Venturing into the crowd, we’re often worried that everyone’s judging us; our bad hair day, the turmeric stain on our shorts, or our novice mountain bike abilities. In reality, nobody notices any of that shit because they’re too busy hyper-focusing on their own issues.
Reputation is what you will get reduced to when you aren’t illuminated by loving-kindness. And like a gossamer thread, reputation can be severed through one bad instance of telephone or third hand gossip. But how much should we really consider what others think of us? The reality is that in most cases people are actually not thinking…
Landscape with the Fall of Icarus is a painting by Pieter Bruegel that underlies the human tendency for selfishness and individualism. Looking closely, we see the artist poignantly depicting Icarus drowning in the company of many others—establishing the idea that no one has time to think and worry about others’ problems.
Icarus’s tragedy teaches us how little the world really cares about us and our individual lives. The selfishness, although sad, gives us reason to not put so much energy towards fearing what others will think of us. The painting’s busy landscape emphasizes ones own insignificance, compared to the world as a whole. Our tragedies don’t occupy the minds of others the way we believe… and the reality is that a few people may notice for a moment, but they’ll swiftly move on to the next thing.
The everyday sadist
There are times when that cold indifference can switch to feelings of pleasure from watching the misfortunes of others. Schadenfreude is an emotion that describes the darker side of humanity, where the misfortune of another provides a social comparisons that enhance ones feelings of self-worth, and diminishes their feelings of envy. Basically, you get pleasure when someone is knocked down a rung—pretty sickening.
Both the selfish reactions and the schadenfreude reaction have one thing in common—dehumanization. I think we could do well with spending more time exercising our kindness muscle. Many of us have harsh inner critics that put us down and punish us when we make mistakes, and that lack of self-compassion means you’ll find it pretty tough to be compassionate towards others when they reveal their humanness.
The remedy for these destructive, dehumanizing, and alienating behaviours is becoming self-reflective and self-compassionate. We must attempt to see all people and situations with equanimity and loving-kindness—That doesn’t mean we walk by someone doing harm to others—it means keeping your ego out of the way. We need to realize that our judgments can affect other peoples lives, and we need to realize there are times when would appreciate a little mercy too… Ask yourself “Who am I to judge another?”
Does it matter what others think?
Some people care too much what others think, and others take a steadfast attitude that “I don’t give a sh*t what people think!”. The reality is that whatever stance you take, when someone says something cruel about us, it hurts. When someone ignores us, it hurts. You can’t always escape judgement when making choices about your own happiness, growth, and what makes sense for you—and sometimes that equals facing people who look down on you, dislike you, hurt you. That’s life.
What if the judgment is untrue?
Let’s face it, being blamed for something you are innocent of hurts. And if those people don’t listen to you tell your story that’s even more unfortunate. The most important thing to remember is that we be kind to ourselves, do our best to make conscious decisions, and know in your heart that you have clean hands.
Finding the balance
To find a balance between being authentic and conserving your reputation, let’s view social status like a bank account. Your actions and behaviors get deposited into your social bank, and establishes a rank within your community. That social status matters because it’s an important factor in obtaining resources—prior good deeds and actions provide opportunities and can help us out of tough situations. If you’re regularly depositing goodwill, kindness, and positive actions into your social bank, than you’ll be less affected when you need to make a withdrawal and your choices diverge from the trend.
Even the most conservative people might make a withdraw for something they believe in. Much like investing; average decisions get average results…and sometimes being a contrarian can yield pretty high returns…
Taking the heat
Reputation will rise and fall based on how closely we match or depart from society’s ideals. The important thing to remember is life is complex – and we can only do our best—to make conscious decisions, consider the impact on others, while remaining authentic. We all want to have a perfect reputation, but realizing that good people are flawed and make mistakes is a really valuable lesson to learn. They key thing to remember is that your heart is in the right place…