Basing your opinion of yourself based on what others who you don’t know think is like trying to hit an anonymous target that constantly moves.
When asked this question, I’d be willing to bet that most of you would answer by stating what you think others think you are. Even though that isn’t what the question asks, let’s start there.
You probably know this already and you also probably know more than me about how it works, but I will tell you anyway. Google thinks they know who you are, and they are not the only company who thinks that.
Search engines, marketing firms, and virtually any large company that exists to sell you things employ an algorithm that builds a profile of you based the information that is gleaned about you from your on-line presence. These algorithms compile data that include topics that are of interest to you, sites that you search, places you shop (on-line), and all other data that involves you that is readily and publicly available, such as your address, your mortgage balance, and your social media preferences.
Through the compilation of this information, these firms can generally create a pretty good idea of who you are as it relates to what they deem your needs and interests to be.
Impressive? Maybe. Creepy? A little bit.
As best as I have been able to tell, Google thinks that I am a middle-aged woman who enjoys working out and is interested in travel and concerned about taxes. They are at least partially correct. I’ll let you figure out which parts are accurate. Either way, take it for what it is worth.
Do you believe that profiles, such as these, are a good representation of who you actually are? I certainly hope not.
Who do others think you are? I guess it depends on who they are and whether or not you should care about what they think. If you spend quality time with someone, say a friend, a relative, or a colleague, you likely have a vested interest in what they think. If so, you have hopefully put the requisite time in to that relationship to present a detailed version of who you are.
In other words, if you are going to care about what someone thinks of you, you should treat them with the corresponding amount of care and respect that warrants that level of concern. If I have spent time cultivating a relationship with someone and it matters to me what they think of me, you better believe that I am going to do everything I can to demonstrate who I am so that person is able to know me for who I really am. Otherwise, what would be the point and what kind of relationship would you really have with that person?
The opposite is also true. (Side note: I have been working on an article using this sentence as the title, because it applies to so many things in life. More on this later.) In this case, the opposite being that if I do not know someone or have not spent any time building a relationship with that person, why would I care about what they think of me? Yet, so many of you care anyway. So much so, that you allow a stranger’s opinion to affect your own opinion of yourself.
This can be a damaging practice. Basing your opinion of yourself based on what others who you don’t know think is like trying to hit an anonymous target that constantly moves. Sounds impossible and like something that could really undermine your self-confidence and esteem.
Another common mistake that you may make when you answer the question of who you think you are is to base your answer on the outcome of an event or a set of circumstances.
You ran a race and you lost, so you’re a loser.
You asked someone on a date and she said no, so you’re an undesirable.
You tried something new and it didn’t work out, so you’re stupid and not talented.
If your definition of who you are is at all reliant on statements like these, please take a moment and try to see them for the ridiculous thoughts that they are.
No matter who you are and no matter what you do, some people will not like you. Others will develop the wrong perception of who you are. You will be disappointed, probably many times. Things will happen that are completely unfair. Some results will not be at all indicative of the effort that you put forth. There are times that your heart will ache, and you certainly will not achieve every one of your goals.
These things only matter if you let them matter and the only way that I would suggest that you let them matter is if you use them to make you stronger. If you take your disappointment and turn it into determination, your determination is what then defines you, not the disappointment.
You are the only one who gets to determine who you are! You are the only one who occupies your body and your mind. A portion of that definition is absolutely comprised of the perceptions and beliefs of those that you care about, but you are the one who is spending time on those relationships. You get to choose who those people are and who is worth the influence they may have on your thoughts and feelings.
Only you know who you really are. It may take some time to figure it all out, but once you know the answer to that question, hold onto it with everything you’ve got. Be willing to evolve and always be willing to learn new things and seek new experiences, but hold onto who you really are and never let anything dilute that inner belief and the strength you derive from it.
So, let me ask you again. Who do you think you are?
This article is part of Scott Arney's educational series, entitled The Serial Decision Maker.