By Sara Orellana
I find perception intriguing — fascinating even. Perception is the one variable in life that can alter what words or actions mean. Communication is an art. No matter how well you strive to deliver a message, positive or negative, you cannot influence how the other person will receive it.
For a little over four years I volunteered for the Alzheimer’s Association. During the pandemic the association became one of my main lifelines and I volunteered every chance I could. There were weeks where I taught three classes. It was amazing. Slowly, the class I began to teach most often was focused on communicating with patients who have Alzheimer’s and dementia. This class taught me more about communication than any experience ever would.
We filter the messages we receive through a variety of lenses composed of our past, our traumas, unmet needs, and current mood. This is a short summary of our many lenses. If not aware of this, we can take a message said with love and turn it into one of hate. As I say often, words are powerful; they start wars. Words are perhaps the most powerful weapon mankind has invented.
Perception is a tidy way of summing up our lenses. How we see something affects how we understand the message, how we feel, and how we respond. The perception we have of ourselves affects how we feel about ourselves.
Having a positive self-image of myself is a true struggle. No matter how I try, I seem to see all my flaws and weaknesses, but never my strengths. I can tear myself apart better than the next person. I have struggled with my weight my entire life. I have been the butt of jokes more times than I would like to admit, and sadly my home life never taught me how to feel confident about myself.
As I reentered the dating world I started to really notice how my perception affects me. I am a confident person until body image comes into play. The minute someone says I am pretty, I brush the compliment off or add a negative comment as a joke. Needless to say, it is never received well. I started to ponder why I can’t take a compliment. There are several reasons. Maybe some are good reasons. But at the end of the day, none of those reasons are good enough to leave me feeling less attractive or worthy of a compliment than any other person.
The perception we hold of ourselves affects more than our self-image. If we don’t like who we are, we won’t value ourselves, nor will we put forth the effort in to take care of ourselves. And a terribly negative circle starts. I don’t want that. I want to value myself, to feel worthy of good food, being healthy, and loving myself. How I look to others doesn’t matter; I would like to think my worth comes from my character. How I look to myself is what matters most to me.
I am not in love with what I see. But I definitely like myself more than I did a few months ago. My self-perception is slowly changing. And with it, my confidence. I am healthier than I have ever been, and for the first time in my life, I am prioritizing my needs. It feels amazing. I am saying no, asking myself what I truly want, and honoring my needs. The past few weeks have been liberating. I have found the more I like myself, the more I value myself.
Sara Orellana, MS, MPH is a community volunteer, entrepreneur, author, amateur chef, and advocate for rescued animals. She may be reached by email at email@example.com.