Perception Creates Reality – Fake It ‘Til You Make It!

You have innate strengths, weaknesses, and that one secret that you would never reveal in the comment section below. However, the world sees a different version of you. The “real you” might not be known by the world.

At one time, I believed that reality mattered, and perception did not. Now, I am beginning to realize I had it backwards. Reality plays second fiddle to perception and I’ll explain why later on. I wish it weren’t so, but it is. Perception creates reality.

Thankfully, we still control how we are perceived, as others tend to perceive us as we perceive ourselves!

The Massive Propagation Of Self-Images

Self-image is the heart of personal development and it is the key to this perception/reality tug of war. For one, see yourself as a person incapable of changing for the better, and you most certainly won’t. For two, your thoughts and actions are propagations (i.e. expressions) of your self-image – you are who you think you are.

By these thoughts and actions, our self-image is interpreted by the world. The world’s interpretation is not always correct, and we don’t always send the message we intend, but the message we send is the one we believe subconsciously.

  • When we send a strong signal, positive or negative, the world believes us.
  • When the signal we send is weak, it shows the world we lack confidence in our identity.
  • When we send out a mysterious signal, people are intrigued and want to “decipher” us.


An interesting dynamic occurs between an individual and the world. As the individual projects out his self-image, and the world responds to it, usually affirming it. I’ll give two examples, each representing an extreme.

Jon unconsciously projects to the world that he is not a valuable person. He slouches, doesn’t make eye contact, rarely smiles, and speaks in such a cowardly way that even nice people feel compelled to ignore him on instinct alone. Because his behavior screams “I’m worthless, don’t respect me,” the world takes his word for it. But when the world treats him as less valuable, Jon is crushed further. Life doesn’t seem fair, as his greatest fear of low worth has been confirmed as reality by society. Jon fails to see that he was most responsible for each negative response he received, and because of this, he can’t muster up the courage to try to be someone great. The cycle continues.

As far as Jon is concerned, the judge has spoken and the verdict is clear. Building his self-esteem back up is a constant losing battle, as any negative response is amplified in his mind because it matches his (extreme) initial disposition… “You were right Jon, nobody likes you.”

But Eric projects to the world that he is valuable. He makes great eye contact, holds his head high, smiles often, and speaks confidently when he has something to say. Because his behavior says, “I am valuable,” the world takes his word for it. As the world affirms his value, he finds even more reason to be confident. The cycle continues.

Both Jon and Eric respond well to compliments and good events, but where they differ is their response to negative remarks or events. Eric muffles most negative stimuli because it does not align with his self-image. He sees it as an outlier. Jon sees any negative remark as “proof” that the world doesn’t like him. We tend to filter comments and reactions to closely match what we already believe about ourselves.

You can see that how we perceive ourselves actually creates that reality. Fake it ’til you make it actually works.

Every one of us has a self-image right now. It is a snapshot of how we think and feel about ourselves as people. As Jon and Eric demonstrate, we are naturally resistant to anything which threatens our current image, even if our current self-image is wretched. This works to reinforce our beliefs because the only information that escapes resistance is that which we already agree with. But an astute person who wishes to improve, challenges EVERYTHING, including his current self-beliefs.

If our starting point of self-image has such a powerful self-fulfilling effect on our lives, then where we begin is critical. Childhood suddenly seems important, doesn’t it? It is!

As an exercise, examine your self beliefs and see if you can piece together where you got your self-image beliefs from. Once you know their source, it is easier to disarm damaging beliefs.

And as for positive beliefs about yourself, hang on to those. 🙂


About the Author

I'm lazy, but you can call me Stephen. When you're as lazy as I am, you need superior strategies to live well. My strategies are so effective that I'm productive every single day. As the world tries to figure out how to always stay motivated, I create strategies that don't require it.



How true! For years I had this really lousy issue with self-esteem. When I finally got it everything began to change. First it was taking a good look at my self-talk and seeing that I was saying things to and about myself that I would in no way allow anyone else to say to me. This is the core of what I teach to others, you have to be OK with yourself before you can be OK with orhers.


Sometimes we surprise ourselves – we are more than we think we are. You hint at this by bringing in the subconscious I think.

Our perceptions shape our reality because they affect what we see and how we act.

I do think that the world usually reinforces our (accurate or inaccurate) self-perceptions. But some of us are good at spotting fakes.

I do think understanding our childhood is useful – not only for knowing the source of our self image but also for getting hints about the parts of ourselves that our self image doesn’t incorporate (yet).

Stephen Guise

Thanks for sharing your experience, David. It kills me to think that some people never get out of that self-dug rut! It’s hard to catch unless you’re looking for it because these damaging thoughts can be very under-the-radar and easy to dismiss as normal. They’re not normal.

It’s good you teach others this lesson. Everyone should learn it – the sooner the better!

Stephen Guise

You’re right Evan, because for us to be less than we think we are would mean that we’ve somehow surpassed our potential, but we all know that people rarely get close to their full potential due to fear and other factors.

Yeah, there are some fakes out there that are essentially faking the wrong thing or taking it too far. In The Millionaire Next Door, the book constantly reveals that the people who act like they’re rich, usually aren’t. Though they are seen as rich and have established in many minds what rich people look like. This is not a good kind of fakeness.

I think that the best way to explain a healthy “fake it ’til you make it” is to give yourself a chance to live up to a higher standard than you’re currently at. So you kind of roleplay and adjust your mindset to be this new person, and usually, you’ll realize that it isn’t so out of reach to be confident and assertive with your ambition!

I like looking into my past to understand why my mind works a certain way. I like what you said about the parts of ourselves that our self-image doesn’t incorporate. Would that be things that we “lost” in the process of growing up?

I think I have lost some of my childhood creativity. I used to make board games with my cousin and they were actually pretty good. We made about 10 of them. It wasn’t something I felt like I had to prove I could do to myself or anyone else, I just did it because it was fun and I had no reason to doubt my creativity! I still don’t have a reason to doubt myself, but I think I learned to somehow.

Slavko Desik

Exactly! And why not using all our knowledge on the subject of self-improvement in order to better ourselves? Because when you think about it, as Stephen said, perceiving ourselves as able to change for better certainly changes the game.

Slavko Desik

He who says I can, and he who says I can’t are both usually right. This pretty much sums part of this idea of changing and controlling the perception.

The examples you gave describe the problem just as it is. I never thought about perception fighting the responses that we receive from others, but it makes a lot sense- confident people never let their image of themselves ruined even after hearing something that is against their believes that also stands true in the eyes of others.

I’ve heard a great line about this before, and it goes like this: Never let the perception of other people of you to dictate your reality.

Stephen Guise

Well said, Slavko. For a long time, I thought that other people were the ones who showed you who you are. But their reaction towards you is more based on what you’re doing to prompt them.

If you’re confident enough and persistent enough, people will accept you for who you are. Maybe one problem is that we don’t know ourselves well enough?

Steve H. @ Communication Skills

I think the relationship between perception and reality is like a feedback loop. They each affect each other. But it isn’t really fair to say perception IS reality. Because if that was the case, nobody could be deluded and there couldn’t be consequences for mistaking one for the other (which there certainly can be).

Also I don’t buy that whatever we project into the world is what people will respond to. Many societies are full of prejudices. Imagine the very dignified person of an oppressed race who carries themselves with class and grace. Does this mean they will be treated with respect? No, not at all. In that case, it is the perception of the people around them, not the image they project, that dominates…until things change.

I think it’s a complex interaction.

Stephen Guise

I agree with you Steve. My only defense is that I believe the feedback loop almost always starts with perception, but I understand that could be debated. More accurately might be that we can almost always change our reality by changing our self-perception first.

You made a great point about prejudices too. I was wrong to overlook that. And this, in a nutshell, is why I’m not giving myself a deadline anymore. I “finished” this article just before the deadline, but it could have been much better and well thought out. It’s no coincidence that this was the last post prior to making changes. I had a good concept here, but I didn’t put enough time into it to make it great.

I’m glad you pointed those out. It affirms my decision not to sacrifice quality for consistency anymore. Thank you Steve!

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