On Perception II.

My previous post was one on the way that people perceive you and the power that has over your life. Perception is reality and the world we live in is one that lives and dies on preconceived notion and first impressions. I find it only fitting to be followed with a post on how I would like to be perceived, since my reaction to my past outside perspectives (those that people have had towards me in the past) was a somewhat negative one.

First and foremost, I want to be taken seriously. I want to be seen as capable and knowledgeable. Never would I complain about being seen as an attractive person but it can be a double-edged sword in a career or job. I have at many times found that if I slip up in the slightest, there are plenty of people to point it out and attempt to discredit my accomplishments; writing me off as a person who got where I am/got the job that I have due solely to looks. I’m resentful of this because I’ve worked my ass off. Not only in college through completing two degree programs while still working enough to support myself, but in any job that I’ve had. I worked 12 hour shifts regularly at my last job, and worked more at home to accomplish what I couldn’t get done there. I spent hours learning new skills and solving problems I didn’t even have to just to be able to be good at what I do and know the field from top to bottom. It was so very frustrating when I would hear anyone downplay that. And it’s why I spend so much time studying and learning more than anyone else – I don’t like giving anyone anything to say. I don’t like for them to be able to take cheap shots. Like I said previously, I hate more than anything to look incompetent.

Next, I’ve always had a problem being an open person. I’ve just been this way for as long as I can remember. I think it’s from learning early on that if you open up, sometimes people will use those things that you tell them against you. It was all the more frustrating because I have always prided myself on being a lockbox. If you tell me something in confidence, I’ll take it to the grave. It sucked when other people didn’t do this. This has become less of an issue as I have surrounded myself with with wonderful friends in my adult life, people that really care for me in a genuine way. True friends that I really can be honest with… That I can mess up around and they keep my secrets and love me anyway. So I’m working on being perceived as a more open person. I want to be one of those people that radiate warmth and welcoming and that people feel comfortable opening up to as well. I think it just takes time to let old habits die.

Lastly, I want to be perceived as successful. This somewhat ties in with my first desire I suppose, to be perceived as capable. I have had a couple conversations in the last six months or so in which something was said that undercut an accomplishment that I felt that I had achieved. I was surprised each time at just how much that bit into me. But I’ve worked to hard to reach the goals I have finally reached to have anyone belittle them for any reason. I suppose that it didn’t help that these conversations were ones had with men; as I’ve gotten older I think I’ve come into a more combative stance with men. I feel like I have something to prove. Again, I want to be taken seriously. And a lot of past not-being-taken-that-way has come from male coworkers, male bosses. I don’t even think it is a malicious thing, more of an ingrained societal thing. Maybe that’s a post in the making…

Again, I know that you need to be proud of yourself, not need that from others. But you should take into account just how you come off to people because their perception of you shades their reality and the way in which they interact with you. The impression you give others is important, especially in a career setting. It’s just a good thing to keep in mind. If for nothing else then just for self-improvement.

 

On Perception.

An old favorite of mine, from Paradise Lost:

“The mind is a universe and can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”
― John Milton

Perception of the self, perception of your life and your circumstances, these are the things that create your story. Your perception is your own reality. As Milton wrote, your mind is capable of creating the universe it resides in. Similarly, the perception of others creates their reality. I had a coworker who would say that to me when I found myself aggravated by the some of the ridiculous things that people would complain about. If a customer, client, guest is unhappy, that is justified in their world. It makes sense to them for whatever reason. It is a good thing to remember even out of the workplace, we all walked different paths. We all have different triggers and different beliefs. We perceive based on individual experience.

I was curled up on the couch with my journal the other day, trying to get inspired but finding myself with a serious case of writers block. So I googled some writing prompts and ended up reading an article that really made me think… 20 Questions to Know Yourself Better. One of the questions asked was “How Do People Perceive You?”

I was thrown by this question because I was surprised by my immediate emotional reaction to it. It wasn’t a good one; the closest I could describe the feeling would be one of animosity. The perception of others, in my experience and through the feedback I have received, has in many instances in my life felt misguided at best, unfair at worst.

There have been many times in my life that I have felt prejudged for one reason or another. Somewhere along the line I went from a boisterous, mischievous child to a painfully shy adolescent. I felt completely invisible during that time in my life, and mostly I was. And invisible was fine by me. Switching schools multiple times in three years and feeling constantly out of place and different made me more comfortable in just blending into the background. I pulled this off marvelously until high school at which point I discovered, with the help of my fashionable cousin and a good friend, the magical transforming powers of makeup, contacts, and not wearing baggy t-shirts and tennis shoes everyday.

My oh my… how things can change overnight. I went from wallpaper to a strobe light in the worst possible scenario in which that can occur – as a shy teenage girl in a highschool setting. Any attention I attracted from boys was in direct correlation to the negative attention I received from girls. Perception of me, at this point in my life, was that I was a pretty girl who did not involve herself in after school life, gossip, or dating and therefore must be stuck up/full of herself. Truth was that I was just still that shy girl and had no idea how to handle attention or hang out with the cool girls. I didn’t have things in common with them. I found most of them catty and frivolous and disloyal. They, in turn, found me weird if they ever tried to speak to me at all. This was my first real run-in with unfair perception.

The same pre-judgement has followed me into my adult life, for somewhat similar reasons. While I did outgrow much of that painful awkwardness, that shyness that had caused me issues in my youth; being a mid-to-late 20’s attractive girl working as a bartender through college had its own interesting set of outside perceptions. Namely, people think you are stupid, or at least uneducated. They think you can’t do any better. I cannot tell you how many times I was asked at my last job if I had ever traveled outside of my home state, just how many kids I had, if I ever considered getting a real job. People make assumptions based solely on your vocation and how you look, before you ever open your mouth. I liked to let them talk for awhile before I hit them with the fact that I was in the process of finishing/had my Master’s degree. The look of surprise was always highly satisfying.

I now have a problem with the perception that I am not a person that should be taken seriously. I am still a young female and that comes with a collection of assumptions that men of my same age just do not have to deal with. You got the job because you are pretty, not qualified. You got the promotion because you are sleeping with your boss, not due to hard work. You don’t really know what you are doing. You should be second guessed. It is because of these things that I hate looking incompetent more than anything. I feel that I need to know more, prepare more, and never mess up. I had a boss once that would refer to me as “little girl/ little lady” even though I was 30 years old and had been working in the field for years. Another told me that I dressed too sexy even though I wore turtlenecks and blazers to work everyday in a deliberate attempt to not look sexy. Yes, these were older men. But their perceptions held me back.

The way that people perceive you really can impact your life, for better or for worse. It can mess with your self-esteem (just ask my 15 year old self) and it can begin to influence the universe you create/the world that you live in. As much as I’d like to say you should never care what people think of you, and in many instances that rings exceptionally true, sometimes in a career setting you really should care. Impressions are important. Perception of you is everything. The only thing you can do is recognize the reality of the situation and be attuned to those outside perceptions… As misguided and unfair as they might still be.

 

 

Navigating Expectations

You’ve seen the quote and pictures on social media: “Expect nothing and you’ll never be disappointed”.

It often comes in the form of a self-serving & passive aggressive post towards a family member, coworker, or significant other; this has always turned me off and made me discount the sentiment. I am also of the mind that if you hold no expectations of yourself you’re not going to be able to reach many goals in life. Also, If you hold no expectations of the people in your life then you may accept treatment that your otherwise would not.

I think that some expectation is a reasonable product of having respect for yourself. However, after a discussion with a friend recently about some unreasonable expectations we have had in our careers and our love lives I’ve now began to began to wonder…

Just where exactly is the line between reasonable and unreasonable expectations? What is healthy and what is unhealthy? How do you expect enough without expecting too much?

It is possible to spend years beating yourself up about not being where you want to be career-wise or family-wise, or in your education. I know I’m definitely my own worst enemy when it comes to this. Despite the goals I’ve reached I never feel like I’m far enough; I feel like I could be doing better than I am. I don’t take the time to pat myself on the back and realize that I’ve done some very cool shit in my life. I have some pretty bad ass friends that have as well; amazing, strong beautiful women that have excelled in owning their own businesses, becoming doctors. They feel the same as I do. That they could and should be doing more, rather than just basking in the glory of their awesomeness.

My tendency to expect too much of myself bleeds over into my interpersonal relationships as well. I know I have expected too much from friends, family and relationships. I have at times expected people to give at the same level that I do, even when rationally I can understand that that is not their personality type or that their own personal “love language” is one that mine doesn’t so easily recognize. I know that I set myself (and them) up for failure when I think things should be a certain way in my head and when things don’t turn out that way. I have found myself upset in the past solely from expecting too much of someone, no fault of their own really. But again, what is expecting too little? Should someone just be happy with any kindness and ask for nothing else?

Screenshot_2015-12-17-16-08-41-1

 

Relationship propaganda, romantic movies and social media lead us to believe that our love should be our soul mate and they should fulfill all of our needs. Glossy magazine covers show us women who are outrageously successful, fit, run their own businesses, solve world hunger and write books on string theory, all while being mothers too! I do know that comparing yourself to these things or expecting these things is extremely unrealistic and detrimental. No one can reach your every expectation at all times, not even you. But I think that if you are realistic and honest enough with yourself and others then you can spend much less time being disappointed or sad and a lot more time just enjoying the ride.

I am making it a point to lessen the unreasonable expectations I’ve had a tendency of setting, of  both myself and of others. Sometimes all you can do is appreciate the now, appreciate your wonderful self, and appreciate people for who they are no matter their actions.

But I will never expect nothing at all.

 

 

 

 

 

On Materialism.

I’ve always had a interest in Eastern philosophy (at the risk of sounding eye-rollingly New-Agey) because what it teaches really resonates with my beliefs. One of those particular beliefs is that the attachment to material things (well, attachment in general, but that’s another post) brings unhappiness.

Now, I love a new pair of heels as much as the next girl. I obsessively buy lip gloss and I do own a car. I’m not a monk and I don’t preach trying out homelessness or renouncing everything you own. However I do have something to say about attachment to these items. I also have something to say about always needing more and more in order to be “happy” and impress others. I am writing about this as a person who just gave away roughly 95% of everything I own, sublet my apartment, and moved to another country with only what small amount I had in savings. So there’s my credentials. Really you could call me an expert… I’m kidding. Sort of.

Cue the scientific part of my discussion:

A Harvard study asked people if they would rather make 50,000 a year if everyone around them was making 25,000 (option A), or if they would rather make 100,000 a year if everyone around them was making 250,000 (option B). Same living conditions, same neighborhood, same prices for goods in both scenarios. The majority of participants actually chose option A. It was more important to be the one making more income than everyone else, even at the expense of 50,000 a year. That’s 50,000 dollars less a year to spend on anything you want, just to be top dog.

We’re some greedy assholes, us humans. But we aren’t the only ones.

Take another study from Emory University. This one is almost comical. Capuchin monkeys were all given cucumber slices as a reward for performing an action. All the monkeys were more than happy to accept and chow down on these. But when grapes were thrown into the mix, a much tastier item, the cucumber-rewarded monkeys would no longer accept their prize. They threw them on the ground or turned their backs on the researchers.

Lets think about this.

As people we are so concerned about status that we would take a 50% cut to our income in order to attain it. Also, evolutionary it seems that we are hard-wired to be unhappy if those around us have bigger & better (even if that comes in the form of a grape). So I do understand the idea behind materialism. I understand the people that get lost in debt to own a house bigger than their neighbors. I understand the guy at the club with the fancy sports car that makes him so broke he lives with his parents. I get it. Status.

But are these people really happy? Does attaining what you want settle the matter and then you are satisfied? Or do people end up wanting the next model, the biggest house on the street, the even more expensive car? Most often they do. Its a vicious cycle. There’s only a small amount of time in which that thing you bought will bring you happiness and then you return to whatever baseline you were at before. This has been researched and documented time and again.

There is a reason why Denmark and Switzerland rank as the happiest countries on the world happiness report index (and the US at number 15, coming in behind Mexico). These countries live a more egalitarian lifestyle. The income discrepancy between the rich and the poor is not as vast a canyon as it is in the United States. Their monkeys are all eating cucumbers. They’re content. (They also offer excellent medical care to their citizens and people tend to live in expanded social structures that offer support and companionship… but that’s a point for another day).

The fact of the matter is, beyond the basics, you do not need stuff to be happy. In fact it’s the very stuff you obsess about that is bringing you unhappiness. You have no idea the relief I felt when I liquidated all of my things. I didn’t sell them. I gave them away to people that really needed them. Couches, tables, shoes, cookware, appliances, whatever… and it felt great. All I really kept wondering is “WHY and HOW in the hell did I accumulate so much stuff?” I can now fit everything I own into a couple suitcases. It’s fantastic.

I now have the freedom to go where I want to go. I spend my money not on accumulating things but on seeing the world. It’s sad to me when people tell me that they can’t travel because they have to work so much. And they only work so much in order to pay for the stupid shit they have that they can’t take with them when they die. And they live an entire life like that. Work, bills, work, bills. Higher bills, more work. We get so wrapped up in these things. Maybe your goal is not to see the world. That’s fine. Work less – by owing less – and just spend your time with your friends and family because it’s also been documented time and again that that is what really brings happiness to the human mind.

Materialism is not an easy thing to overcome. Minimalism is not an easy thing to wrap your head around. Like I said before, it’s programmed into our very nature. But as long as you (and your family) have a roof over your head, food to eat and some clothes to wear I’d say you are doing better than millions of other people. Everything else is just a bonus. How about thinking of that next time you need to feel a status boost? Not so fun right?

Stop spending so much time on buying and start spending time on living. Have stuff but don’t become attached to it and for the love of God do not become a slave to it. If you’re willing to work yourself into the ground for a new car, maybe you should consider readjusting your priorities. If you spend so many hours in the office that you become an asshole and your family hates you, ask yourself if it’s really worth it. Don’t put off enjoying yourself in the future because the future is not guaranteed. You have one beautiful and fleeting life. Nothing else matters than fully living it.

Why I’m Quitting my Job (and what is wrong with America in general)

At today’s meeting I learned that we are raising the prices of our “employee meals” from 2$ to 3$ (I manage a restaurant located inside a fairly nice hotel to put this post into context). These meals consist of food we do not offer for our customers; mainly chicken strips, cheeseburgers (the tiny kind), cheese quesadillas, french fries. Cheap food. Bar food. Food I myself won’t even eat. In the restaurant we serve overpriced steaks, crab cakes, and salmon. So overpriced, in fact, that business is steadily decreasing – a change that was made by our insightful upper management. Which means that my servers can no longer afford to pay their bills, let alone eat our food, and we are quickly losing great employees, some of which have been with us for years.

short-sighted-greedy-corporate-america-is-rob-L-HcP1yn

But to return to my original complaint… The 2$ employee meal is quite literally the only benefit to working at the hotel. We used to be a branded (franchised) well-known name hotel, and this used to be an excellent place to work. Since we lost that brand and were taken over by a management company, everything has gone to shit. The increase in this meal price comes on the heels of cut hours, increased per-person workload (in housekeeping), a switch to lousy insurance policies, a revocation of our travel discount,  a one-year suspension in the earning and taking of paid vacation (since we were bought by a new owner), a paltry restaurant discount, a laughable wage for our restaurant servers (who, on a extremely slow lunch shift really do only make 2.13 per hour, thank you outdated and unfair Indiana laws), the hiring of a food and beverage manager that does nothing but criticize, blame, and fluster his staff (myself included), a ban on employees using the facilities of the hotel in any way, shape, or form, and a “company policy” dispute between myself and our accounting department over their refusal to cut a check to my hostess who’s paycheck was 19 dollars when it should have been well over 150 dollars (this was no fault of her own, it was the accounting department who messed up her pay). She got paid on her next check, two weeks later. Speaking of wages, the housekeeping girls mostly make minimum wage, and those who have been “lucky” enough to see a raise haven’t seen one in four years.

In case you are thinking to yourself, “geez, well, maybe the hotel isn’t doing so well and so cutbacks are necessary”, let me clear this up. As I said, our hotel is currently managed by a management company. They manage hundreds of hotels across the country. The general manager they sent to us lives in the hotel for free. Eats for free… breakfast, lunch and dinner. Last night he had a ribeye steak delivered to his room, along with sides, a salad and cheesecake. We did a quick estimate of just how much free food he has eaten in the two years he has been residing in the hotel and it was around 20 thousand dollars. He never leaves his office to find out what is going on in the hotel or the restaurant (except to come eat of course) and easily makes three to four times the salary that I do. And at least five to six times that of our minimum wage employees. All while doing five times less work.

The-greedy-never-know-when-they-have-had-enough

I recently discovered that after nearly eight months of working full-time for this company, I am still classified as a part-time employee. Apparently you have to work full time for a full two “periods” before they will switch you and I “just missed” a full time average in my first period since I was part time for a fraction of it. The kicker is that if I had walked in off the street and began my same job with them without having been a part time employee before, I would have been eligible for the “benefits” of full time after 90 days. Namely, paid holidays. Not vacation, no, since that is on hold. It’s just one more way to dick their employees and save them money.

But to be honest, the biggest issue I take with all of this is the demoralization of the employees I care about and the complete disregard of their happiness and welfare. I’m a manager, so I’m paid slightly more. I also don’t have children so the only person I have to worry about feeding after the bills are paid is myself. Many of the girls that work for us are single moms. Many of the girls in housekeeping are single moms. These are hardworking people trying to make a living on laughable wages and the company they work for is doing everything they can to squeeze even more money out of them all while paying them less.

Why does this sound familiar? Oh, maybe it is because this is happening all over America. The income discrepancy between the rich and poor grows larger each year and it’s scenarios like this that are feeding it. Our nearly worthless general manger who (when you add in free food and rent) probably makes a six figure salary, eats his steak for free while looming over expense reports and deciding that two dollars for a cheap non-nutritional meal (for the employees that work hard to clean the rooms in the hotel that earns him his inflated paycheck) is NOT ENOUGH. Nope, three dollars should do. Maybe they should just gently place those extra dollars into his hotel room toilet so he can flush them down while laughing and punching them in the face.

cbpp income inequality 2011

My last day at my job is August 31st. I’m going to miss the people I work with on a day-to-day basis. But I can no longer work for a company who I do not believe in. Starbucks, for example, provides healthcare to even it’s part-time employees. Google donates $50 for every five hours an employee volunteers. Quicken Loans, located in Detroit, partnered with area businesses to offer incentives to employees willing to move to the city, including $20,000 in forgivable home loans. These are the types of companies I want to work for. This is what I believe in. An employer should take care of it’s employees because without them the business doesn’t run. And even from a financial standpoint it makes sense… happy employees will go above and beyond to create happy customers. You save the costs associated with a high turnover rate. And you retain a great, well-trained staff. Yes, I will miss my coworkers, but my time with this company is done. I refuse to feed any longer into a construct I disagree with on every level. In fact, I am actively rooting for the demise of this this management company and each and every one that shares in it’s outlook and policies. I know that corporate greed is being discussed more often in the media and elsewhere and I feel (hopefully not too optimistically) that the winds of change are blowing in. I hope they blow this company right off the map.