The other day, I was sitting with one of my good friends and they asked me “Do you ever think about how others perceive you?” Since then, I have been pondering that question and wondering how others perceive me, especially with the way I portray myself online.
When I started putting my thoughts and opinions out on the internet, I knew that it was risky and that I was opening myself up to judgement. However, at the time, I was attending school virtually and was not obligated to face my peers. Most of the time, when I spent time with friends outside of school, their perception of me was clear and based off of our face-to-face interaction. After returning to school though, it hit me like a ton of bricks — people are reading what I write, and they have their own opinions on it.
The internet is both a fascinating and terrifying place. It is the one space where everyone displays their character to the world, and often, there is a dichotomy between a person’s online identity and their real-world identity. I did not quite register the way that this blog changed how people thought of me. No longer was I only the loud, bubbly, blunt girl, but now I took on a new identity… someone who had thoughts, thoughts she wished to be heard, although in the minds of some, may not have been justified in doing so.
Since jumping back into the ocean of the physical world, I have received feedback on this blog, mostly positive but also negative. It has made me question how to consolidate a somewhat “split personality”, to make myself seem more authentic, to make my online presence match my physical one. Still, the more I contemplate this, the more I come to terms with the fact that it is simply not possible. I cannot make myself a seemingly flawless page, a simple flyer. I am a tome, with multiple chapters and lengthy volumes. Surely, the perception of me others gain from this blog will make me seem educated and worldly and in part, I am. But, I am also allowed to be a teenager who cracks jokes, and plays around with her style, and makes mistakes. You can be many things at once, and the way people perceive you is only an indication of the few chapters in your novel that they have read.
I have talked to many people, young and old, who claim that they “don’t care about the opinions of others”, or that “they could care less about how others perceive them”. From what I have witnessed, this is generally untrue. To say that the opinions of other people are irrelevant wouldn’t make sense, because isn’t that why people show off their fancy cars, or throw huge parties, or even post on social media for that matter? Everyone values the perception of those around them, at least to some extent, and there is nothing wrong with that. Personally, I value the thoughts and opinions of my closest friends, my family, my teachers, and my peers. Let others into your life, and allow their opinions to nurture your growth. Take criticism from the right people, with the right intentions, to heart. Notice how the slander of those irrelevant to your development usually comes from a place of insecurity and pain.
My main point today, is that you can be a multi-faceted person, a person with goals and ambitions, a person who laughs and cries, a person who makes mistakes and atones for them. The way others project themselves onto you, is neither your responsibility nor your concern. The more you focus on yourself, and the more you realize how you fit into this messy world, the more you will be able to let go of the way others perceive you.
“What is more important — your goal, or others’ opinions of your goal?” -Peter McWilliams