The Fear of Perception – What Hinders Bahamian Progress?

Three P’s of Perception

What holds us in a perpetual state of paralysis, as our life’s clock wastes away? What makes us trot the road labelled ‘average’ instead of the one labelled ‘greatness’? The reason we conjure up images of our ideal lives in our mind, crack the whip of self-discipline, then lose our head of steam shortly after. Through my years of observation and conversation, I have come to the conclusion that the number one contributor to complacency and shelfed dreams of young Bahamians is perception. More specifically, fear of perception. A fear weaved so deep into our psyche, it controls us with a subtlety that goes unnoticed. This fear of perception can be broken down into three categories I call, “The three P’s of perception.” Public perception, peer perception, and parental perception. But before we explore the degrees in which these different forms of perception work to shatter the drams of our youth, I would first like to explore the meaning of the words, creative dream and perception in order to establish a common ground of understanding.

When we speak of dreams, it implies not a fantasy, but a future version of ourselves or an ultimate goal that we aim at and reach through hard work and persistence. I use the word creative here because most of what is said here would only apply to dreams or goals that go against the norm. For example, building a business, pursuing a creative career as an artist. And the word perception is defined as the way someone or something is regarded or looked at. In other words, how someone is seen through the eyes of the observer.

Public Perception

I begin with the most obvious of the three, public perception. When building a business or cultivating a skill in a specific area, it takes time. Time to craft the skill or build the business and time before that business or skill turns a profit sufficient enough to sustain a lifestyle conducive to self-employment. Therefore, most times, anyone pursuing these types of careers will have to initially work a job that pays the bills, while still trying to pull the strings together for their own venture.

A few months ago, I put together a book signing event completely out of pocket and it costed more than I expected to put everything together. I had already started advertising the event, so I had no room to pull out and save more beforehand. I followed through with the event and spent about 80% of my paycheck for that month and at the end of the event made approximately $200, which wasn’t even close to breaking even. Towards the end of that month was rough. I could only go from home to work and back. I simply didn’t have the funds to do anything else. The day before payday, I had the humbling experience of putting $2 of gas in my car just to get home from work. Needless to say, the struggle gets real sometimes when you invest in yourself or your business with no guarantee of profit or even breaking even. I could have just as easily used those funds to purchase luxuries as opposed to investing in my business. For most people, it’s easier to give in to instant gratification and the societal pressures of looking good and keeping up with the ‘Jonses’. Not only is that lifestyle more championed in our society, but is also more appealing than the route of sacrifice in pursuit of the advancement of your career.

Peer Perception

Next is peer perception. This is a more subtle level of adversity that stands between an individual and their dreams. Initially, most of our peers seem supportive of our goals. They seem supportive because they usually are; verbally. However, often times we come to the sobering realization that words and actions seldom align. The tension shows its face when sacrifice becomes involved. If one was attempting to build a business or develop a skill, it would be difficult, if not impossible to improve without putting in copious hours of work. This sometimes means turning down plans with friends to work towards these goals. This is difficult for most of us, because we don’t want to be perceived as something different to our friends. However, the reality is that if you were to improve and aim towards a higher version of yourself, you will change and so will your habits. It’s hard letting down the people that helped shape most of your self-perception. Our parents played their role in raising us, but for most of us, our friends have played an even bigger role in the development of our self-perception because we literally spent more time with them daily compared to our parents. Often times, the result of these conflicting feelings is complacency in the form of trading time for continued peer validation.

Parental Perception

Lastly, but most likely the x factor in whether or not a person pursues their creative dreams is the perception of our parents. Our earthly gods, so to speak. The people that we most likely don’t want to lose. In our conservative society, most parents are supportive of the traditional route to a successful career.

That is, going to school, going to college and getting a good job. The conflict here comes in when a college education isn’t necessary in the advancement of a creative dream. To conservative parents who grew up without as much opportunity and technology as we did, it is difficult for them to understand the pursuit of a career that isn’t safe and comes with no guarantees. For most people, this opposing view from their parents is enough to keep them in the ‘Rat Race’ of a 9-5. In this aspect, I turn to the most helpful advice that comes from one of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time, Gary Vaynerchuck. He says that essentially, this situation is black and white. Their response isn’t towards you, but more towards the way they grew up. One of you is going to be right in the end. It’s up to you to put in enough work so that you increase the chances of it being you. You don’t want to not do what you feel in your heart and then resent your parents in the end. It’s important to have those difficult conversations. I couldn’t agree more.

 

In conclusion, I think that the most important perception is self-perception. If we work to cultivate an unshakable self-perception, these three degrees of perception have a lessened effect in the end. If you worked hard enough to know that your efforts will pay off in the end, it will be easier to press forward despite these obstacles. A quote from author Stephen Richards says, “What we perceive about ourselves is greatly a reflection of how we will end up living our lives.” In essence, despite anything anyone else thinks of you, your self-perception will trump that. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to have a strong, positive self-perception. One that is conducive to the success of your career. When you take control of your mind, you take control of your life. Ask yourself these questions: What is it that you think about yourself? Do you trust your work ethic enough to pursue your dreams? Or is your self-perception controlled by an exterior entity?

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