rorschach test

Perception is Reality?

One of the first pleasant surprises I discovered in my time living overseas was one of the hardest to relinquish when it was time to come back home.  It was a simple concept, one that was everything and nothing at the same time.  It made social interaction more interesting, and made it a hell of a lot easier to get coveted attention from the fairer sex.

Over in Europe, I was just more interesting.  I had a story to tell.  I wasn’t like everyone else, and people were genuinely interested in learning how I got there, if I enjoyed it,  and how long I was staying.  When said people were attractive single women, well, that kind of attention was all the sweeter.

When it was time to move back Stateside, though, it disappeared.  In the nine hours it took to get from Paris to Detroit, I morphed from wealthy, interesting American with a rich and winding story to tell to just another middle-aged, middle-class guy working in the automotive industry in suburban Detroit.   By all physical measures, I was the same guy walking off the plane as I was walking onto it.  Temporary haziness induced by the lower oxygen concentration aside, I had the same personality, too.

On this side of the Atlantic, no one wanted to hear my story.  Granted, there’s an additional dynamic at play here, of Europeans valuing travel and experiences more than objects, and while that may be true, it’s another discussion for another day.  The fact that I went from a unique one to just another one made for much less fulfilling interpersonal experiences.

The shift in perception played a large part in essentially saying “fuck it” when I began to socialize back home, particularly as it related to dating.  I was no longer of particular interest by default, and lacked desire to invest much effort to generate that interest.  Why should I?  If these people don’t see it, that’s their issue.

Simultaneously, the same dynamic played out at work.  It was breathtaking to witness the reduction in respect I encountered when returning from French headquarters to the American office.  In France, I was recognized for my abilities, valued as an asset globally.  In America, well, that’s just Tanktronic –  he’s been here for years, swears a lot, has a nice car.  Kind of a dick.

Ok, so maybe I was a dick.  But I was a valuable dick, and that fact was recognized in one office and overlooked in another.  Again, same person, same skills, same work ethic – but very different perception.

Everyone, regardless of confidence level, from the doormats to the narcissists, has the same thoughts when things aren’t going their way: “what am I doing wrong?”  It might be a variation on that theme, like “what can I do better?”, “where can I try harder?”, “why do I have bad luck with this?”, or even “why don’t they like me?”

Before spending too much time or energy seeking an answer to any of those questions, though, maybe first you should simply ask yourself – “am I in the right place?”

Any way you choose to interpret ‘place’ in this context, it’s valid.  From the literal sense to the emotional sense to the intellectual sense, you could just be in the wrong place.

If you don’t feel respected or valued at your job; maybe it’s not that you don’t know enough or you need to work more – maybe you need to move somewhere they’ll properly value you.

If you don’t feel loved or needed in a relationship; maybe it’s not that you’re not attractive enough or kind enough or considerate enough – maybe you need to find someone that can fully and clearly see what you have to offer; it’s entirely possible their own flaws and issues cloud their perception of you.

In any and every case, before you assume something is wrong with you, take a moment to ask yourself if you’re in the right place.  There might just be nothing at all wrong with who you are, but everything wrong with where you are.

One thought on “Perception is Reality?”

  1. Very interesting article. Having gone through a major career change lately, I know how you feel when you essentially wake up as one version of yourself and turn into something different the next day. For you it took a plane ride, for me, it took leaving my old job and all the associations that came with it. It’s a very interesting change I’ve considered writing about, but haven’t managed to get to yet.

    Also, regarding a post discussing the European lifestyle that favors travel and experience over possessions: yes please.

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