I received an email and photos from one of our friends Muhammad who is 20 years old and lives in India. He’s a handsome dude with an incredible head of hair. He has beautiful eyes and skin coloring, along with great facial hair. Everything’s working for Muhammad, but he has a problem – with tee shirts. He can’t find any that he digs in his size because he has a bone disease that has caused his bones not to form properly.
Muhammad is three feet tall. He can find good options for jeans and pants, but because of his size, he has difficulty finding stylish tee shirts since his size is for kids. I don’t know the last time you checked out kids’ clothing, but it’s not exactly Alpha M. approved. They have dinos, polka dots, and crazy designs. The cut is also horrible.
He asked if I had any advice for finding more stylish options. Do you want to know my amazing and insightful advice? “Look online.” That’s all I could think of; that’s all I got. But this video isn’t about how I helped Muhammad. It’s about how he helped me.
After recommending that Muhammad look online for tee shirts, I went on a diatribe to encourage him and keep his head up. I added that disabilities do not define us and that he’s an amazing guy. I thought this pep-talk was needed – I thought he was upset that he got dealt a difficult deal. Right? Wrong. I was REALLY wrong.
His return email to me was one of the most enlightening and eye-opening responses I have ever received. He said I rocked (he actually should have said that I’m a fool who punted and that my advice sucked) and thanked me. He was gracious but told me not to feel bad or sad about his condition. He said he felt ‘lucky.’ This totally floored me. Whenever I encountered a person with a physical disability, my first emotion was sympathy.
Anyway, I assumed that those with physical disabilities or limitations were upset or angry with their situation. But Muhammad opened my eyes to something. Even with life-altering situations, perception is key.
Perception is not reality; however, someone’s perception can become a reality. Perception has an incredible impact on how we perceive reality and acts as a lens through which we examine reality. These perceptions control how we act and react to reality. So, we come to the conclusion that how we perceive reality is actually what reality truly is. But it is not reality, and the issue is that the so-called lens is often twisted by past experiences and knowledge, our emotions and interests, our genetics, and other factors.
Muhammad said that every single human being on this planet has some kind of problem – the difference is how it manifests. Perhaps it’s physical, mental, or emotional. Some get to see the issue early in life, whereas others see the problem later in life. He said that we must understand that equal pain and happiness have been distributed in everyone’s life. He goes on to say that he’s not sad. He said he’s more alive and happier than the people around him. He sees the positive in the world – that beauty in this world is in the eye of the beholder.
What Muhammad said was one of the most powerful statements that I have read in a long time. I know we get so fixated on things, and we can be self-centered. But, when you stop and look around you to see what else is happening in the world and with other people, everyone has their own struggles.
With our thinking, the challenge is ensuring that perceptions stay aligned with reality. This alignment is necessary to live in this world with others to maintain society and other of our life’s constructs. So, we all must not assume our perceptions are reality (don’t hold on to them too tightly as they may be wrong) and be respectful of others’ perceptions (after all, they may be right). Recognize how our lenses may be twisted and challenge our perceptions (seek validation from people like Muhammad, experts, and other credible sources). And most importantly, be open to changing or modifying your perceptions (just like I have).
Muhammad is absolutely right – perception is NOT reality. You can SEE physical limitations, but other people’s limits may be invisible. The critical point is that everyone has their own battles. Realize this AND realize we are all beautiful, unique, and created for a purpose.