“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars” Oscar Wilde
Defined as “the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses”, perceptions of events and actions will frequently differ from person to person. As such, there is a high probability that they will influence our day-to-day interactions and subsequent decisions.
If a complete stranger walked in to a room and read a short weather report, how accurately could you guess their IQ? Surprisingly, you would be more accurate than they would be at guessing their own. This act of over-estimating our own abilities is referred to as ‘positive illusion’ and it can include inflated self-assessments, biased optimism about future events and even illusions of control over random acts. Similarly, although our perception of people may feel deliberate, we all hold ‘implicit biases’ towards particular groups or ethnicities. As a result, we are all susceptible to exhibiting favouritism without being aware of it. Therefore, in the midst of heated conversations when both parties are resolute, acknowledging that our perceptions can sometimes be off-kilter could help alleviate some of the tension!
Furthermore, the interpretations of positive and negative emotions in two individuals will contrast greatly. For some, the focus-narrowing effects of fear can be the catalysts for change whereas others may find the same feelings highly debilitating. Either way, identifying which emotions help or hinder our actions is bound to lead to improvements in productivity.
Also, from a physical point of view, we are all guilty of labeling ourselves with perceived flaws and blemishes. However, able-bodied humans are far less likely to consider walking down the stairs or scratching an itch as perceived strengths. And yet, the almost indefatigable list of physical actions which we can complete is often overshadowed by relatively minor imperfections. As such, individuals such as Emily Jane O’Dell provide ample inspiration to re-evaluate our perceived strengths and weaknesses!
“I live now in awe of what the body can do, and amazed by how a soul can soldier on despite the body being so broken. Instead of merely being fixated on learning the grammar of languages like Mongolian and Kumzari, I'm now just as fascinated by the vocal cords that allow me to speak them. Knowing that I could one day go blind, I've become grateful for the sense of sight. No longer dependent on my wheelchair, I'm cognisant of the miracle of each step. My sense of consciousness has been expanded by what I can't do. My sense of responsibility has been expanded by what I can.”
Emily Jane O’Dell