Duality of reputation distracts from authentic personal development

The irony of a reputation is that the word itself has its own reputation. Upon hearing the word “reputation,” almost every individual can list off their own idea of what it means, who it makes them think of, what questions it triggers. In our current society, reputation is whatever we want it to be and that is a very powerful yet potentially dangerous concept.

Reputation is denoted as “overall quality or character as seen or judged by people in general” by Merriam-Webster dictionary. More casually, it often refers to the view others hold of you that is fueled by your actions, rumors and everything in between.

“Different groups of people have different ideas of who you are,” senior Julie Roser said. “People who don’t interact with you often have an idea of a reputation is formed of what they see you post on social media, gossip and word of mouth.”

Reputation can either act as a restriction or a motivation. We are a generation that grew up with fads like ask.fm and we’ve been reputation obsessed ever since. We now measure our productivity in likes on Instagram posts while listening to the newest single from Taylor Swift’s Reputation album; it’s ones of the few constants in our lives, yet it’s continually changing.

People too often attempt to live up to their reputation, whether that be because their pride won’t allow them to go against an external construct or because they scrutinize it for so long they end up internalizing it. When you start living up to stereotypes to please society’s opinions, you can easily begin to lose yourself in the process and that’s often the hardest thing to get back.

On the other hand, sometimes people prevent themselves from exploring new concepts or viewpoints because they’re scared that it won’t “fit” their reputation. They’ll analyze the potential new hobby or activity from the lens of reputation before they even consider the fact that it may make them happy. Reputation should not be a restriction on trying new things, especially during high school, a time during which self discovery is fueled by putting yourself outside your comfort zone.

“A reputation is how other people perceive you and what they think of you so if people think of you in a certain way it could be restraining,” senior Monty Stevens. “It’s the whole reason stereotypes exist, if you do something or if just one person in a group does something, it could drastically affect what people think of you or that group.”

But in logical, small doses, reputation can absolutely act as a positive. Reputations are often somewhat grounded in truth, granted that truth can be exponentially exaggerated but they do start somewhere. Having parts of your reputation that you’re proud of, ones that conventionally categorize you as sympathetic, hardworking or a high achiever for example, can act as motivation. Individuals want to continue to broaden their positive reputation because they’re content to be known for something worthwhile and are excited to continue to leave an impact on others.

“It’s only a restriction if you’re chasing the wrong reputation,” counselor Bill Brown said. “If you want to excel at something or be known as the expert in something that’s a motivation. It’s a good motivating factor because if nobody knew, we may not be as driven. It shouldn’t be that way but we all care what people think.”

Reputations are not static. Changing an established reputation can be a challenge, but the prospect of developing a new reputation can work to push people to become better versions of themselves. Reputations can be improved, and in the end it starts at the core of the reputation- you.

And that itself is the most important lesson. At the end of the day, a reputation is about you. You should pursue what you want to pursue and continue to focus on self growth and reflection. As you continue to grow as an individual your reputation will naturally follow. So instead of cultivating a reputation, focus on bettering yourself and doing what makes yourself happy.