- the way you think about or understand someone or something
- the ability to understand or notice something easily
- the way that you notice or understand something using one of your senses
Having suffered from mental illness since adolescence I question my perception often, both my self-perception and my ability to perceive others. It’s an all-out fight to be comfortable within my own mind. And as my beautiful son, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, navigates the world of adolescence I see some of this struggle within him.
I know my self-perception is based on where I’m at in my Bipolar mind. If I’m in my hypomania mind, I think I’m attractive, a diva in-her-own-right. I completely forget that I have National Geographic breasts, Lane Bryant jeans, a husband and enough baggage to keep the Brady Bunch at bay. I make eye contact, I smile, laugh, flirt. I’m a temporary unstoppable extrovert.
And then there’s the self-perception of the cursed, depressive mind that makes me see myself as the last hominid to walk the earth. I dodge mirrors and grocery store aisles, I just want to hide out in my home and not be seen.
The truth being, I’m sure something in between those two vastly different self-perceptions. Sadly though, these perceptions totally influence the way I carry myself from day to day and interact with others, my longings, goals, and motivations. At times they can be bold lies that hold me back from success and personal happiness.
Here’s how the processing goes in my mind. What did she mean by her words? Why did she say that? Why did she act like that? And then I switch to questioning myself …. Was my response appropriate? Did I over react? Did I not understand correctly? To have to play these reruns over and over in my mind can be a taxing process.
This perception struggle has caused me to draw near to some when I shouldn’t have and push others away when I didn’t need to. I’m overly sensitive and perhaps a little paranoid at times. I take things personal, I act defensively, I internalize things I shouldn’t, and then I have to justify my irrational behavior.
My flawed perceptions have caused me to question the actions of people who genuinely love me. To give unsolicited advice, though well -meaning not at all desired. I’ve complicated business transactions and lost friendships and made a complete ass of myself publicly because of them. It’s downright embarrassing at times. It can leave me feeling like an outsider in the world and in my own mind.
I confess this not to self-indulge or have a pity party, but because I believe that even if we can’t change our brain chemistry we can teach ourselves to be better perceivers of others and ourselves. I’ve had to work on improving in this area for my own well-being and so I can help teach my Aspie son.
Some things that have helped me improve in this area;
- I try to give myself time, and not be rushed into making a snap judgment. I ask more questions, and jump to less conclusions. I try to listen more and talk less. Sometimes this makes me look like a dumb ass, but I don’t care, I would rather allow myself the time to come to a conclusion that I’m comfortable with than have to apologize later.
- I choose my friends more carefully. I take more time to get to know people and put less of myself out there right away. I’m a little more cautious especially when making friends with women, their behavior and words are much more difficult to interpret and easier to misinterpret and they’re pack animals. Men are a little easier to interpret, and if you misinterpret their words or actions they’re more forth coming with it, which I appreciate. At least, this has been my experience.
- I get a trusted outsider’s view. I’m fortunate enough to have a devoted husband and best friend who let me process with them. I’m able to get second or third opinion’s on conversations or events when I’m just not sure if I got it right. I’m not suggesting all processing should be external or involve others, but at times and in important situations it can be helpful.
- I read a lot. In the area of perception, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz has been extremely helpful to me. I don’t agree with all of his philosophies but was able to see myself in a lot of his self-limiting beliefs and thus make mental changes in my thinking.
- Lastly, and the hardest for me. I try to take myself less seriously. I try to laugh at my mistakes more and sometimes share them others. I’m hoping in doing this that I will have more joy in my life and that my children will learn to navigate perception, humility and develop a sense of humor.
Happy Perceiving my Friends