When you gaze upon something, do you see it for what it is or for what it could be? Are you looking for what something truly is or are you looking at what that object means to you? We all guilty of looking at the world through our own rose-colored glasses. We assign different meanings to what we see around us according to how they affect us. It is part of the human condition to look at the world through our own preconceived filters. We decipher those sights by adding meanings where there are none, and assigning importance to things that have very little. We are all prejudice even if we think we are not. Our prejudice notions are based upon our experiences, our spiritual belief system, our foundation of knowledge, our upbringing, and the actual physical sights we see. You pour all of that craziness into our mental shakers, give it a good shake, strain it out over a chilled glass, and what you are left with is our perception of the world.
To a Samurai, his sword is an extension of himself, of his ability to dole out justice, it is an instrument to protect the weak and punish the guilty. To the unfortunate adversary of this samurai warrior the sword is an instrument of death. It is an uncompromising biter of flesh, and an ender of life. Both people know that the sword is just a sword, but the meaning we assign to people, objects, and feelings can differ with the way one looks upon it or how it will affect that person. A barking dog can be a warning that someone bad has entered your yard or it could be a constant annoyance to a sleeping neighbor. It could mean the dog it under duress or that the mailman is just making his rounds. To all of these individuals that are present, including the dog itself, the perception for his barking is different.
Perception is the key to understanding what reality and life all about. It is how we see ourselves, others, and the things that we value that are instrumental in creating the idea of who we actually are. If I were to look at new sports car I might see, women, speed, fun, and sex. Where if my mom were to look at the same car she would see frivolous spending, speeding tickets, injury, and possible death. If my friends were to look upon the same thing they might see pompousness, flash, jealousy, or someone trying to impress others. Where as a stranger might see it as a meal ticket, a sweet ride, a person with too much money, or a way to compensate for something I am lacking. No one perception is right or wrong, which is precisely the point. They are all right and they are all wrong, in accordance to whom is doing the looking. One can no more be right about that than if they were to say that the color red is a pretty, or that Coke tastes better than Pepsi.
We all see ourselves differently than how the world perceives us. But it is how we present ourselves to the world that allows for that perception to be altered. If you think you are cool or stylish and carry yourself in that manner, you will eventually be cool and stylish. If you slouch and slump and look like you lack confidence, even if you are a confident individual the world will only see a slumping, slouching loser. Norton Jester offers a more succinct explanation of this phenomenon in his book The Phantom Tollbooth. The main character of the story, Milo meets an interesting man who claims to be the tallest midget, the shortest giant, the skinniest fat person, and the fattest skinny man. When Milo inquires as to how he can be all of these things, the man replies that it is all in the perception of who is viewing you.