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Mind the Gap: Perception vs Reality

A few years ago, I guided a 30-min session for a small leadership team at a Fortune 500 company.


I had planned an awesome flow and was ready to rock it. I signed onto Zoom and immediately felt my anxiety swell. The majority of people looked irritated, tired, or utterly disinterested. Perhaps you've heard of Resting Zoom Face (RZF)? 😬😱


My palms got sweaty. My imposter syndrome flared, and my negativity bias took over. "Oh no...they're gonna hate this."


As we moved through the session, my mind silently catastrophized. Someone turned off their camera – ("They're definitely bailing...buh byyye"). I perceived every subtle facial expression and body movement as a red flag.


I stressed myself out for the whole 30 minutes and by the time I signed off, I was convinced it was a grand failure. To add insult to injury, it was a session on stress relief. 🙄 Oh the irony!


I sat there at my computer feeling frustrated and disappointed in myself. A few moments later, I heard a soft *ding* from my email app. The subject line read "Thank you!!!" I opened the email and discovered it was from one of the leaders. They shared how much the content helped them reframe a current challenge in their life and that "this was the best 30-minutes I've spent in a long time."


WHAT?!?!


About ten minutes later, another appreciative email came in. And then another one. By the end of the day, I'd heard from a handful of leaders (including the organizer) who all shared how impactful the session was for them.


Here's the thing – there was a gap between reality and my interpretation. In that gap, my brain made up an entire story that simply wasn't true, based on an inaccurate perception and my personal conditioning of "never good enough." I created a big wave of internal anxiety and stress for no reason.


Most of the emotion that disturbs your mind has incorrect perception as its basis – there is a gap between perception and reality.

The crazy part is – WE HUMANS DO THIS ALL THE TIME.


A key ingredient for building resilience and preventing burnout is learning to bring greater awareness to our perceptions and the role they play in our experience of stress.


With practice, we can pause, observe our perceptions at play, and choose to question them. Is this story true? Am I certain? Is another truth possible? This process is the path to greater freedom from habitual perceptions AND far less stress.



 

Written by Rena Satre Meloy, Pause Cofounder

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