We’ve all heard the phrase, “Our perceptions are our reality.” When I think of this, I think of all the perceptions I’ve clung to from my past that turned out to be so very wrong. It also reminds me of a childhood perception that was held on to well into adulthood.
It was a particularly hard time both in my family life and my career. I was in my mid 30’s, knee deep in a new sales career. I was a new stepmom trying hard to maneuver thru all the responsibilities and challenges that represented. I was doing well as a sales person and needed to take the next leap in my career. That leap was to gain a position as a Director of Sales. Even though there were no guarantees, I was in line for a potential promotion. To help that along it needed a bit of a push. That push was expensive. My husband and I had a long discussion about it. We decided it was worth the risk.
That push required a serious upgrade to my wardrobe and to make a trip that would allow me to showcase the fact that I was capable. My two stepdaughters were visiting, so I took the youngest along to have some fun. It was a difficult decision as to what clothes to buy and what would be best for my intended purpose. After some time, I was able to make what I hoped would be good choices. In order to buy these clothes, I needed to open an account with the store. It was the only way I could afford to do this. What little cash I had went for some needed incidentals.
With bags in hand, my stepdaughter and I left the store. On our way to meet her father, she had eyed a $9 tee shirt she really wanted. I explained I was unable to buy it for her. I had no money left, in any form, to do so. At the time, all I could think of was the risk I was taking to buy those VERY expensive clothes I was carrying for a position I may, or may not, get.
With my husband’s support, I set my plans and made the trip along with other expenses we could ill afford. In the end it was worth the risk, I made a great impression with my determination and presence. I got the promotion I had so hoped to obtain. That promotion was the start of a very long and successful career propelling me into a number of senior management positions.
Fast forward to a recent time – in an offhand conversation with my youngest stepdaughter, she mentioned a childhood perception she had held onto since she was nine years old. She was still angry about me not buying her that $9 tee shirt. She expressed her anger by sighting the fact I had bought all those expensive clothes and simply couldn’t understand why I hadn’t parted with $9 for that tee shirt. I was stunned; so stunned I didn’t offer any explanation.
The back story was simple. In order to improve our lives, hers included, I needed to buy clothes with money I didn’t have and take a trip we could ill afford, in the hope I would land a better position. The clothing purchase, trip and incidental expenses took me well over two years to pay off.
This experience caused me to think. Why is it we hang on to a childhood perception well into our adult years? Does it not occur to us that it’s a child’s memory without the knowledge of the complete story? I think of my perceptions I too had held about my parents. How it took many years, conversations and forgiveness to understand the full back-story to shift my misperceptions. We all do it. If we’re lucky, we’ll find a way to come to terms with these hurts (misperceptions if you will) and gain an appreciation of all our parents struggles, sacrifices and accomplishments. In my parents’ case it was to give my brothers and me a better life.
As my stepdaughter moves forward in her life and as her children grow, I know she will deal with the same thing. My hope is her children will question their childhood perception or beliefs, gaining a better understanding of the sacrifices she’s made to give them a good life.
What have I learned? To coin a phrase from a recent post by Patricia Weber: “Staying in our head too often can close our heart.” How very true that is. It’s important to never assume that a snapshot of an experience, past or present, is all encompassing. There may be much more to the story that could change our perception of that moment in time. Lastly, to carry a hurt, real or not, for a lifetime is such a burden. It solves nothing. There are times we just need to put it down and let it go.
Have you clung to a childhood perception about an event that proved to be wrong? Have you had a perception about something you did that surprised you? What were your reactions and feelings? What childhood perception or memory have you had that proved to be untrue?
Life’s journey continues…