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Perception Is Reality: 5 Keys To Manage The Way Others See You

While perception can have a powerful influence on the lens with which we view the world; it's often out of touch with reality.

Life & Travel

We hear it all the time -- at least within the workplace! Perception is reality; mkay! In fact, in psychology, better known as "person perception", this term refers to "the processes by which people think about, appraise, and evaluate other people." In other words, we're all a bit judgy by nature. And based on past experiences, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, social status, emotions, personal agendas–you see where I'm going here–we can be quick to make snap judgments.

Think about the last time you met a new co-worker, friend's boyfriend, maybe even a first date. You immediately began to draw conclusions based on the firmness of their handshake, attire, the way they groomed their hair; each impression having a lasting impact despite knowing very little about the individual. Of course, if you're living in a modern-day rom-com, a la Gabrielle Union, you're likely to win 'em over each and every time. Only, in reality, this typically isn't the case!

So, when can the perceptions we form have a negative impact on our reality? Let's take a stroll down memory lane.

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In 2017, I signed my life away and returned to the 9 to 5, after spending the former seven years freelancing. Unlike my counterparts–many 10 years my junior–I entered the tech world sans a degree, very little technical knowledge or business acumen and all the anxiety. To mask both the fear of failure and showing my age, I did what I do best: fake it until you make it, hunty! And boy, oh boy, did I play the part. You know how the saying goes: "I may be ghetto at heart but my customer service voice went to Harvard."

Only, as I became more comfortable in my newfound skin, I received feedback I was giving off the wrong impression.

While I assumed walking tall, speaking with authority (always with a side of compassion), and taking initiative were all covet-worthy characteristics, for some, these qualities made me less approachable–at times even intimidating. As one who prides herself on being rightly-related, this really irked me! So, I sought out feedback–not from friends or close co-workers–but from those I seldom interacted with.

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What did I learn? Perception is NOT reality. Yep. I said it. Sure, I have killer resting b*tch face and could channel my inner Disney Princess a bit more. However, in "reality", the root of the matter was, because I carried myself with confidence, set the bar high, pushed others to be their best self, and held them accountable, I was indeed a force to be reckoned with–one to watch. All things I was previously meant to believe were undesirable based on someone else's preferred so-called reality. Now, this isn't to say I don't have things to work on. I'm certainly a work in progress.

This is a simple reminder that, while perception can have a powerful influence on the lens with which we view the world, it's often out of touch with reality.

Do you often find yourself making conclusions based on perception, or worse, often misunderstood? Here's how to manage how others perceive us.

  • Eliminate assumptions. No one likes to play the guessing game! Instead, seek validation.
  • Ask plenty of questions. Right or wrong, it's important to be respectful of others' perceptions. They may have good reason to feel the way they do. In situations like these, it's best to talk it out, ask plenty of questions, and listen. Chances are they'll be watching to see if you were paying attention.
  • Check your own perceptions at the door. Be mindful of the perceptions you yourself create. Do they hold up? Could they use a modification or two?
  • Assume positive intent. We're all carrying some sort of load. That said, always assume others are making decisions regarding their actions with the best of intentions.
  • Be yourself. Be kind. Be authentic. After all, at the end of the day, you can't win them all!

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Before she was Amira Unplugged, rapper, singer, and a Becoming a Popstar contestant on MTV, she was Amira Daughtery, a twenty-five year-old Georgian, with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. “I thought my career path was going to lead me to law because that’s the way I thought I would help people,” Amira tells xoNecole. “[But] I always came back to music.”

A music lover since childhood, Amira grew up in an artistic household where passion for music was emphasized. “My dad has always been my huge inspiration for music because he’s a musician himself and is so passionate about the history of music.” Amira’s also dealt with deafness in one ear since she was a toddler, a condition which she says only makes her more “intentional” about the music she makes, to ensure that what she hears inside her head can translate the way she wants it to for audiences.

“The loss of hearing means a person can’t experience music in the conventional way,” she says. “I’ve always responded to bigger, bolder anthemic songs because I can feel them [the vibrations] in my body, and I want to be sure my music does this for deaf/HOH people and everyone.”

A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

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