I’ve come to recognize when I’ve changed for the better. One thing that I’ve noticed recently is that I’m no longer concerned with the things that were once deemed important in my life (although some people around me still hold on to these things). I don’t worry about what someone said to someone else (I’m also not interested in what people have to tell me about other people, it actually disgusts me). I don’t care about what the person next to me is doing (unless they are endangering the community). Those things don’t concern me.
However, there is one thing that will always concern me – my reputation.
There is a quote out there that says, “You shouldn’t be concerned with your reputation, but your character. Your reputation is what others think of you while your character is who you really are” (or something like that).
I agree…and then I disagree.
Nothing has shown me more that your reputation directly influences your interactions with other people more than the events that have transpired in the past year. Roommate issues, I’ve had them. Organizational issues, I’ve had them. Personal issues with people I don’t know, I’ve had them (thank you Facebook, cue *eyerolling). Personal issues with people I know and love, I’ve had them. Losing family members and spiraling into some deep internal abyss, I’ve done it. There’s really nothing new in the arena of interacting with other people that surprises me.
My surprise comes along when I hear or read something about me that is not true. What’s (not so) funny about these situations are the sheer numbers of people who listen and believe what they are being told (the innocents, I can’t fault, especially if they don’t take the time to know me). In the past year, I’ve heard:
“She’s a bitch.”
“Don’t trust her.”
“She’s a hoe.”
“She steals money (or insert whatever else you can steal here).”
I’ve heard this, and more. Most times when things come back around to me, it’s negative. Not only is it negative, it’s hurtful. Especially since I can count ALL of the people that I hang/hung out with on one hand. I mean, I know people and I have friends and acquaintances that would total more than the digits on my hands. But my closest circle isn’t even enough to fill a “Top 8” on Myspace. Seriously.
This is why my reputation concerns me. It’s what the general public believes. It’s what I’m working against when I’m putting in the extra effort to seem sociable (which is a very hard task for me to do). It’s what I’m working against when I’m representing various organizations. It’s what I’m working against when I’m rushing across campus (or was rushing across campus) and people would speak and I would mistakenly not see their greeting. It’s what I’m working against when I’m trying to negotiate with people. It’s what I’m working against when I’m trying to have my ideas heard.
So, the fact is simply this:
You can be fooled into believing that your reputation doesn’t matter, I bet you won’t win a position you run for. You can be fooled into believing that your reputation doesn’t matter, I’ll bet that the first response you get from a random stranger who is acquainted with your name will not be something that you’d say about yourself. You can be fooled into believing that your reputation doesn’t matter, but that’s what people look at and base most of their decisions on.
Think I’m lying. Try this out – Start a malicious lie about yourself (this works better if you’re super involved in something in your community). See how fast it spreads. Wait a few weeks and attempt to make a new friend. I’ll put money that they’ll recognize whatever malicious foolishness you’ve started.
Since I’ve said all of that, I’ll finally tell why I decided to write this as part two. I was recently dealing with some frustration on an online account. I got the funniest response from someone and it basically said that they had heard that I was a bitch and what I was putting on the site confirmed their thought. The thing that initially made me pause (actually, it was a few things) was that they felt comfortable enough calling me a bitch. Okay. The next thing that concerned me what that I did NOT hang out with them. We knew similar people BUT we never ran in the same crowd. My folks kept to themselves and their people kept to themselves. We just knew of each other. Never mind the fact that I was involved in many community activities. Never mind the fact that I had a kind word for them when I spoke to them or saw them. Never mind the fact that this person asked for my advice once after sharing a problem with me and I gave sound advice. Never mind the fact that they couldn’t remember whom initially told them that.
Those things are irrelevant. The “fact” that they immediately recalled was that I was a “b*tch.” That came from my reputation.
So, I’ll let the people continue to talk. I just hope that they learn just how hurtful some things can be and how jaded some people become. The fact is that everyone will hear (at some point) something about themselves that isn’t true and may possibly be able to find out the source. When that happens, since I’m not them, I can’t even think of a possible ending. When I find out, that person loses so much respect from me. And that is something that you’ll never get back.
People. Just be careful about what you’re saying.
To be continued…