In the Air Force there were strict rule of Do’s and Don’ts, common phrases, acronyms, and eloquent, but to the point statements. One that has stuck with me is “Perception is Everything.”
It doesn’t matter that the truth is different, it is what it looks like that matters.
The statement came about while we were in class about PDA (public display of affection) and Fraternization is punishable under the UCMJ. Fraternization is where one person is involved with another of a higher rank and favoritism may occur.
The story went that an officer was hanging out, off duty, with an enlisted member. The relationship was strictly platonic and no favoritism was directed toward the enlisted member, but the familiarity between the two lead the enlisted peers to think they were more than friends. Because of this perception, the enlisted member was court martialed and the officer reprimanded.
During the court martial it was shown that there was no favoritism by the officer toward the enlisted; however, the perception persisted and even though the enlisted person was exonerated of all charges, the career was short lived.
While we cannot live up to everyone’s expectations, real or perceived, unless you want to live in an isolated world, perceptions do impact you and the way you live your life. You can minimize the impact or misleading perceptions by communicating better with the people in your life, but ultimately people will perceive you their own way. Just look at social media and they way we perceive people we don’t know based on a comment here or there without any of the background to put the issue in context.
A few months back a Jersey friend of mine was stating how it was cool that I could move on with my life and go where I needed (or thought I needed) to go. She wished, in some ways, that she could too. I laughed because on the flip side, my perception of her life was something I aimed for. A life full of family and friends, people to meet and share memories with.
As I was writing this piece, perception came up again with a Virginia friend. We were commiserating about where we are in our life. Neither one of us were where we dreamed we would be. It’s not that life is bad, but we wanted more or rather different people and places and experiences at this stage in life. During this exchanged she pointed out all that I had accomplished, been, and currently have in my life. My perception was not on what was, but what I’m missing; it’s not that I’m missing a lot, but a couple key pieces that make the rest of my life blur.
On the flip side, my perception of her life was, like my Jersey friend, one of warmth of family and friends, of holiday’s and places and experiences shared by loved ones.
As close as I am with both these people,it’s amazing that the perception we have about the other is focused on something different that what we internally see as complete. While none of us are unhappy, I think we each recognize there is that small piece or two that we don’t have in our current life that might just make us complete.
Perception is everything. It makes us happy or sad or wanting what someone else has. Change your perception and you might just change your life for the better.