I drive a Mercedes Benz. That’s right—a Mercedes Benz. For those of you who know me personally, and the folks who read my blog, this might seem a little out of line with who you think I am. I’m kinda earthy crunchy, I love juicing and bugging everybody about it, I’m into all things spiritual. So in many people’s perception that type of person wouldn’t be buzzing around in an SLK 320 hard top two seater convertible. She’d maybe have something more down to earth and practical—maybe an all wheel drive vehicle of some sort. Nothing flashy or expensive.
Truth is, while it may be flashy it was not expensive because it is a 2001. When my last car started to not stop very well I decided it was time to move on and stop throwing money at it. I was finally at a place in my life where I could get something that cost more than a couple thousand dollars (my last car was my Mom’s that my Dad gave me after she died—before that total beaters). My plan was to get a newish Toyota or Honda. I don’t know why but one day I thought—I’m going to Google some “fancy” cars and see if there was anything I could get in my price range used. Turns out there were fancy cars in my reach!!
I found this car at a place in Lowell MA and kept looking at it…on line. Thinking how great it would be. Telling a few people about it. But all the while deep down feeling like it was just a fantasy—I don’t drive a car like that. One day my friend Karen stopped by my office and said let’s go look at it. OK. We took it for a test drive—AWESOME!! But so weird to drive—so not me! Top down we got lost in Lowell and then, I kid you not, a bird flew over and took a huge crap…which landed on me. I took this as a bad sign but when we called the guy at the dealership to find out how the f#*K to get back he said, that’s good luck—you have to buy the car now!! I wasn’t aware that a bird shitting on you is good luck—apparently from what others after that have told me it is. I didn’t really care for it.
We finally made it back and sat down with the guy. I wanted to think about it—he said better move on it because it will go fast. What cinched the deal was Karen when she looked at me and said, “if you’re not going to buy this car then I am.” Crap! Now I had to because I couldn’t go on having her pick me up in my dream car which was now hers because I didn’t have the guts to go outside my comfort zone and get something that seemed so extravagant to me—even though I could afford it!
When I first picked it up it made me uncomfortable beyond belief. What do other people think of me? I don’t deserve to be driving this kind of car. People probably think I am rich…and a snob. Or they know me and know I am not and think I am crazy spending so much money on a car—which I didn’t!! I devalued myself—I wasn’t good enough for this and everybody must know it. I perceived what I thought others were perceiving—neither one of them good!
It took me awhile to get used to driving a nice car and to stop worrying about what others might think. Now it is just my car, and while I absolutely love it and it makes me feel like a million bucks, I don’t really think about other’s perception of it.
Interestingly enough, a new friend of mine made a comment last week. He saw me show up in the Benz (yes, I like to call it the Benz) and told me later he was discussing with someone else how much the car must cost–maybe 75-80K and that he couldn’t figure me out because I looked like some sort of hippie (not really the look I have been going for but, ok)—maybe I had a trust fund. I said, “WHAT? 80 grand are you kidding me, it’s a 2001—it probably cost less than your car.” We had a good laugh and he loves to bring it up any chance he gets.
So my long winded point to all of this is perception is in the eye of the beholder. We look at things and put our own spin on it. While the above may be a kind of funny example we can sometimes do this in devastating ways. A fb friend I met at the Infinite Possibilities Train the Trainer conference posted a poignant post after the Boston Marathon tragedy. I can’t find it now so I will try to paraphrase—it went something like this. We might look at someone now and think they look like a terrorist. Maybe they have darker skin than we do. Maybe they have an accent. Maybe they are related to or knew the suspects. Maybe they just look suspicious to us. But really they are just fellow human beings. Our perception of them is just that—our own perception. They more than likely are not terrorists—so are we going to approach them like they are? Perceptions like these are so hurtful and they are not based on any truth—it is just our perception.
Just like some people might have the idea that I am rich when I drive by them (not quite there yet!!). This of course doesn’t cause me any harm—it is just interesting. It makes me think about how I perceive others. Again my point here is this—be careful about the assumptions you make and how you perceive others. Coming off what happened in Boston—it is a very tough time right now with a lot of built up fear. But innocent people don’t need to be victimized just by the way we might perceive them. Take care in how you look at things.