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Spirituality and Being Your Authentic Self – Learn The Power of Perception

Updated: Apr 1, 2021

Learn how the power of perception influences your self-concept and worldview.

spectacles influencing our perception
The lenses we see, filter and interpret through.

When I initially had my spiritual awakening, one of the first concepts I was particularly fascinated with was the notion of perception...

How could I not be?

Well, psychology broadly defines perception as the process of one’s ultimate experience of the world.

And because awakening to me means becoming aware

- of yourself

- of your reality

- of your consciousness and its different forms (including the mind, body, heart and spirit)

And then realizing how these forms of consciousness impact, influence and affect your experience of reality, there was no way I could avoid the notion of perception.

The beauty of this concept, perception, is that it is a principle guiding our existence. And regardless of where you are in your spiritual awakening journey, whether you’ve just awakened, don’t even know what awakening is, or if you’ve been at it for a while, it’s a principle that will continue to apply, especially if you are on the path to awakening and embodying your true self.

What is perception?

Perception is how we interpret and interact with our environment, our reality.

It is the process of our recognition and interpretation of sensory information, including anything from what we see, smell, feel, hear, taste, thought we heard, thought we saw, gut feels, what we believe, etc.

Perception also includes how we respond to the information.

You can think of perception as the process where you absorb what’s going on around you, translate and interpret it through your body/being, eventually drawing conclusions on that and then taking actions or decisions based on what you’ve deduced.

Perception enables us to take in sensory information and make meaning out of it.

Illustrated map showing how we interpret.
Making meaning

Why is understanding perception important?

Because perception is essentially how we create meaning in our lives, it will be a driving principle in literally every aspect that forms part of our reality, our relationships, what we do for work, where we choose to go on holiday, how we choose to dress, what we value and why we value it, how we see ourselves, the list is literally endless.

And because perception is made up of so many parts, understanding that it is something that is always at play, whether we are conscious of it or not, is important if we want to cultivate better relationships, healthier habits and greater harmony and peace in our lives.

Recipe to be interpreted - old school
Recipe for interpretation.

What’s the difference between perception and perspective?

So, key to understanding the difference between the two is that perspective generally encompasses only one aspect, i.e. your viewpoint, or the way you’re looking at something.

Perception is a process involving several aspects or steps, which includes the taking in of data and then analysing and interpreting it.

Perspective could form part of, and inform your perception, but it’s not the same thing.

Remember, two people could recognize all the same information, i.e they could have the same perspective, but have an entirely different perception, therefore experience and interpretation of, and thus also, respond very differently to this information.

Storytime – perceptions on dogs on the beach

For eg:

Janine and Themba are walking on the beach.

They see a couple of big dogs approaching them fast. The dogs are running around, jumping up and down, sometimes on people, running from piece of kelp to piece of kelp, smelling the seashells, people, and whatever else catches their attention.

Janine and Themba take the perspective that this is irresponsible behaviour by the dog’s owners, that the dogs should be on leashes as they both believe that the owners are not considering other people’s sensitivities to dogs. It is a public beach and someone who has a fear of dogs could potentially have a panic attack if one of these big dogs were to alarm them by jumping on them. Themba and Janine have the same viewpoint, they share the same perspective.

Where their perceptions of the event could be different would be in the experience of, interpretation and response to this perspective.

Dog on the beach chewing on a ball - a bone of contention
Something to chew on.

Janine, who was bitten by a dog as a child, upon seeing these dogs running around and jumping on people, finds that her body tenses up, her heart rate increases, and her breathing hastens. She begins to feel unsafe. She wants to leave the beach – she thinks it dangerous. Her fear triggers her fight or flight response and she immediately starts cursing the owners and the dogs, she calls them some nasty names and is prepared for a conflict with them. She must defend herself.

Themba loves dogs. Although he thinks the owners are being ignorant and inconsiderate by letting their dogs loose on a beach with so many people, he still sees them happily wagging their tails and it reminds him of his dog at home, his heart softens, and he feels compassion for the dogs. He doesn’t like what the owners have done, but his love for animals based on his positive experiences with them and his concern for someone like his friend, causes him to walk over to the owners and gently ask them to consider others on the beach, one of the dogs even jump on him trying to lick his face and Themba happily receives it. He remains calm and focused.

Same event, yet vastly different perceptions and thus different experiences

The above is a simple example of how we could witness the very same event, even share the same perspective, and still have a very different perception of it.

We could change our perspective of an event or even an experience, which could alter our perspective of it, thus, the viewpoint we have, but because the process of perception itself is so complex it takes more than just a shift in perspective to make any lasting change.

Remember, perception as a construct, is a constant process we are undergoing every moment. We are constantly seeing and taking in information, analysing and interpreting it, making meaning out of it, and responding based on that meaning.

How does perception work? Is it me or my environment?

The stages of perception and understanding the difference between top-down processing versus bottom-up processing

Because perception itself is more than just a conclusion and actually a process upon which deductions are made, it can consist of five parts, which don’t always necessarily run in this particular order:

1.) Stimulation: the information that is let or taken in by the individual

2.) Organisation: the capacity to identify that which is being perceived, this usually includes rules, schemata (patterns of thought that organises types of information whether social, about the individual etc) and scripts (expected behaviour in a social setting)

3.) Interpretation-Evaluation: how the individual makes sense based on the above

4.) Memory: the individual stores the information based on above

5.) Recall: memories are not always consistent with the rules we’ve absorbed or the schemata the individual’s brain has constructed

Psychologists can’t agree on the extent to which perception is driven by the information available in the environment.

That is: A.) I see, feel, touch, experience, ABC therefore: this is what is happening (my perception)


B.) I see, feel, touch, experience, ABC and this TRIGGERS my brain into creating what is happening from past experiences and/or information. For example: There is something wrong in this sentence, but not everyone will be able to spot the mitstake. And this is because our brain works in patterns and will recreate the rest (fill in the blanks or fix the experience) based on previous patterns.

The first example above (A) is what is known as bottom-up processing, where perception begins with a stimulus itself.

The second example (B) is known as top-down processing, where information in context enables pattern recognition.

How do we change our perceptions?

Developing your awareness is key. Without awareness, you’d not be able to observe and identify your perceptions.

And once you’re able to become aware of them, whether your perceptions are instigated by a stimulus, or you are taking something from your past and overlaying it on your present, you can choose how you want to engage.

And there are many options available, whether that is choosing to just observe, actively make a new choice, or to continue to identify with your perceptions.

Awareness and a willingness to learn and implement new behaviours are crucial for transformation.

Spirituality and perception – why should I care?

This topic is an entire book on its own, but what for me what is most important to remember is that perception, because it’s made up of so many different aspects, including things you’ve been taught, that may or not be true, is the very construct you must allow yourself space to play with.

Perceptions can include aspects of yourself that need healing. But they can also include intuitive nudges and hits that want to guide you to your most authentic self and path, which will always be the most fulfilling for you.

Unless you are willing to observe, deconstruct, reconstruct, play with, and allow your perceptions to evolve and grow, you won’t know whether the lenses you’re using to view and interpret things are indeed serving or hindering you. And this can be in your relationships, your money relationships, your career, your view of yourself and life, and the world.

woman blonde looking in mirror
How do you see yourself?

Furthermore, you’re not the only one with perception, others have them too, which opens us up to being seen and interpreted in ways we don’t like or resonate with.

This can feel dangerous because how we’re perceived is often directly related to what we receive (from others and the world).

This is why you need to establish your own powers of perception so you can acknowledge and heal the beliefs, pains, traumas and experiences that may have kept you in a restrictive perception of yourself and the world. Once you get to a place where you are perceiving less through lenses of trauma and unresolved emotions and experiences, you can, with more clarity, choose what’s right, authentic and true for you, regardless of someone else’s perception.

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