The Power of Perception

The Power of Perception

Burbank, California; January 11, 2002; Joan Marques, MBA, Doctoral Student



How many mornings did you get up, looking in the mirror and thinking, ?Oh boy, how can I present myself to the world looking like that? How can I ever be successful if this is what I am?? And how many mornings did you get up, looking in the mirror and thinking, "Today is the day! I can feel it in my bones, in my toes, in my fingertips. I'll sweep them of their feet!"


Do you recall what in both cases the day looked like? On mornings like the ones described first, you could actually just go back to bed and sleep the day away, because whatever it was that surrounded you, was negative and wouldn't help you to reach your goal at all. On mornings like the second, you could just not go wrong. Your smile, your touch, your complete presentation charmed each and everyone around you!


What was the difference? No, not a new, expensive dress or suit you recently bought. And not a recent visit to the beautician. Not the new pair of shoes and not the weight you just lost. In fact it may have been a day on which you just dressed in something you had been wearing many times before, gained some extra pounds, and had a pimple on your nose.

But it was your perception that made the difference! The way you looked at yourself. Your understanding of who you are. Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary defines perception as: [the] ability to see, hear or understand, or [the] quality understanding, or [one?s] way of seeing or understanding something (Hornby, 1989). Fieser & Dowden (2001) elucidate that "[I]n philosophy, "perception" is defined as the complex method of obtaining information about our surrounding world, specifically through our senses, and apprehending this information as beliefs ". (par.1) According to Fieser & Dowden?s (2001) explanation,

"[T]he main philosophical problem with this notion of perception is that we should not accept our perceptions as being reliable, since (1) it is possible for us to misperceive objects in the world, (2) our senses are susceptible to illusions (e.g. hallucinations), and (3) it is unclear how much epistemological value perceptions have, or how much belief, if any, should be rooted in that which we perceive." (par.1)

The philosophical definition of perception becomes even more interesting if we consider that there is a ?common-sense or direct realist theory [which] maintains that the world is as it is perceived, [thereby assuming] that there is a world with objects that exists independently of human perceptions.? Fieser & Dowden (2001)


Nevertheless, no matter how the phenomenon of perception is defined, we all have our own, and it's all we have. It?s our own personal reality. Everything in life, for each of us, depends on our perception. What one sees as a disaster, another one perceives as an opportunity. How many times haven?t we come across wise quotations that teach us that we should treat every challenge as an opportunity? That?s just a call for a transformation of perception from the negative way of looking at things, to a positive way of dealing with them.


As clarified by Fieser & Dowden, perception doesn?t only influence the way we look at- and understand ourselves. It affects other people, issues, and situations as well. Newsweek recently wrote: ?One?s terrorist may be another?s hero.? Another remarkable example of the importance of perception. When you?re the underdog, you tend to see the successful ones as crooks who took advantage of your weakness and robbed you from your fair chances. When you?re on the prosperous side, however, you tend to think of the suffering ones as lazy, ignorant, dumb and full of self-pity. Perception again.


Perception seems to have everything to do with our own selfish way of looking at everything. It may be influenced by the culture in which we grew up, and our personal characteristics. It may change within the same person over time, due to exposure to other cultures, people, or continuing education. But it?s always there. It?s easiest understood through the worn-out example of 4 people who witnessed the same accident, but all 4 of them giving another story of how it happened. Perception. They see things through their historically and personally tainted lenses.


It works, as much as anywhere else, in business too. Brabeck-Letmathe (2001) explains that ?[b]rands, like companies, evolve continuously both in perception and presentation.? What Brabeck-Letmathe, who is vice-chairman and chief executive of Nestle and a member of The Marketing Society, warns for, is that old companies with established brands, should not live with the assumption that the way their product was perceived 50 years ago will be the same today. He emphasizes the importance of nurturing their products and making sure their marketing is up-to-date, so that the positive perception will be maintained.


Perception can be difficult to deal with. Imagine a situation where an employee perceives his or her job description different than how the supervisor understands it. Or being part of a team where there?s clear divergence in the perception of what is a ?good end product.? Some of us are perfectionists and want the outcome to be as thorough and perfect as can be. Others are satisfied if the minimum requirements are met.


Perception has been known to represent completely different insights from people who have been together for a long time. A man may think his marriage is good because the wife never complains, his dinner?s ready when he comes home, his clothes are washed and ironed, and he can watch sports every night. His wife, on the other hand, may be the unhappiest person in the world, because this was not what she had understood as to be ?the perfect marriage.? She may have dreamed of doing more things together, having long talks, and going out regularly.

So while our perception of marriage, work, situations and other people can make us unhappy or bring us into trouble sometimes, we do have the ability to work on our ?self-perception,? which can be defined as ?[the] process by which we come to know and think about ourselves (the characteristics, qualities, and inner states that we attribute to ourselves)?. (Unknown, 1998) And, boy, is that a strong tool toward success in life! Just as described in the first paragraph of this article, the way we feel about ourselves when we get up in the morning determines what our day will look like.

Although I haven?t mastered them yet (and probably never totally will), I did come up with some sort of list on how one can boost up one?s self-perception.

  1. Through regular affirmations: try to tell yourself every time you look into the mirror, ?You?re beautiful and I love you as you are.? I borrowed this affirmation a number of years ago, in a very dark period of my life, from a book by Louise Hay, who states that ?what we give, we get back? (1984).
  2. Through remembering and listing the things you have done in your life that you?re proud of. Do something with it! Make a nice certificate (in your favorite colors) and frame it if you want to, so that you can read it over and over again!
  3. Through NOT saving the best for some vague special day in the far future, but treating yourself now! Wear that nice dress if it makes you feel better today! Put on those nice shoes! Get that haircut that you?ve wanted for so long, but that everyone seemed to dissuade you from! I cut my long hair off 4 years ago (after having wanted to do it for 20 years) and decided to face the world openly. After the initial frowns and ?What have you done with your hair?? people started to compliment me, because I felt good about myself, and I radiated it!
  4. Through initiating a smile when facing someone else. It may not be rewarded with a smile in return every time, but in 90% of the cases it will. And it will bring some sun in your heart. Remember point 1: ?What we give, we get back?
  5. Through regular exercise. Try to find the physical activity that you like most. In my case it?s simply walking. Do it regularly. The psychological benefits exceed the physical advantages by far!
  6. Through picking up a hobby. Do something you like. I picked up writing. Every time I burry myself in an article, I can feel the tension subsiding. Doing what you like gives fulfillment, enhances your creativity, and keeps the child in you alive.
  7. Through stopping to regret mistakes you made in the past. The worst you can do to yourself is saddling yourself up with old guilt. You can?t change the past, so look ahead! Focus on what?s to come! Create your own future!
  8. Through seeing things in the right (small) perspective: Not having friends doesn?t mean that no one loves you, having some problems at work doesn?t mean you?re not good enough, pleasing others doesn?t mean never pleasing yourself?
  9. Through thinking through what we really like doing best, and working toward that. If it requires picking up a study, go for it! As soon as your goal is formulated, you can start working toward it.
  10. Through loving yourself. Truly. You?ll still make mistakes. But stop thinking of yourself as a loser or you?ll be one! If you don?t have your own personal life-song yet you may borrow mine. In that case you?ll have to sing along with Matthew Wilder: ?Ain?t nothing gonna break my stride, nobody?s gonna slow me down, I got to keep on movin?. Ain?t nothing gonna break my stride, I?m running and I won?t touch ground, I got to keep on movin???

Break a leg!



Brabeck-Letmathe, P. (2001, Dec. 13, 2001). Marketers must avoid pitfalls of evolving a brand. Marketing, 18.

Hay, L. (1984). You Can Heal Your Life (H. Delyser & M. Hamoen, Trans.). Carson, CA.: Hay House, Inc.

Hornby, A. S. (1989). Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary (4th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

James Fieser, g. e., & Bradley Dowden, a. g. e. (2001, 2001). Perception, [Internet]. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Available: [2002, January 11].

Unknown. (1998, 20 October 1998). Self-Perception, [Internet]. Available: [2002, 11 January].