Over the last ten years or so, I have been teaching an organizational behaviour course. Great stuff. The course describes organizational behaviour as an inter-disciplinary course, drawing from psychology, social sciences, anthropology, economic and behavioural theory. It was while teaching the module on perception that I began to think about my own perception and in particular my memory and the construction of what I considered to be me.
I know that there must be some relationship between my perception and the real world, because I am able to drive a car without too much trouble, work and get paid, take courses and get graded etc. However, how real is my perception compared to the world out there? Can I get by in the world simply because I live in a world where we have all agreed to a common perception that makes things simple? My dogs do not seem to understand money or at least the value of money. One of them ate a book and then a DVD case and then the remote for the DVD player. Perhaps he thought that the movie did not do the book justice or that the book was simply better.
I grew up in a sports family. I can recall the debate around the dinner table with names and numbers being spouted like fresh beer. My father would always end the day reading the sports page of the local paper. My father and brother coached sports at the local community level. My brother excelled at sports in school. My father played soccer in England. (not professionally).
My memory was different. When I taught school, we were often called to the gymnasium for assembly, when the principal had announcements to make. Just like when I was a student, we the teachers stood around the circumference of the students with our hands behind our backs watching the crowd as the principal spoke. The first time this happened, I had a funny experience. Gyms smell of varnish and sweat. To me, that was the smell of failure. Classrooms, while still using blackboards, smelled of chalk and dust. This was the smell of comfort and success. Standing in the gym that day, I was in grade 9 again, full of the anxiety that the gym represented to me. I was no longer the 30 year old teacher.
I have never considered myself good at sports, because sports are where I fail. Yet, I skied, both cross country and downhill, cycled, played tennis and squash, handball at university and roller blade occasionally. Because I do not fail at these activities, I do not consider them sports. I talked to my brother about the experience. At that time, he was a very successful manager for a provincial government. His experience was exactly the same as mine, but in reverse. The smell of chalk and dust filled him with anxiety and the smell of varnish and sweat gave him comfort.
So, here is the point of all of this. I had allowed an image of myself, that was created when I was in junior high, to continue to define who I am as an adult. I was able to re-write a part of the narrative that I was using as part of my self concept. Since that piece was negative, it had a negative impact on my self esteem.
If you were to ask yourself the following questions, how would you answer on a scale of 1-10?
Am I creative?
Am I intelligent?
When did you learn you were not creative? As a child, we believe we are very creative and intelligent. In fact, we don't even consider otherwise. So, when did we learn we were not creative, intelligent, athletic, etc.?
A number of years ago, a man enrolled in one of my courses at university. He was in his 50s and had not been in school since he graduated from high school. School was not a positive experience for him. He took me aside and reflected that perhaps going to school was not a good idea. I told him to stay for one class and then we could discuss what he wanted to do. He went on to complete the entire program with top marks. He was so excited and engaged as an adult learner, that he wondered why he had waited to long so go back to school.
What limiting assumptions are you holding onto, that are no longer valid? Perhaps they were never valid. Time to examine your self narrative and find the gems hidden beneath the dust of self doubt, ridicule and history.
You may not be who you think you are.
Actually, as you think, so you act. Change how you think, you change how you act.