Human nature has always fascinated me. It is one of the many reasons I love to teach and why I found myself in a management roll. Something I have noticed is our ability to form opinions with some of the most minute pieces or information, events or circumstances. What I am referring to are perceptions. We sometimes hold on to these right or wrong opinions, perceptions really, for a very long time. Some perceptions become so rooted in our subconscious that we don’t even realize they exist. The belief becomes a habit. In some cases it is a perception of something we find very difficult to change or dismiss even when the facts may say or show otherwise.
We have all heard the phrase “our perception is our reality”. I have heard that the forming of a perception is a snapshot of a moment or event in time that becomes what we believe to be a total truth. No one can dissuade us from what we believe, at times, even when we are shown a different reality. It is a way for us to close our minds to realities we are not yet welling to accept. These perceptions can be about an individual, a company, family members, politics, religion even ourselves. The list goes on and on.
Never one to miss an opportunity to tell a story, I would like to share with you a misperception of mine that was very difficult for me to shake.
I was around 4 years old. My family and I were living on my grandmother’s farm while we waited for our new home to be built. It was a great place for someone my age. I loved all the animals and working with my grandmother in her very large garden. One of my most favorite things to do was to help my grandmother collect eggs from the chicken coop. I loved the chickens, especially the baby chicks when they were newly hatched. I couldn’t think of anything I looked forward to more.
Every morning my grandmother would pick up her egg basket and call for me to come with her to collect eggs. She would hold my hand and walk for a short while, talking about things I thought were immensely important. Such as the peacocks that roosted in the trees at night, the baby calf that was just born, the bullfrog in the spring house and feeding the large orange fish in the fish pond. After a bit I would run ahead of her until we got to the chicken coop where I was permitted to collect eggs that I could reach from the nests that didn’t have a laying hen. While my grandmother finished collecting the rest of the eggs I would look for the biggest and prettiest white feathers I could find to take back to put in my collection. After all the eggs were collected we would head back to the house to make breakfast. It was a ritual I looked forward to every morning.
This went on for a long time until one particular morning. I hadn’t sleep very well the night before and had woken feeling not quit myself. My mother came in to my room to help me get ready for the day. When she picked me up and looked at me she had a very worried look on her face. That is when I heard the word that changed my 4 year old life. “Oh Sweatheart, I think you have chickenpox”. I asked what “chickenpox” were and my mother said it was something children sometimes catch. I wasn’t allowed to go with my grandmother to collect eggs that day. I was heart broken.
I was sick for over a week. I was miserable and had all these ugly itchy red spots all over me. Somewhere in that week I had started to associate where I had gotten these “chickenpox” with the chickens and the chicken coop. I just new the chickens had been the cause of my misery.
Eventually I was well enough to go out and play again. My grandmother asked If I wanted to go to the chicken coop to collect eggs. I vigorously shook my and said very firmly “NOOO!!!”. She asked me why, so I told her the chickens had made me sick. She had a puzzled look on her face and asked me why I thought that. I told her I new the chickens had given me the “chickenpox” and added I didn’t like chickens any more. Over the next few days I wouldn’t go out of the house because of the chickens. No amount of explanation or coercion could make me see the light, that the chickens were not the cause of my chickenpox. I was not to be dissuaded from my belief. When I finally did go out to play I was always very mindful as to where the chickens were and would run from them when they would come close. My life on the farm was not very fun anymore.
It was many years later before I finally realized that the chickens and the chicken coop were not the cause of chickenpox.
How sad it was that I had acquired this perception through a 4 year old’s association of words. It had prevented me from really enjoying the experiences of my grandmothers farm. My fear of getting sick was far to big a challenge to allow me to venture out on the farm as freely as I had before.
I have always remembered that experience as a reminder to keep an open mind when I perceive something to be a fact. It is important not to allow a misperception to prevent us from enjoying what life has to offer. Taking a little time to check out whatever information is available about an old or new opinion, without judgement, is very important. This is so easily said and, at times, OH so hard to do. Nonetheless, it is important to do our very best to seek out and take in all the information available and weight it against our perception before we form an opinion of any kind that we are welling to live with.
Perceptions come in all shapes, emotions and dimensions. In reality, for human beings, perceptions are really hard to avoid. They can be healthy, harmful or benign. Perceptions can cause wars or prevent them where people loose their lives or live in peace. Relationships can break down or improve, all based on an opinion. A belief can also give us great hope, causing great things to happen. Opinions that we form about ourselves can do great harm or be a great help. Knowing this to be case, it is then our job to ensure we always check the facts to see if a perception we hold as true is in fact not a misperception on our parts.
Life is hard enough without complicating it with perceptions that are not true. These misperceptions can, at times, prevent us from enjoying life to the very fullest. On life’s journey we develop many perceptions. Let us make sure that they are the right ones.
Now I have two questions for you. What perceptions have you had in the past that you have found to be incorrect that may have prevented you from doing or enjoying something in your life? How do you like my simple illustrations? I would love to hear your comments.
Life’s journey continues…