This was first published on KSL.COM
SALT LAKE CITY — This week I have been thinking a lot about perception and the way you see every situation in your life.
Perception is defined as the act of being aware, recognizing, discerning or understanding things. But the problem with human perception, according to human behavior expert Beau Lotto, in his book "Deviate," is that our brains were not wired to perceive accurately. They were wired to process the world efficiently, and this means you use the past to make assumptions about the present, so it’s easier and faster to understand things.
Everything you have experienced in your past becomes a filter or lens through which you see everything that happens now. You don’t see the world as it is; you see the world as you are. You are constantly projecting what you think you know from your past experiences onto the present, even though many of those assumptions or beliefs aren’t true.
A common assumption learned in childhood is "It’s safer to stay quiet and not talk about things." This may seem true to you if your trying to communicate in the past led to conflict and made you feel unsafe, but there is a cost when you don’t talk about what bothers you.
If you accept that your perceptions might not be accurate, then you have the power to question them. If you are open to other meanings and beliefs and questioning the way you see each situation, you will have the power to choose meanings or beliefs that serve you better and process your life in a more mature way.
Here are a few of the most common projections that cause misperception and problems in your life:
1. Perception of others comes from projections of yourself
Your perception of other people and who they are comes from you projecting the way you feel about yourself (and your own value) onto them. If you have accepted a belief (created from past experiences) that you might not be good enough, you can’t help but project that belief onto other people and see them as not good enough, too.
The more fears of inadequacy you have, the more you will be prone to judge, condemn, criticize and even reject other people. If you are prone to gossip or fault finding, you might be projecting your own insecurity or self-hate onto another person, causing you to see them as flawed too. Whatever level of flaws and faults you think you possess, you will see others as equally flawed.
2. Perception of yourself comes from projections you see in others
Your perception of yourself and your value comes from projecting how you view other people back onto the way you feel about you.
The previous point was the exact opposite, so you might be thinking: How can these both be true? Well, they are inexplicably tied together because it goes both ways. If you grew up in a family that was often critical of other people and you learned to be judgmental, you will project this judgmental attitude back onto yourself, too. You will be more self-critical and blame yourself when things go wrong. The bottom line is, it is impossible to have good self-esteem if you judge other people as not good enough.
To fix these first two projections: You should choose a new belief (assumption) that all human beings are created equal. The belief that all human beings are created by a divine or higher power — and therefore perfect and guiltless students in the classroom of life with infinite, absolute, unchangeable value — allows you to see everyone as "good enough" all the time. This means it is impossible to be "not good enough," and both you and others have nothing to fear. This will require practice, though, to consistently choose this new belief. But the more you do it, the easier it will get.
3. Perception of what others think comes from projections of yourself
Your perception of what other people think about you comes from you projecting the way you feel about yourself (and your own value) onto them. If you have accepted a belief that you might not be good enough, you will assume other people think you aren’t good enough, too. You might add this meaning to whatever they do or say and always think they are criticizing or judging you.
To fix this: Practice choosing to believe that what other people think of you is none of your business and completely irrelevant. Also, remember that what you think they think of you is usually wrong. They are actually so busy worrying about themselves, they don’t think about you very much at all. Finally, they don’t know you and what’s in your heart. If they judge or criticize you, remember they are only projecting how they feel about themselves onto you, and that isn’t about you at all.
4. Perception of God can come from how you see your parents
Your perception of God might come from the way you saw and experienced your actual parents. If you felt safe and unconditionally loved by your mom and dad, you are more likely to see God as having a similar love for you. But if you felt unsafe or struggled to earn your parent’s approval, or were often punished or even abused, you might see God as scary and very hard to please.
Take a minute and reflect on how you felt about your actual parents. Is there any chance you could have projected those feelings onto God and might be seeing him the same way? Because we cannot actually meet God and have firsthand knowledge of who he is, everything we believe about him will always be just belief (not fact). If your actual parents were selfish, emotional or out of balance, you might have a really skewed perception of God, and this can create a lot of fear of loss in your life.
To fix this: Choose a belief about God and that helps you more than it hurts you. You might choose to believe he is more loving and forgiving than angry and vengeful. Choose to see him as the essence of perfect love and trust that you are safe in his hands all the time. If you don’t consciously choose a belief and perception about God, you will subconsciously choose one based in fear. Choose a belief that serves you and makes you feel more loved.
5. Perception of safety can come from your childhood experiences
Your perception of life and your safety is a projection from whatever you saw, experienced or heard as a small child. Inevitably you saw or experienced some bad things that probably created the assumption that you are not safe in this world. You probably perceive the world to be a scary, unsafe place where you have to be vigilant about protecting yourself from other people who could take from you. This might make you quick to be offended or to feel taken from, and this could create a lot of conflict in your relationships.
To fix this: You have to choose a belief that life is safe all the time. Choose to trust God (or a higher power) that there is order in the universe and every experience is here for your good and is the perfect classroom for you at this time. Choose to believe that nothing exists God did not create, therefore there is nothing that isn’t perfect and here to serve you. Choosing these beliefs makes life look safer, and you will get offended and bothered less often.
Understand that everything you see and feel comes from your projecting your past onto it. This can help you to question your beliefs and give you the power to reframe the present in a more helpful way.
If you find yourself often unbalanced, upset or stressed out by life, this may be something you want to hire a coach or counselor to help you with. Coaching to change your subconscious beliefs is the fastest way to change your behavior and the way you feel about your life.
You can do this.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.