Eight ways to make peace with your reputation
By Nancy B. Loughlin
Published in News Press on August 23, 2016
Policing my reputation exhausted me. So, I stopped.
It wasn’t easy. If I ever got wind of trash talk, I fixated, analyzed and set people straight.
“No one is going to talk about ME that way.”
But, in order to preserve my own sanity, I had to retire from reputation maintenance.
First. I realized my reputation isn’t a garment I wear. I don’t move through my life in a cloud of reputation, like Pig Pen in a Peanuts cartoon.
My reputation is beyond my grasp, ethereal, collectively constructed by others. It’s a dinner party, and I wasn’t invited.
Second. I am not my persona.
When I consume myself with how I appear to others, it’s attachment to a ghost.
My reputation is a stranger comprised of cherry-picked anecdotes filtered through the perceptions and biases of others.
Addiction to the ego is the most challenging one to break. With enough courage, one can do without a reputation, Rhett Butler famously quipped.
Let the stranger be.
Third. When it comes to reputation, the Backfire Effect is in full effect.
If people witnessed any behaviors disproving the bad reputation, they just used them as tools to confirm it.
For those determined to see me negatively, My Have a Nice Days were labeled sarcastic. My gestures of help and generosity became evidence of diabolical manipulation.
I just couldn’t win.
Fourth. Other people’s opinions of me are none of my business.
How people see me is a reflection how they perceive themselves and negotiate their own comfort zones. We’re all living in our own movies, and if someone labels me a villain, I have little control over that casting decision.
Fifth. The past doesn’t predict the future.
It’s been a struggle to control my own tongue and refuse to contribute to another’s negative reputation. If someone was unkind to me, I had to recognize it would not necessarily be a repeat performance with someone else.
“There’s something you need to know about this guy” doesn’t cross my lips because it has no value.
I checked my hypocrisy. I have to cut equal slack to the surly as I do the kind. If not, my patience and understanding are self-serving and weapons I use to wield my personal power over others.
Sixth. Bad reputations are blessings in disguise.
Yes, I didn’t get a job and a promotion because employers believed what they heard. Other people have even declined my friendship.
Looking back, the bad reputation did me a favor.
Seventh. I now enjoy the libel and the slander.
When the choice is between truth and the legend, the legend has the juice. Let the movie roll.
As a friend of mine says, “I can live vicariously through myself.”
Eighth. I checked my ego.
I realized it was time to stop glorifying myself. I had to be humble. People are going to talk about others any way they damn well please. I am no exception.
I had to get over myself. So I did.