“Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.”
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
What others think about you, does it matter?
Should it really matter to you, who do you think people think of you? Who do you think you are and what do you want people talk about you when you are not in the room? And why does it matter?
Should it not matter, so who are you?
For the second case, when you do not really care about what others think about you, I recall a newsletter sent to me by Victor Cheng, who is famous for his coaching videos for case interviews into management consulting firms about what people value about themselves.
Try to figure out the answer yourself: “Who are you?”
I was impressed at Victor’s statement:
“You are not your job. You are not your income. You are not your profession. You are not your mistakes or failures. You are also not your success.”
According to him, “you are YOUR VALUES.
When you have “nothing,” all you’re left with is your thoughts, your feelings and your VALUES.
If you value kindness, whether you are rich or poor, successful or a failure, you will ALWAYS strive to be kind — because that is who you are.
If you value learning, whether you got promoted or not, whether you get a raise or not, you will always strive to be learning — because that is who you are.
If you value excellence, whether your performance was good enough by someone else’s standard or not, you will always strive to be excellent (by your standard) — because that is who you are.
If you value respect, whether people are cruel to you or not, you will always be respectful to yourself, to them, and to others — because that is who you are.”
However, I did not mean to use this post to quote things that may be supposed to be cliché to many people. You may read various writings where people do state that whatever people think about you, it does not matter. I, nevertheless, do think, it somehow matters.
Admittedly, I sometimes take my pleasure (you may call it a guilty pleasure) in making people think that I am a smart and cool friend to hang out with. I do think it is not a crime to strive to be smart and cool. Things that matter here are you do what you think that will make other people perceive you “smart” or “cool”. Fortunately, everything is still under my control, or I make sure that all the vanity attached is just the by-product. I study CFA for the purpose of obtaining knowledge while I cannot deny that sometimes I think it makes me feel myself cooler. I apply for management consulting firms for my strong interest in problem solving since the time at university while I cannot deny that it brought me some certain credits in the eyes of the surrounding people.
It sounds silly but it is a truth that we sometimes let what other people think about us be capitalized in our decision-making process. It is not necessarily vanity but respect that is the minimum thing you want people to do when they speak about you.
So the first reason may be respect.
The second reason is quite comprehensible: The need to be mingled with the minds that think alike. There comes sayings kind of “Great minds think alike” or “Tell me who your friends are, I will tell who you are”. It is, once again, not a crime when people try their best to network with ones who may be perceived to be cool, smart and successful by the society. The desire of getting along with the good ones may motivate ones to improve themselves day by day. I understand the feeling of being not understood by the ones surround so I do think that finding ones that share with you the same ideas or the same level of thinking is part of our instincts. Then, the key to get into such network of people is to make these people think that you are one of them. Accordingly, what people think about you now does matter.
In the light of the two aforementioned reasons, I do think what other people think about us sometimes does matter. On the bright side, we keep improving ourselves to raise ourselves up to the standards perceived by the society. Incorporate what others think about us into our decision-making process is not necessarily bad. Things that matter are the weight assigned to the external perception. When too much weight assigned to others’ perception about us and no room left to our own preference, it is somehow like we are living the lives of other people.
There comes a trivial story that may be not closely related to any stuff written above. There was a girl I happen to know during my time at college. She was so active in networking with the seniors to ask for experiences of getting into big firms and she succeeded somehow. Things that annoy me, however, are her snobby attitude when she got into firm that is perceived to be of higher reputation than my current firm, and then got into a reputed summer internship program where she got the chances to be mingled with ones coming from top-notch universities, which alienated her from people like me. I happened to come across her sometimes but it is always only me who made efforts of saying hi and she tended not to acknowledge me. It was not until an interview into a top consulting firm when I happened to share the same interview hour with her. She walked by without acknowledging my appearance as usual and then called me on the phone the following day (when I deactivated my Facebook) to ask me about what was going on with my interview as she felt unsecure about her performance during the interview. She explained to me on the phone that as the time was so rush that she cannot greet me before the interview and tried asking me about details of my interviews. I hate such kind of networking or friends for benefit like that and I do think she is a typical one who is obsessed with what the people think about her.