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What Do You See? How Our Thoughts Shape Our Reality

It’s ironic to be writing about perception… even as I craft this piece I find myself hyperaware of how each of you will see me when I share it with you- on good days I think of you as cheerleaders- or loving supporters, the less positive days as critics, and I can’t help but wonder- what do you see and hear when I write? It’s certainly different from the way I perceive myself… although- I’m fairly certain if I shared this and it came out as gibberish my best of friends would still jump up and hug me in response to it (if only out of pity) and we would still be best buds… which is comforting- along with the accompanying thought- I certainly won’t die from sharing it (yeah, I went there) –  and so I muster the courage to share my ideas.

Our perceptions are how we understand our world-

they literally shape the world we live in. As humans, we naturally like to define our reality through words and judgements. We label our environment with colors, shapes, numbers, classes, heights, sizes- and after the initial categorization comes the judgement- do I like this or not? Is it good or bad?

Making up our mind about the world around us is essential to growing and learning-

but failing to revisit and challenge our assumptions can limit and stunt our growth,

making our own personal world into a small, compact, closed-minded box of predictability and stagnancy.

This is where awareness of our perceptions and judgements of ourselves, our environment, and the people around us becomes essential to personal growth and living an authentic, beautiful, fulfilling, compassionate life.

Throughout my childhood and well into my adulthood I have battled chronic low self-esteem. The thoughts that slashed around my head and tore through my heart would have annihilated any worthy adversary (if I were to lash out at anyone else… which has never been my nature), and it took me, well, 28 years to re-evaluate my perception of myself only to find it completely untrue!

When we dare to see ourselves in new ways, or better yet, see ourselves simply for how we are, today- right now– in this perfect moment, we open ourselves up to a life of honesty and authenticity.

Truly witnessing yourself and allowing yourself to be as you are- dropping the judgements for even a moment can be liberating enough to entertain new thoughts, ideas and truths about your life you may have never otherwise explored.

I’m a hairstylist and make-up artist by trade and I have a client I’ve been seeing for around 10 years- let’s call him Frank. Frank is the picture of consistency, always pre-books his appointments, arrives promptly every 5 weeks, and always says, ‘just do the same thing.’ Every now and then I would reply (in jest), ‘Not ready for that mid-life crisis mohawk?’- and for 8 of those 10 years his reply was always the same- ‘no thanks, let’s just do the same’.

One day around year 8 Frank sat down in my chair and I asked him how his hair was and if he wanted to do something different. He paused, and replied, ‘What would we do?’ I almost had a heart attack. This had never happened before!  We examined all his options and landed on a shorter, younger, more updated style. I was elated- it’s so fun to witness change!
As the service continued, I found out that Frank’s wife had left him, he had gotten divorced and he was entering the scary life of dating. No wonder he was ready to mix things up!

I can’t help but think if I hadn’t offered him something new- if I hadn’t been open to seeing him in a new way- instead of the way I had always seen him (5 week same haircut Frank)… would I have been able to help him express his life change?

If we continue to see those around us as we did when we first judged them, we are never witnessing them as they ARE now.

Like when your parent calls you their ‘baby boy’ or ‘baby girl’ … (MAH-oooommmmm- stop!! I’m almost 30!!!!).

What if instead of seeing people as we’ve always seen them, with our tired judgements and labels, we choose to see them as they show up for us TODAY- allow them to speak their truth, shine their light- and be truly witnessed?

I was walking around Lake Calhoun recovering from a sprint workout. The day was drizzly, overcast, and the cool damp breeze swirling across the still frozen lake licked at my flushed cheeks and bare hands.  I had one of those moments where I felt like I’d been sleepwalking and suddenly woke up. I took a look around and saw all the same things I had seen on my walk out… which at that time I may have described as dead, wet, cold, and gloomy… but this time everything looked magnificently beautiful. The naked, tangled tree branches against the deep blue almost sunken ice, the smell of moist, musty grass and leaves long buried under snow suddenly exposed to the cool spring air, the beautifully taunt rosy red skin of a fellow lake-walker… the scenery, and the moment, was blissfully divine.

Our perception of ourselves, others, and the world around us completely defines our reality.

One of my favorite authors, the late Dr. Wayne Dyer used to say, “When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change”.

What if each day, you chose to see yourself, others and your world as new? Not defined by the successes or failures of events the day before, or the expected projections of the future? We limit ourselves in so many ways with language like, I can’t do that. I don’t do that. That’s not me!

What if you chose to see yourself and your life in a new way- or even better, let yourself be as you are in perfect acceptance?

Buddha, Jesus,- modern day teachers such as Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra all teach non-judgement. Nothing is inherently good or bad- everything just IS. While this is a noble task, perhaps a more manageable focus point is the simple awareness of your mind judging and categorizing your life- choosing to take a break from it (every now and then)- and re-evaluate your circumstances with a new lens that might better serve you.

Whether it be one of empathy,
Awareness of beauty,
OR- simply using a fresh perspective to work your way through adversity.
Choosing to see beauty alongside your pain.

Love within your loss.

Hope holding your despair.

And before we jump into a knee-jerk, programmed reaction where we instantly evaluate a situation or person as negative, decide to write someone off, or beat ourselves up for a misstep, maybe we could instead take a step back- take a few deep, long breaths- reset our browser, and take another look.

What do you see?


I’d love to hear your thoughts!  Leave me a comment below about something similar you’ve experienced, or just to say hi!

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