We all have many identities that we identify with as who we are. Each role we play or identify with has a ton of stories attached, which then determines how we view the world.
If, for example, your parents were critical or pushy types, then you’ll have a script playing in your subconscious that relates to that. That script will usually reveal itself when you’re highly stressed. The way you respond in those moments will be the same way you responded when you were chastised or pushed to your limits as a child.
Your identity was forged not only by the way you were parented but also by the society in which you were raised. If we add gender and race to this mix, then we can clearly see the layers of identity and conditioning building up.
What about being a minority within that society? This will clearly impact what you learned from your environment. Now all of these different aspects of identity combine to determine how you view the world.
So if you saw people who looked like you in films and movies you’ll have a different view of the world than someone who never saw themselves reflected in this way.
If those people were portrayed as a three-dimensional, with a range of feelings and emotions this would have impacted you positively. However, if all you saw were stereotypical and two-dimensional examples, then you’d have a much different perception.
None of this is all so cut and dried of course. The environments in which we grew up, tend to be both complex and multi-layered.
Perhaps you had access to books that affirmed and inspired you. So even if all you saw was negative imagery on the screen, it wouldn’t have impacted you in the same way.
If you have a natural likeability; this would also offset how you’re perceived. If you were good at sports or some other physical pursuit valued in society; the same applies.
The point being, who we think we are and how we perceive the world is a function of parental, cultural and societal influences. Only through deliberate exploration, can we clearly see the things that influence our choices, behaviours and view of the world.
This may seem obvious, and hardly worth mentioning. Yet you might be surprised by how much you take for granted because of these personal filters.
Are you able-bodied? Then you don’t really have a full idea of what life is like for someone with a disability. Are you male? Then you’ll struggle to view life accurately through a female lens and vice versa. Have you always had enough money? Then you don’t know what it’s like to worry about not eating for days or being unable to replace worn out items of clothing.
What about being able to read and write? That may be something you take for granted. Do you automatically assume you’re cleverer than someone who can’t do the same?
We all tend to take things for granted. We’re not trained to walk a mile in another’s shoes. We can feel once-removed from other people’s difficulties. We usually have to wait until we’ve experienced something similar before we broaden our view.
How many people become advocates for those with a particular illness only because they, or someone they care about, had that illness? Was that issue something that concerned them prior to that?
What charitable foundations were created simply because someone known, has been negatively impacted by whatever issue that foundation hopes to solve.
Perception Informing Behaviour
It is our unique experience of life that determines how we see and move through the world. It is this that forms our perceptions about life. We may think that we’re open-minded and worldly in our outlook, but we actually see the world through our very particular lens.
To go beyond that lens, we must grow in awareness. We do this by being honest about how we filter information through our beliefs experiences and perceptions. It is an awareness of the world and its mechanisms combined with a willingness to cultivate greater self-awareness that allows us to do this.
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