Who Do They Say you Are?

One of the most regurgitated pieces of advice is,’ it doesn’t matter what other people think of you, the only thing that matters is what you think of yourself.’ This statement alone has sold out books and arenas as people seek out deeper truths beyond what they already know. Many yearn for the day they’ll reach their mountain top as all the naysayers and doubters watch their triumph. It is indeed a beautiful fantasy to be lost in. However, where do we draw the line between delusional thinking and self-belief? What role does our reputation play in making our journey to whatever destination either pleasant or unbearable? And, is it really true that what other people think of us doesn’t matter?

If our just concluded general election is anything to go by-yes, it definitely matters what other people think of you. And don’t get me wrong, I understand that your convictions about yourself are superior to the beliefs or assumptions other people have about you, but the one thing you ought not to forget is that you’re not immune to the external forces and influences of the people around you. Partly because it’s almost impossible to be self-sufficient in everything we do, but most importantly because you are one of the millions and millions of threads that the fabric of our human society was sewn from and it’s through the interdependent interactions we have that we keep the ball rolling.

 A pretty relatable example is the unique role Ruto’s reputation played in winning him the highly contested and equally controversial Presidential race. The President-elect might be a million things, but the few things almost every Kenyan knows about him are that he’s a staunch Christian (considering 85% of Kenyans are Christians) and that the Government he was elected into power with turned on him, making him an unlikely victim of betrayal. His arch nemesis, on the other hand, had a not-so-flattering reputation. Although for years, Mr Raila has been likened to Moses, our exodus to the Promised Land has never been this elusive. Maybe his latest alliance with the outgoing President left a sour taste in existing and potential supporters. Maybe the infamous handshake presented him before the people as a pawn in a game bigger than him. Maybe not holding as many prayer meetings as his counterpart swayed the churchgoers into electing their ‘own’. Or perhaps he just isn’t as charismatic as his younger self was. The list is endless, but at the end of the day, whoever won the reputation wars won the most coveted office in the Land and by extension, the people’s hearts.

Why there’s more to your reputation than you think

The fact that you’re not vying for a political seat doesn’t make your repetition obsolete. You may not have political aspirations but that doesn’t free your personal endeavours from the spell your reputation has on you. Your business’s reputation may be the difference between going bankrupt in the next 6 months or winning the ‘most promising company’ award. It’s the force field that either attracts or repels people away from you and anything associated with you. Even Jesus himself had to ask his disciples what the streets were saying about him. 

You may be convinced that you’re competent, reliable and special even, but if everyone else around you doesn’t perceive you this way, especially because your actions around them aren’t a reflection of the person that you are in your head, then technically, you’re not what you think you are and ultimately, you are what they perceive you to be, however unfair or misrepresented this version of you might be.

Your reputation precedes you, blocking or unlocking opportunities you didn’t even know were there. To be lost in the delusion that you’re only affected by your self-perception is to remain blind to the numerous possibilities a decent reputation would bring your way. From the moment you enter a room, understand that the manner in which you’ve presented yourself, both in terms of grooming and social interaction will determine whether you’ll have your way or not.

So maybe the next time you’re daydreaming of how amazing you are, try to balance that with an equal assessment of what other people think of you. Balancing the relationship between how you see yourself and how others see you gives you the ground to impartially polish and repackage what you have to offer as a person regarding these two perspectives. It also allows you to take charge, since your conscious evaluation of the opinions and beliefs of others gives you the blueprint you need to actively influence the predetermined assumptions others have of you or your enterprise, therefore giving you a bigger leeway to manipulate the external factors affecting your desired outcome.

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