The Power of Perception

The Power of Perception

By Walter Greene

a woman poses for a selfie with a long braid draped over her left shoulder.Whether it’s living with a disability, working past other people’s perceptions, or learning how to raise honeybees, Brittany Sessum believes you can figure a way around anything if you’ve got the right mindset. Brittany is as confident as she is vulnerable, carrying a sense of collected mindfulness and giving equal care and attention to what she calls “the good, the bad, and the ugly.” 

“Your mental is the thing that counts, it supersedes what your physical ability is. That’s what I have to deal with, that’s what other people on the podcast have to deal with. You have to deal with your mental first. If you don’t deal with that first, then that’s it. You could be defeated, you could be insecure, you could be in a stuck place. But if you free yourself mentally, it doesn’t matter what you look like, it doesn’t matter what your limitations are, you can always strive to go around that and circumvent that and do it in a different way. Don’t be a cookie-cutter. That’s my school.”

Brittany is anything but cookie-cutter. When it comes to her seventeen years of military service, she’s had to work double-time to get outside the box her leadership and peers have tried to place her in, putting her belief in the power of a steady mentality to the test. 

“I had a visible limp for years at a time, and people feel like you can’t measure up. But my work ethic always outweighed the way that I looked. . . . I always outworked everybody, but I’d tell stories to my soldiers how the military felt like I should have been kicked out due to my medical. My leadership, they thought I wasn’t physically fit to stay in. . . . A couple of my soldiers during the time, they would call me Tiny Tim, they would tell me that I should have been an extra in the Thriller music video. And you know what? It’s like I said, you just take it in stride. That’s how some people feel when they perceive you, but I was never depressed about it. I took that in stride and said, ‘Okay, well, how can I make people see beyond where they see me at.'” 

This unwarranted scrutiny of her leadership and fellow soldiers only made Brittany double-down on her mindset of success.

“I started pushing. I got promoted, and most people thought I wouldn’t get promoted in the military after so long. . . . I’m not going to let nobody get me out if I don’t feel like I want to get out. And so you fight for what you believe in. And so I stayed in, I went through the whole medical process through the army, and look–they said I was still physically fit to stay in.”

While a steady mindset helped Brittany in her service, she stresses the point that perceptions–both those of other people and the ones we hold within ourselves–can control every aspect of our life. It’s up to us how we work with these beliefs, and whether we take them into our own hands or not, their end result is ours to live with. Brittany will tell you, this isn’t an easy task. But it’s crucial, both for ourselves and for the community we strengthen when we challenge the beliefs that by holding one person back, hold us all behind. 

“People’s perception of you, some of it will change. Some people’s perceptions won’t change, whether it’s good or bad. And sometimes if it’s bad, who cares? My life is my life, and I’m gonna keep moving forward. . . . Everything ties back together with the mental piece, and how you grow, how you don’t get stuck. You have to have good people around you, you have to have a positive mindset, and you have to overcome.”

Hear more from Brittany as she hosts the episode of the True Tales by Disability Advocates podcast, “Pride and Bravery,” available now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and all other platforms.

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