Dara Chadwick

Dara Chadwick

You'd Be So Pretty If...

Do You Have a Perception Problem?

Our self-perceptions change our interactions with other people.

Posted Sep 16, 2011

Have you ever been surprised by the way someone else sees you?

I was once told by a former co-worker that I intimidated her. At four-feet-eleven-inches tall, the thought of me intimidating someone else was laughable to me. But that was her perception. And, in the end, it's our own perceptions that form our reality.

I was recently told by someone else to "be the confident person I know you are" before I had to head into a difficult conversation. That also gave me pause -- did I seem unconfident? Did I appear uncomfortable in my own skin?

It can be quite jarring when your vision of yourself is out of sync with the way you're seen by others. Whether it's a physical quality or an aspect of your personality, that feeling that you're not being truly seen is uncomfortable. But the thing about perception is that it's incredibly subjective - to perceive, literally, means to "know or identify by means of the senses." Quite simply, we feel what we feel, sometimes in spite of what our eyes alone tell us.

What we feel is always changing, and it changes those around us, too. The outfit we chose to put on that morning -- the one that just doesn't feel quite right -- can lead to a self-consciousness that affects the way others see us. The healthy eating and exercise habits that have us feeling our best can lead to an extra lightness in our step and an upbeat tone in the way we deal with others. Our self-perceptions change our interactions with other people, even if only in the slightest of ways, and create a ripple effect throughout the course of our day.

I was reminded of the power of perception recently while watching the beginning of the latest season of Survivor. Total strangers are thrown together in teams and have to form a new "society." First impressions count, and people's perceptions of one another affect the alliances they form, the way they treat each other and the expectations they have. I was captivated by a self-described nerdy-looking student named John Cochran, who struggled with body image issues when his well-muscled tribe mates took to the water in their underwear, and later found himself fighting to overcome his tribe's first impression of him as weak during a Tribal Council.

We can't control how others see us. But being conscious of how we're perceived -- and whether it meshes with how we see ourselves -- can lend important clues to behaviors we might consider changing. Not taking care of our bodies with exercise and healthy eating often leads to feeling bad about the way we look, while the simple act of getting a workout in or choosing a healthy lunch can provide an instant boost. And the cumulative effect of these little choices is often a change in the way we perceive ourselves and, in turn, the way we're perceived by others.

If a "perception" problem is dogging you, remember that a simple adjustment in your own thoughts and behavior might be just the springboard you need to a whole new way of seeing your body - and yourself.

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