The dress: perception is reality

I was at a restaurant in Nashville with Keith Urban, my sister, and my day-old baby last night when I had an epiphany. (Okay, yes, this was a dream but the message I received was loud, clear, and profound so I knew I needed to write about it right away rather than waiting for my usual blogging time next week.)

The dress - white and gold or blue and black?

This is the dress that “broke the internet.” Originally posted on Tumblr, pictures burned up Facebook and Twitter feeds and debates of the colour of this dress ran deep and caused people to set up camps. Were you on Team Blue & Black or Team White & Gold?

Here’s the thing. It doesn’t matter if the dress is white and gold or blue and black to you. (It’s clearly white and gold. Ellen is on my side. Case settled.) All that matters is this: what you see is your reality.

We can keep this in mind in a few different scenarios.


We each experience failure much differently. For some, a failure is reason to throw in the towel. A sign that it wasn’t meant to be, and sometimes a sign of their own worthlessness. For others, there is simply learning and opportunity and sometimes even moments of awareness that propel them to the next attempt that turns into a huge win.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”—Thomas A. Edison


I remember watching a 60 Minutes episode that featured a story on the candidates in the 2008 presidential race. The following week, the program aired the “letters to the editor” that they received. Some who wrote in were adamant that 60 Minutes completely favoured Barack Obama. Others said they couldn’t believe how biased the show was in favour of John McCain.

Same episode. Different perceptions.

Our experiences, personalities, and upbringing filter the way we experience the world. It doesn’t make it any less real for us: it just makes our view different.

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”—Stephen R. Covey

Self perception

We often see ourselves much more harshly than others see us. If we were a dress, we might describe ourselves as dingy and tattered, wearing out in spots, and getting bulgy in others. And my goodness, just look at the way the lace puckers there—so horrid. Others would likely describe it as beautiful, cut in just the right way, hanging perfectly, and highlighting all the right features. And my goodness, just look at the way the lace puckers there—fantastic!

Or maybe we’re misunderstood. We’re blue and black, but some people only see us as white and gold.

The next time you find yourself in one of these situations, remember the dress and see if you can change your perception. Squint and soften your eyes and see if that white and gold doesn’t just shift, if not all the way to blue and black, perhaps to a soft mauve-y blue and light brown.

“Miracles happen every day. Change your perception of what a miracle is and you’ll see them all around you.”—Jon Bon Jovi

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