It should come as no surprise that perception rules over our generation’s world. In fact, the only thing that Generation-Y obsesses over more than themselves are other people.
It may sounds like an oxymoron, and quite frankly, it is. Never before has there been a generation that critiques one another more than we do. Think about it. You spend hours researching a pair of shoes that you saw a friend post on Instagram or you look up flights for your next vacation on a secluded island that a celeb recently visited.
This can't be life; perception is an extremely powerful element. It can transform one's reality. That being said, it should come as no surprise that individuals tend to portray much different lives than the ones they actually lead.
Perception enables others around you to perceive and judge based on what they see, hear and feel from you. In essence, how you are perceived usually affects how others treat and relate to you. This can be seen through business and personal acquaintances (job interviews and first impressions). Thus, it is important to represent yourself with the highest esteem possible. Consequently, many of our peers have chosen to re-invent themselves, creating new, improved personas.
This new, improved persona creates a vicious cycle of peers who all desire a life that is virtually unattainable and unrealistic, causing massive insecurity and, worse, narcissism. Still, individuals spend all their money to continue their self-imposed façades while the rest of us criticize ourselves for being inadequate.
Case and point: Last week, I saw an Instagram post of a woman broadcasting the fact that she edits her photos with an editing app. It's ridiculous — one can apply digital makeup and slice off unwanted fat to appear more toned, etc. It served as a metaphoric epiphany for me; nothing is ever as it seems.
Unfortunately, selling an unrealistic ideal tends to be successful, as other people are drawn to the idealistic realms of perfection. However, this situation isn't always catastrophic. Our generation possesses an advantage in having the potential to materialize our dreams. Social media and other technological advances enable Generation-Y to self-market and convince the world that we’re the real deals. This alludes to the power of perception.
On a macro level, we see corporations do this incessantly — with multiple avenues of advertising and marketing, some companies bend the truth. Naked Juice sold is a prime example of how perception can deceive. Many people thought the juice to be a healthy alternative to its counterparts considering its lack of preservatives and the nutritional value advertised. Unfortunately for the company, a closer look at these nutritional claims resulted in a class action lawsuit, as the juice is high in sugar and contains synthetic fiber. The takeaway from this example is that Naked sustained itself as a profitable company despite the fabrications.
I have struggled with this harsh reality of perception — do I sacrifice authenticity for advancement? Should I broadcast my intimate moments to gain acceptance and reap adoration from my peers?
I don’t condemn those who have chosen a different path than I have because I do share a fascination for the courage that overexposure necessitates. I've also considered how the benefits might influence one's life. One factor to consider is the friends and admirers to be gained. Are these people genuine? If someone is attracted to your lifestyle, is the connection severed when truth comes out? People want to be around you when you're an asset, but who will be there in times of detriment?
Life is confusing. In a world full of illusion, it can be difficult to cultivate an authentic identity that is also accepted. Whether or not you elect to be yourself, keep in mind that reputation and perception are key elements of opportunity.
The best solution that I can offer for those trying to find their way in this convoluted generation is to disregard the notion of perception and go with what makes sense. Find the niche and social presence that works in your favor and capitalize. For some, this may mean beefing up their perceived existence. For others, it may mean discovering that realness attracts the masses.