equal, your best bet is to rely on your own unfettered self-perception rather than the perceptions others have of you. The problem with relying on the perceptions of others is not only that their perceptions could be false, they are often based on such shaky factors as invalid premises, jealousy, or outright lies.
As a writer, I learned this early in my career when I noted that the reader letters and emails I received were 99 percent positive, while critical reviews of my works were 99 percent negative. In other words, the opinions of media people have always been diametrically opposed to the opinions of those who have actually bought and read my books.
Thus, I had to make a decision early on as to whether I was going to rely on the opinions of self-anointed experts or those of my readers. As you might have guessed, I decided to take a pass on seeking the approval of media highbrows and stick with the people who shelled out their own money to buy my books. My definition of an expert is someone who backs up his opinion with his wallet.
I hasten to add that what I’m saying here is not restricted to authors. Regardless of your profession, the best way to look at the opinions of others is that some people will like you and/or your products and some won’t. Which is fine. Just make it a policy not to waste precious time on those who don’t appreciate what you have to offer.
Instead, make it a point to concentrate on the people who are enthusiastic about dealing with you and, even better, who buy what you’re selling. This allows you to deal from a position of strength, which makes life not only much easier but much more pleasant. You can save a lot of time and frustration — not to mention money — by simply ignoring your detractors and embracing your supporters.
The most dangerous of all addictions is the obsessive need to try to please everyone. Nothing can screw up your self-perception more than trying to be what others expect or want you to be rather than who and what you really are. One of the most important decisions you can ever make is to break through the chains of intimidation, think your own thoughts, and be who you really are — at all times, in both words and actions.
I don’t know you personally, but I’d be willing to bet that most people like the real you much better than any artificial person you can create synthetically. Leave the make-believe stuff to the Hollywood crowd. They deal in fantasy every day, which, hopefully, is not your skillset.