Reputation – What’s that all about?

When I grew up, we used to have these books where our friends could write little comments, poems, tell about their favourite holiday, the name of their pet guinea pig etc. You probably all know what I’m talking about. One particular year, I think I was thirteen, I got a book which also asked whoever wrote in it to rate the owner in different categories. Reputation had never been so clearly measured out for me before.

My best friend gave me 1 point out of 10 in humour.

Reputation is the opinions others have of someone. It’s subjective, but at the same time it gives a picture about how a certain group, at a certain time, perceived someone.

Is it the truth, though? Yes. And no. An opinion of someone can never be deemed false, just like you cannot claim someone’s likes, dislikes, emotions and so on as false, as they are personal and subjective and belonging only to that specific person – they are the truth for that particular person. They can, however, be misguided or mislead.

That an opinion someone has of someone cannot be deemed false does not make it right or true, though. It might be right for one person, or even a large group of people, to think that a person is mean and therefore give him a bad reputation, but that does not say anything about how that person really is, only how one group of people perceive him.

Reputation, just like thoughts and feelings, are based on subjective opinions of other people, and who are to judge which of these opinions are more right than the other?

How many times have you not had your own opinion on a matter or a person coloured simply because of the reputation that person or thing already had? Maybe your friend’s mother’s aunt’s neighbour knew X and had told you she was a good babysitter, so you hired her? Or maybe you had seen brand Z in a commercial in tv, so you bought that rather than the unknown brand Y? Or perhaps you never applied for a job at company A simply because you had heard someone say the boss was an idiot? All of these things might be right for you, or they could be wrong. You won’t know until you have checked them out yourself.

Subjective opinion or not, reputation is here and it’s a part of the lives of everyone. We have a reputation amongst our mates, another with our family. Our colleagues see us one way, the bank might disagree. We all have several different reputations, all depending on who we ask.

We judge others and contribute to the making of reputations ourselves, too. We buy certain cds, watch certain movies, review certain books, make friends with certain people. Even if we are careful never to say a negative thing about a person, we still help create the reputations of others simply by being around them. Or by not being around them.

Reputations aren’t bad, though. They are merely opinions and they’re subjective, and that’s what we have to remember. We have to remember it when we hear about the reputation of other people, and not be so fast to judge. And we have to remember it when we see our own reputation and realize how other people perceive us.

I have seen far too many times that a reputation has turned bad for some reason or other, and I have seen the effects it can have on a person. As have been said before, give a dog a bad name and hang it.

We are not our reputation, or even what our reputation claims us to be, and neither is anyone else. It’s merely someone’s opinion.

We can act a certain way, and try to make people see us in a certain light. We can even try to create our own reputation. But people are tricky and sometimes your idea of a good citizen/talented writer/good parent/best friend/super dinner/peaceful holiday is not at all what your neighbour think it is. It’s a difference of opinions.

We can’t shape our personality and behaviour based on the opinions of other people, we need to find out what we believe is right for us. Sometimes people will disagree, and that’s alright, we just have to move on and keep doing what we believe is right. Sometimes it’ll give us the reputation of being weird, silly, selfish, stubborn, and at other times it might give us the reputation of being strong, smart, talented or kind. Or even all of those. What truly matters is that you lead your life by what you believe in, not by what other people think.

This post was written as part of the Zero to Hero challenges as well as the Daily Prompt of January the 17th.


Quote of the Day

There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness.

– Dalai Lama


This quote inspired some of my thoughts in my most recent blog post, The Philosophy of Life – In Pursuit of Happiness.

For me, Dalai Lama’s quote is inspiring and though it’s short and the idea is simple, it speaks volumes to me. It brings focus back to you as a person – it’s your life and you make it yourself. You are the one responsible for creating your own life, and in doing so you need to use both your intellect, but also your heart. You need to look inside yourself and figure out what it is you want with life, no one else can make that decision for you.


The Philosophy of Life – In Pursuit of Happiness

We breathe, thus we live.

Life is the opposite of death, but for most people it’s also so much more than simply existing. A plant can live and die and so can a sparrow and a bear, but yet we see and treat the lives of different lifeforms differently. Why is that? What makes the life and existence of a dog, a beetle or a tree any different from that of a human being?

Is it simply that we are human, so our focus mainly lies on ourselves? Or has it become like that because we are able to talk and therefore communicate our thoughts and ideals about life to each other more clearly?

Even among us as a group, as human beings, our focus and ideals of ‘the perfect life’ or ‘the good life’ have changed over time. What was important to us, to society, a few thousand years ago is different from what it is now. When survival was not a given, food was scarce, and illness and war were enemies, then naturally life became a battle for survival. For some it still is.

Later, when our basic needs were met, we started to be able to think about other things. Things like happiness. However, just like different times and different societies have had different ideals, what matters most to one individual might not matter as much to another, and it might also differ from what society sees as most important. It has become a matter of defining the quality of our individual lives.

For some survival is still on the very top of the list – food, water, rest and safety can all improve the quality of their lives, but to truly live, in the sense of not only existing, happiness needs to be a factor when determining the quality of life as well.

There’s no real way to talk about happiness without also touching upon the topic of individuality. We’re people with feelings, and no two of us are the same. We are individuals, we have different likes and dislikes, different wishes and wants, and different ideals. Each of us values things in life that we think are important, and therefore each and everyone of us has a unique idea of what will make us happy.

For some it’s family, for others it’s a profession, a place, a goal, an achievement, or likely a combination of those things and more. Some things makes us happy for a moment, like a cool drink on a hot day, but what are those things which makes us truly happy inside? Those things which we treasure in our hearts every single day, and which keep us going through good times as well as bad?

Human beings are complex, and though we have the advantage that we can communicate with one another, sometimes that can also be the cause of the complexity. For better and worse. Giving everyone the opportunity to speak up about what quality of life is for them and what makes them happy, gives us a more complex picture of people than what we have of living beings we can’t communicate so clearly with. But does that mean living for an animal or a plant is any less complex? Or does it simply mean that we cannot understand?

Human or animal, I don’t think there is a simple answer to any question dealing with life. Life in itself is both simple in it’s most basic form – we all live and we all eventually die too, but it’s also a complex matter that philosophers have discussed for decades. And perhaps we do not need an answer. Perhaps finding the answer for ourselves is part of what life is really about.

This post was inspired both by the Day 3 Zero to Hero challenge and the Daily Prompt.