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.

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