I have the courage of my convictions, but not the courage of my perceptions. By “courage of my convictions”, I mean that my default is “strong opinions, loosely held” — I will defend my position, but try to be very open to being proven wrong. Occasionally, I will put a real stake in the ground on something I believe in, because it is fundamental to who I am or because I have done the research or have the experience to have the confidence in the position I’m taking.
Courage of my perceptions is the trickier one, because I’m using “perceptions” in two ways. In the first way, perceptions means “that which I am perceiving”, and for a lot of topics that’s inherently suspect. I am a white man from California. When I observe events in the world involving people who don’t look like me or have my background, my perceptions are suspect because the society I live in has trained me to view those events in a certain lens. Deprogramming bias from my perceptions of human interactions has been a large part of the background work of my adulthood, and that work will continue until I die.
But I’m also using “percepions” to mean “how I am perceived”, and this is a facet of my personality that brings me anxiety. When I present something about myself, or when I take a position on a topic in front of people I care about, my anxious brain kicks into overdrive, trying to anticipate and analyze the responses to see how my courage of conviction is landing.
If you’ve ever talked to me, and had the impression that I have used a hundred words when ten would do, then you have seen the effect of this. My defense mechanism is to produce a deluge of supporting information to any position I take, so that I will seem at least reasonable in my convictions and therefore be accepted by the people I’m being vulnerable around.
What do? I’m someone who believes that our minds, if they can be changed, can only be changed through a change in behavior, so I’m attempting to change my behavior. For those of you who know me, this will probably be a net positive: I’m going to try talk less, and smile more.