Perception.

What are some of the things we do, that influence how we perceive each other? That make us able to discern what is good for us and what is bad?

We are relational beings, always interacting with each other in various ways. There are things about us, that we do or say, that make people love us or hate us, ignore us or pay attention to us. I find it all fascinating.

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Social media has changed how we interact; and by extension exposed us with our faults, prejudices, strength and weaknesses to those who follow us. It has changed how we perceive each other, and how we perceive ourselves. Some people blame social media for bullies, rising intolerance, superiority complex and a certain braggadocio, but is it not us in all our true colours – showing us who we really are, in a quicker and more visible way.

There is a popular quote by the famous African American poet and author, Maya Angelou that says, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” This was in context of physical interaction but can still be applied in our online interactions. Yes, people can pretend online at first, but when attentive, you will see some signs of their true selves.

Let me use a romantic relationship as a simple example. In college, there was a Psych course we did to get an easy ‘A’. The course was titled “Courtship and Marriage.” I did get my ‘A’ but the amazing thing is years later when preparing for marriage and in marriage life, all we learnt back then rang true. The lovely lady who taught us used to go on and on about how courtship is important. And it is.

Ideally, courtship is when prospective partners discuss their goals and what they want their future life to be like. Decisions such as who is responsible for what, how many children to have, where to live, how to make financial decisions etcetera etcetera. But, she also taught us, this is the time to examine your prospective partner’s behaviour, and decide if this is the kind of person you want to live with. Self examination is obviously paramount, but that does not mean you should assume your partner is perfect. How does he or she behave when angry? Do they throw fits of anger when things do not go their way? How do they treat other people around them? How do they treat animals/ pets? How do they talk about and interact with their family? What kind of friends do they have? How are their personal boundaries? What is their attitude about money? Personal hygiene? What are their views on gender roles and responsibilities. What do they do for a living? Have you been to their workplace, do you know any of their colleagues? What are their career and personal aspirations? Who are their role models? I could go on and on. Thing is, red flags are always there; we choose not to see them. We ignore our intuition and that little niggling feeling that all is not well, and even lie to ourselves that it is not that bad, we can live with it, or hope our partners will change once we get married.

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How we treat each other in our religious communities, neighbourhood and professional settings also influences how we perceive each other. How do we behave towards those who wield power over us? Or those who we deem to be inferior to us? Are you a boss who bullies or a boss who cares and listens? How do you treat your domestic help? Do we pay those who work for us well? How do you treat those who are in the service industry?

How we choose to behave in all these instances, give others an idea of who we really are, than who we claim to be or not. And once we show our true colours, it is up to others to decide if they want to interact with us or not. We cannot afford to assume we can live without each other, we cannot. Once you are in that situation, you need to look inward and examine yourself.

Communication is paramount in such instances. Expressing ourselves freely and allowing others to express themselves, accepting feedback about our flaws with an open mind and deciding to work on ourselves, will create positive perceptions in us and about us. When we perceive things positively, we become confident, optimistic, are able to create solutions and work with each other in a more harmonious way.

How we perceive ourselves and each other affects how we relate to one another deeply. No man is an island. We cannot live without interacting with each other. And we need to challenge ourselves to focus on positive interactions and not dwell on the negative perceptions we have of each other. We need to respect each other, solve problems together, build a proper world together to ensure our survival on this planet; we all have a role to play that is determined by how we look at ourselves, and interact with each other. Our strengths can help others overcome their weaknesses, our differences should make us appreciate our diversity and learn how to adapt to it.

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It all begins with working on ourselves as individuals. Believing in who we are; that we are capable and worthy human beings. Accepting our imperfections but also looking for ways to reduce them or live with them.

How is your self perception?

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