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distorted perception

posted in College, personal stuff on March 7th, 2007

People are being influenced by their surroundings. In order to not alienate yourself from the people that you love, you’ll most probably try to fit in. Sure, some try harder than others, but all do try. That is my opinion anyway.

Most of the times, the better you fit in in your surroundings, the more success you will achieve, sometimes though, your environment can be damaging to you, your health or your future.

I was thinking about this yesterday and started analyzing the comments I received from various people in my life, people who know me or like to think that they know me. Some of them, in my opinion, are more qualified than others to “judge” me, some are entirely unfit to comment on anything.

About a year ago, someone I was spending a lot of time with at the time, claimed that I’m way too childish for my age. She deemed my behavior inappropriate and basically recommended me to “grow up a little”.

Naturally, after being with someone for three years, those claims aren’t just thoughts that were spat out in a heated discussion, but are something that managed to manifest itself over time.

Then, a few months later, when college began again, I had my second meeting with the mentor that was assigned to me. Her thoughts about me collided totally with what I’ve been told earlier. She thought of me as “way too business-focussed”, bordering the “uptight”.

It’s funny when you think about it. A person you’ve known for about three hours at the time (that is, two meetings of 90 minutes each) thinks she is qualified to judge you and your actions.

Now, I’m not saying that her opinion should be dismissed, after all, she may or may not have studied psychology and thus may very well be capable of evaluating a student’s actions and provide feedback based upon that.

On the other hand though, you have to understand where people are coming from. The first person had a personal interest in the issue. She would benefit if I’d change. The second person, according to my opinion, just tried to force her views on me. She wouldn’t gain anything if I’d become less “uptight”, other than personal gratification.

The other day, I was talking to two other people. The first one, a person I’ve been working with for 18 months now, called me a “friggin’ rockstar” and outlined how he deemed my mindset totally appropriate for the things I am trying to achieve.

He also shared some personal experience with me about how people in his (professional) environment told him to slow down, be less uptight and relax more. In his opinion, those that lack focus will always try to slow you down, not for your own best will, but because they perceive you as a threat. According to him, if you would slow down, it would give those people a chance to catch up with you, on a professional level and you’d be less competitive.

The way I see it, I have to strongly agree with his assessment. I know that I’m focussed and can be too focussed in times when said focus is needed. That however, doesn’t mean that I lack perspective. Most of all the actions I have taken in the last years are geared towards one objective: finishing college and gaining a skill set that will make me competitive on the market I am going to work on.

I see students in my college who are, technically speaking, able to achieve a lot, maybe more than me, but they don’t try to. Some of them just don’t care about being successful, some of them just lack the needed focus.

In essence, it comes down to the following: If people in your environment tell you to slow down, take where they are coming from into consideration. Don’t just do it because you value them, think about yourself first.

They may be able to distort your perception, but as long as you enable yourself to put some perspective to it, you should be able to distinguish those that are telling you to slow down so they can gain an advantage on you and those who are genuinely worried about you and your workload.