I have often heard people use the phrase, “It’s all about perception.” Whether in martial arts or business, people want to be perceived in a particular way and will go out of their way to create this perception in other people’s minds, whether it is actually true, or not.
People have perceptions of us in all spheres of life. Sometimes they are spot on, other times they miss the mark by a mile. A person’s perception of you is a judgment. It is a person’s impression of you gauged by the way you may look, speak, act or any combination of these.
In the martial arts there is a lot of room to play with when it comes to perceptions. Martial artists often want to appear macho and brave. They often want to look the part. Even martial artists that haven’t been training for long seem to want to show how tough they are to the outside world. They want others to perceive them as being hard and strong, so they try to act that way. They put on a mask and try to fool the world. The look is often accomplished with the use of steroids, T-shirts and tattoos. Add a slightly slowed speaking manner and a deeper voice, and hey, presto! Now everybody that crosses their path will be duly impressed and nervous at the same time. Mission accomplished.
Or is it?
While a person’s initial impression might be of awe and fear, it may not be so simple to keep it that way. If a person gets to know you for more than five minutes it may become evident that you are not who you pretend to be, and the person’s perception of you may change forever. Many people start to live a lie, trying to trick others and themselves into believing they are something that they are not.
People will often work to meet the expectations that they presume others have of them. This becomes extremely hard work all on its own. And for what? Just so that they can try to live up to a perception they want others to have of them? Most people try to go for the shortcut and instead of, for example, becoming a fighter and training hard for years, they choose to give people the appearance that this is what they do instead of actually doing it. Keeping up a façade like this can be time consuming and expensive. There is a far easier way to be perceived in the manner you want to be:
Don’t act like the person you want to be, be the person you want to be.
Whether it is your dream to be a fighter or a successful businessman, rather put the effort into really becoming what you envisage. If you dedicate yourself to your training, learn the ropes and live what you want to be, it will naturally become a part of you. People will get a true impression of who you really are and will perceive you in the light that you intend – without having to pretend and act.
In today’s world it has become difficult to take anyone seriously. Everybody seems to be putting on an act of some kind. I have made it a point, when it comes to “fighters”, to never judge a book by its cover. The majority of the time the guys that look tough are the ones who really have no backing. They use the T-shirts and tattoos to try to intimidate others into thinking they are something they are not. It is very often a defense mechanism because of their insecurities. I often tell my students, “If you want to impress or scare me, you are going to have to prove to me why I should be. To this day, I’ve never been hit by a T-shirt so why should I be scared of one.”
In conclusion: Be the person you want to be seen as. A person’s perception of you may initially be incorrect, but given a few minutes of your time, they will see you in a true light. Be the person you are portraying, don’t just act like him. If you are acting as someone you are not, the truth will come out when the going gets tough. If you are tricking people into thinking you are something you aren’t, sooner or later it will backfire. It’s the same in life – it is sure to catch up eventually.
We will find that people will generally like us more for who we are rather than what we pretend to be.