An Invitation to Reconsider Your Perceptions
February 2, 2023
An Invitation to Reconsider Your Perceptions
When I was young, I hated being misunderstood and misinterpreted. Still today, I can find myself frustrated and exasperated by someone telling me who they believe me to be. In a nutshell, I have been judged. Over the years, I’ve tried to control how other people perceive me by overexplaining myself, trying very hard to make their perceptions match my own.
When I was a teenager and my seizure disorder was very active, my first words coming out of a seizure would be “I’m fine!” Reflecting on this, I find it fascinating that as I came out of a seizure and not yet in my fullest mind, it was important for me to communicate to those who had witnessed the seizure that I was fine. Why did I do this? Perhaps I wanted others to believe that I was in control of the situation. Perhaps I wanted people to think of my seizure as nothing more than a small interruption to the day and to see me as a competent human being. Perhaps I wanted people to see me as normal. Maybe I just wanted to take care of people subconsciously, knowing they were concerned after observing me have a seizure. It could be possible that all of the above options are rolled in together, and I subconsciously wanted people to not think any less of me as a result of having a seizure disorder.
I can only imagine that we all dislike if not detest being judged or misunderstood. I remember when a dear friend who appears to be Black expressed to me and others that she wished people would stop assuming her race. As the daughter of a Nigerian father and a Polish, Jewish mother, she has a unique background. However, due to her darker complexion, everyone assumes rather than inquires. This leads to tremendous misunderstandings.
Misunderstanding and making assumptions are universal
We are all guilty of making assumptions and judgments about others. Our society has taught us to operate in this fashion. However, as James-Olivia Chu Hillman profoundly says, “I cannot know you without you. I cannot know or be known without me.” Chu Hillman is an Inquisitive Human Relational Leadership Celebrant. They teach about relating to one another. I’ve gathered a lot from simply following Chu Hillman on Facebook and allowing myself to sit and reflect on their daily inquiries.
Recently Chu Hillman posted these thoughts, and I had an immediate bodily response; something within me felt how true their words were.
What’s my business and what is not?
It’s true! Other people’s perceptions are none of my business. It may not feel comfortable, and I can repeatedly clarify that I am being misunderstood. But their perception is their business. I have no control over how any person chooses to perceive me in any given moment. Sit with that. Take that in! It’s pretty freeing! At least it is to me. What I come away with is that I do like to be asked about why I acted a certain way or why I said what I said. I enjoy being known on a deeper level. However, I cannot force someone to want to know me outside of their initial judgements. I can try, but I may be fighting a losing battle. After all, I have no control about what another person thinks. And believing that I do have control over other people’s perspectives about me or any other subject simply causes me great distress and suffering.
I assume that we have all been misunderstood many times. When I was young with short hair, I was misgendered. I have been mistaken for being retired because I do not report to a place of employment outside my home. I have been mistaken for being a lesbian because I have a long-term relationship with my female partner. And I have mistaken others in one way or another. I have mistaken my partner’s dislike for being on a telephone with simply being lazy at maintaining relationships. I have mistaken a friend who does not easily initiate as a person who is not that interested in engaging with me.
These judgements and assumptions happen all the time with very little reflection. Judgements and assumptions can be made in the blink of an eye. Relationships can be irrevocably changed as a result of not inquiring about whether or not these judgements are true. I have often said that life is all about relationships. My coaching practice was born out of this notion. Perhaps we could all benefit from moving from our quick adjudications and assessments of others and instead ask them to let us know who they are and the reasons for their actions from their perspective. After all, we all enjoy being truly seen, known, and understood.
May we all reach out and realize our interconnectedness in the web of life.
If you are intrigued by this newsletter and you would like to join a safe space to connect with others and discover each other, please let me know.
I just recently ran across the website Human Library. Wow! What an amazing and creative idea. It is truly a way of sharing soul stories that nourish, inspire, and support us in becoming our courageous selves. Check it out. I am thinking of becoming a volunteer, which is referred to as “a book”! Besides, I love their motto, “unjudge someone”!
I find tremendous inspiration in a variety of places, from the huge to the small and overlooked. The poet Amanda Gorman continues to inspire me. I share her newest poem to start 2023 with all of you. I found this poem on Amanda Gorman’s Facebook page. Enjoy her words of wisdom and connection.
New Day’s Lyric
May this be the day
We come together.
Mourning, we come to mend,
Withered, we come to weather,
Torn, we come to tend,
Battered, we come to better.
Tethered by this year of yearning,
We are learning
That though we weren’t ready for this,
We have been readied by it.
We steadily vow that no matter
How we are weighed down,
We must always pave a way forward.
This hope is our door, our portal.
Even if we never get back to normal,
Someday we can venture beyond it,
To leave the known and take the first steps.
So let us not return to what was normal,
But reach toward what is next.
What was cursed, we will cure.
What was plagued, we will prove pure.
Where we tend to argue, we will try to agree,
Those fortunes we forswore, now the future we foresee,
Where we weren’t aware, we’re now awake;
Those moments we missed
Are now these moments we make,
The moments we meet,
And our hearts, once all together beaten,
Now all together beat.
Come, look up with kindness yet,
For even solace can be sourced from sorrow.
We remember, not just for the sake of yesterday,
But to take on tomorrow.
We heed this old spirit,
In a new day’s lyric,
In our hearts, we hear it:
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
Be bold, sang Time this year,
Be bold, sang Time,
For when you honor yesterday,
Tomorrow ye will find.
Know what we’ve fought
Need not be forgot nor for none.
It defines us, binds us as one,
Come over, join this day just begun.
For wherever we come together,
We will forever overcome.
– Amanda Gorman