How perception defines our view of the world and ourselves
All of the time I’ve spent on self-reflection and inner feelings reminded me of a recent science show on how perception can change drastically with seemingly identical subjects. Take for instance the compelling example of Abraham Lincoln, which most people immediately recognize when they see the below picture. He was the 16th President of the United States and is credited with not only abolishing slavery (that took over 100 years to partially work) and winning the United States Civil War. His amazing ability to manipulate words in such a way so as to evoke emotion and passion in everyone that listened or read was second to none. Several former U.S. Presidents would use his speeches to craft their own speeches so that radio addresses could have the greatest impact in times of need. Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, John F Kennedy, the list goes on. Once television came into popular use, the need for powerful words diminished slightly, as now body language and facial expressions could convey what words typically would have trouble doing on their own.
Who likes to see a picture of themselves? I sure don’t, and I can bet most people all over the world have trouble or are uncomfortable seeing themselves in pictures. From the day we’re born, we get a sense of self-perception that defines us for our entire lives. That self-perception comes in many forms, such as our own voices, observable interactions with others to our own actions, even our image in a mirror. The reason we have difficulty seeing ourselves in a photograph or listening to our recorded voices, is that it doesn’t match our self-perception. In fact, it will NEVER match our self-perception as the circumstances that defined it just don’t exist. Below is the same picture of Abraham Lincoln as he would have seen himself in the mirror, which is a reverse image of our actual appearance. A camera by design will take a real world representation of how we appear to the world whereas a mirror is, well, a reverse image of how the world sees us.
Having written about introversion lately, this was fresh in my mind especially after I recalled the science show. Perception is in the eye of the beholder. It is a clear and simple truth that self-perception and real-perception, that is the case with physical/auditory appearance, don’t and will never match. Our voices, to us, have added acoustics of our head that add to the sound that exist our mouths. A lower range that others don’t hear that travels to our ears from our throat to our ears on the inside. As I can’t speak to other introverts, my own self-perception in the past was the reason that I avoided contact with others. I was unable to stand up to the potential scrutiny from someone elses perception of me if it were somehow different. What I didn’t understand at the time was that it would always be different. The pictures above show solid evidence of this statement. If you showed anyone the second picture, they’re reaction would be one of confusion as something about the picture is just “off”.
What I had to understand and accept for myself was that perception is subjective and involves more than just outward appearance or home someone sounds. Perception takes body language, actions, meaning of words, and facial expressions as well. The full range of human interactions basically helps us form a perception of the people around us. Knowing that my uneasiness was a result of unsubstantiated emotions was the key to learning to push them aside and rely on all the queues to establish a more logical and truthful perception. I don’t discard them completely, but no longer let the uneasiness stop me in my tracks to work on forming relationships with others. After all is said and done, it’s the intangible thoughts and feelings in our brains that finally decide how we form or don’t form relationships. I think this is the reason that online friendships, like the ones we all form through blogging, are so important to introverts such as myself. It removes the awkwardness of on-the-spot conversation until such a time, finally meeting in person, there is a base of reference to start and hold conversations with greater ease.
I personally have not met anyone yet that I’ve interacted with online through here. If given the opportunity to do so, and given enough online interactions, I would welcome it. That day is almost certainly well into the future though.