Irish poet and writer Oscar Wilde has said, “One can survive everything nowadays, except death, and live down anything, except a good reputation.”
Not much seems to have changed since he said these words back in the 19th century. If anything, the emphasis on reputation is greater today than ever before, with media and social networking interwoven as they are in our lives.
In a society that places colossal importance on reputation, it’s little wonder that much of our behaviour is aimed at pleasing people out there. Let’s face it: all of us like to appear good to others.
When others speak well of us, we feel happy. Likewise, when something not-so-nice is spoken about us, we are disappointed. In other words, everyone likes to have a ‘good’ reputation.
To appear respectable in the eyes of others, you painstakingly build your social image and then take every action thoughtfully to avoid tarnishing it. Such efforts are based on the belief that your conduct determines your reputation.
On the face of it, the idea sounds logical: how you conduct yourself shapes your image in the eyes of others. But contemplate a bit and you will realise that nothing could be farther from the truth.
Your reputation is not based on your actions. It is based on other people’s interpretation of those actions, which in turn, is influenced by various factors including their beliefs, opinions, biases and experiences. And you’ll agree, you have little, if any, control over these factors. This implies that there’s not much you can do to control your reputation. Then why bother about it at all?
But you do have something much more significant in your control—character. If you allow your character to govern your behaviour, you will find yourself doing what serves you without the pressure of trying to please others or getting their approval.
Best of all, when your actions are based on your character, you have the approval of the only person that matters the most to you—yourself.
Margaret Mitchell, award-winning author of Gone With the Wind, once said, “Until you lose your reputation, you never realize what a burden it was or what freedom really is.” Your reputation is bondage; let it go. Only then can you experience freedom in its true sense.
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