What will people think?

A couple of days ago, I came across a post on Facebook which read “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” The quote was attributed to John Wooden (UCLA Basketball Coach).

At first, the post struck a chord and so, I shared it. Later though it struck me that the post was perhaps only partially right. For, isn’t it character that shines through and builds reputation?

It has always baffled me as to why we obsess so much about ‘what will people think?’ Logically, we need only worry about our reputation amongst people who matter and can influence our lives – family, friends, co-workers. As for our image in the eyes of strangers? At best, we are a passing thought because we don’t affect their lives and, therefore, don’t matter. Yet, we constantly worry about how we look and how best we can mange our image. So much so, that it has led to an entire image management industry springing up. I wonder how many gullible people are shelling out sums of money they can’t afford for a makeover, which won’t help them get ahead in life? Unless… that makeover presents some real talent and, more important, grit and determination. By the way, the last two are character traits, which no image management classes can teach you! Moreover, grit and determination are usually the outcome of the conviction of your beliefs and life goals.

People love surface appearances but, fact is, rarely, if ever, is anyone deceived. At least not when it comes to people who really affect their lives. One usually knows when a friend or colleague is posturing or bullshitting. It doesn’t matter what they are professing. Non-verbal communication is what you sense and what you believe.

It’s in the body language – particularly the eyes. Take a look at the picture below. What does it convey about the little boy?

Adella Thompson (Flickr.com)
Adella Thompson (Flickr.com)

If asked, the little boy might tell you he’s doing good. But if you saw him a minute later as depicted in the picture, what would you believe? That he’s worried and sad, right?

It’s much the same with your reputation amongst people whose lives you touch daily. You may tell your family, friends and professional colleagues anything. You may spend a ton of money on your wardrobe and styling your face and body. They may even think you look good. But, they will believe that you are sincere in what you say based on what your body language tells them.

As for your reputation? Why, they will think you are a good person only if your actions suit your words.

To my mind, therefore, if you are really bothered about your image in the eyes of people who should matter, you need to build character and not image. Character builds reputation and that, will be the only image that plays out eventually!





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