When I was taking some classes in the Eller School of Business, we were told to manage ‘our brand’, meaning, our personal brand. That if you say the wrong thing in a business meeting or if you are continually cracking jokes, you might end up with a label (or brand) that you won’t be happy with; ‘can’t be taken seriously’, ‘awkward and insecure’, ‘motivated by the wrong things’.
You have to always be circumspect with how you carry yourself, the image you exude, and never give anyone any kind of ammunition against you.
I suppose, on a level, that’s good advice but, as in all things, it has to have some balance.
For myself, personally, I definitely have it in my conscious mind that the things I say and do resonate with others in different ways and ripple outward to form a general image of who I am. A perception of myself in the world isn’t just the next best thing – it’s the only thing. Navigating each encounter, coming off too earnest or not earnest enough, taking things too personally or not personally enough, guessing what it is that others might be expecting and either giving it to them or being calculating enough to do something else that they hadn’t thought of but might be equally pleased with – or moreso.
It’s a very complicated dance with shadows and immaterial unknowns. It’s not good.
When I begin to worry about what others might have said about me – and I’m embarassed to admit that I do this all too often – I begin to form a narrative that is unceasingly and unsurprisingly negative. I don’t actually KNOW what was said about me or how the zeitgeist of my received perception in the world actually manifests – but with my narrative in hand, I begin to see how it could be plausible that my suspicions are true, after all.
This is called confirmation bias because I only count the instances that support my theory as evidence that my theory is true while not even registering all the instances that disprove or diminish my theory.
So I have this idea that people have sullied my image by gossiping about me and saying negative things or harping on my failings – damaging my brand, as it were. And the McLelland side of things puts that blame right back on me; “If you don’t want people to say negative things about you, don’t do things that will cause them to say negative things about you!”. Well, that’s true enough. I have done and said things that I wish I could take back, behaved in ways that aren’t making me feel too good about myself, and I’ve failed more times than I would like to admit. In that vein, I’ve also done some incredibly kind and amazing things and actually been a damned close version of myself that I really admire and love too. I’ve done everything in between. You could say, I’m all over the map.
And maybe people are saying things that aren’t flattering and that hurt me without me knowing. But here’s the thing – I don’t control that. I can’t control that. That’s not on me – if it’s even true – that’s on them and that’s on those who listen to them. Not everyone has to love me or be supportive of me. There’s no law that states my opinions and actions can’t be criticized. There are no edicts that say I have any bussiness messing around in the thoughts of others – even if those thoughts concern me!
Sometimes I think we really are meant to be somewhat idiotic in the manner in which we conduct ourselves; immune to the hostility of others, single-minded simplicity to our own endeavors, impossibly kind to everyone and innocent to all. And stop worrying so damned much about useless shit.