Conventional wisdom tells us that your character should matter more than your reputation. After all, one is who you really are, while the other is just what other people perceive you to be.
While there’s certainly virtue in knowing that no misperception of you can really impact the truth of who you are, it is a false notion to think that we don’t have to care what other people think about us.
However, we hear the opposite as a rally-cry all the time.
It doesn’t matter what other people think!
Except it does, because everything you want in life involves other people.
Now, small-minded people who are intent on disliking you for their own prejudiced reasons are not what we’re talking about. Hell, we’re not even talking about the people who dislike you for legitimate reasons.
Your reputation does matter as much as your character because the way people perceive you is who they imagine you to be, and who they imagine you to be determines how they will interact with you, what they offer you, whether or not they want to work with you, and whether or not they show up for you.
You cannot behave like a social pariah and then just fall back on the idea that it “doesn’t matter what other people think” because you’re a good person at heart.
All that goodness will be for nothing if you aren’t actively considering the opinions of others. No, not so they can weigh you down and stop you from pursuing your goals, but because when other people have a consensus about you, you’re typically the common denominator.
It matters what the people in your close circle think.
It matters what your partner thinks.
It matters what the people you love think.
If everyone in your life thinks you’re making a mistake, you might really need to take a moment to consider whether or not you might be. If everyone in your life is warning you about your new partner, you might need to take a moment to consider if perhaps they have a point. If everyone in your life seems to have the same problems with you, for the same reasons, in the same patterns, at the same frequencies, you might really need to take a moment and determine whether or not the world is just crazy and out to get you or if, perhaps, there’s also a pattern in your behavior.
It’s easy to not care what other people think.
It’s convenient, actually.
It totally lets us off the hook, it allows us to validate our own motives and desires without any real consideration for those around us.
The work is not that we completely neglect our own needs and opinions in favor of other people’s.
The work is that we both advocate for and tend to our own needs, honor our own opinions, and still remain cognizant of how people are responding to us.
If you want to get anywhere in life, you have to be a reasonably likable person, or at the bare minimum, not impossible to work with, difficult to connect with, or challenging to love.
And to do that, we have to think about what other people are thinking. Not so their opinions of us can become our own, but so that their opinions of us can inform our own.