Monday, April 30, 2012

Does Perception Matter?

There's been some debate recently over how much other people's perception of your actions matters.

For example: 
Let's say I live alone and my boyfriend and I are long-distance. When he visits, instead of him getting a hotel, he sleeps on my couch in the living room while I sleep in my bed in my bedroom. Is it wrong? 

Inherently- no. 
But, the perception of what it could be throws people off. If all someone sees is my boyfriend coming into my apartment at night and then leaving the next morning, they might automatically assume we are sleeping together... right? 

So, at what point would I change my actions that aren't necessarily wrong simply because there could be a wrong perception attached to it? 

It's a weird line. 
We've argued a thousand different scenarios and it seems that as much as you might always try to err on the side of caution, there could always be false perceptions. 

My biggest issue with this is not that people might judge me for their false perception of me, but more that my actions might lead someone to falsely perceive something and then go do that falsely perceived thing themselves. That I might unintentionally be leading others into a bad spot. 'Oh, Debbie has her boyfriend sleep over when he's in town... that means it's probably okay if I have mine over tonight'.... 

Ultimately, I'm not sure we can always take responsibility for other people's false perceptions of us. The more the discussion followed a thousand rabbit trails and back to the main issue at hand, the more we realized that in an ideal world there would be a confrontation. A point where when someone perceives something, they would then go talk to that person about what actually happened...instead of assuming. 

That's an ideal world, though. 
And because we don't live in an ideal world, we're still always stuck in this weird place. A place where misinterpretation happens, where gossip dwells, where rumors fly. A place where people perceive things that aren't always true. 

I guess I think the answer is to simply be cautious of how your actions might be perceived. It doesn't mean don't do them (especially if it's not wrong)... but have an understanding of how things might get interpreted. Be prepared to have those conversations, but also be prepared to let things go. 

When I was in college I joined a sorority and while I hung out with the girls at parties, I made sure to never drink at parties. I made sure to never carry a cup, even if it had water in it. I knew that there was no way for anyone to determine how much I had drank or what I was even drinking. But, in a bar with some of the girls, I didn't have a problem having a drink or two with them as we sat around and talked. It doesn't mean that someone couldn't have walked in later and seen me with a drink and perceived, especially if I were laughing, that maybe I'd already had a few too many drinks. So... was that wrong of me? 

I guess you could live meticulously by a rule book, making sure that nothing you do was ever potentially questionable... but I hesitate to think you'd be successful. And on the small chance that you could succeed, I'd have to wonder if we missed the point... 

That maybe there's just more conversations that need to take place. Maybe more honesty and openness. Maybe recognizing that we can't ultimately be responsible for people's decisions to do wrong. Maybe recognizing that we still aren't perfect. 

I don't know. 

But, I'd encourage you to be cautious with your choices. Consider them. 
And just keep living. 

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1 comment:

  1. Great post.
    My mother and I are often on opposite sides of this argument. This is a well-written middle-ground.