I am not a very outspoken person. I don’t talk much about what I do each evening, if I went out or who I hung out with, if I argued with my husband last night, , etc. I love Facebook, but I’m selective about what I write and share. Usually my blog posts are about my family and my kids. I write things (like this post) sharing ideas versus specific or personal stories. I share quotes I find inspiring. Once I am comfortable and I trust someone, I’ll share more detailed information about my life. But I try to think hard about what I say or what I share with most people before I do. Why? Because I know that people will judge me based on what I say and do.
My first (mature/adult) understanding of this was during college. I decided I wanted to join a sorority, and I went through the sorority recruitment process. As a young woman, I went from sorority recruitment party to recruitment party, talking to current sorority members, telling them about myself. We talked about classes I was taking, my friends, family, and things I liked to do for fun. Of course, while they were making judgments about me and determining if I would make a good sister, I was judging them. Did I fit in with these girls. How were they perceived? What were they known as on campus? I was a “good girl” who always followed rules and worked hard on getting good grades. I had always held leadership positions in high school, and I planned to continue this trend in college. I wanted to be a part of a sorority chapter that was not known for getting into trouble with the campus, and one that was full of women that held important positions on campus.
In the corporate world, I knew I was being watched by both customers, co-workers, and regional supervisors. If I would’ve come to work unprepared, or if I arrived complaining about my personal life all day, I’m sure that they would have instantly formed an image of me. I might have been considered unorganized and not reliable. Or they might have thought I was not mature enough to handle more responsibility. Luckily, I was a hard worker, I was secure enough in myself and my life, and I had strong enough work values that it was important to me to stay organized at work and also keep my personal life at home. At work, I was there to take care of job duties, supervise my staff, and meet work goals. Of course I had work friends that I could share personal stories with, but I knew that how I lived my life at work and also outside of work would reflect on how others viewed me. Even running into business partners and customers during non-work hours, I always reminded myself that I was on display and being watched, judged and perceived by these partners.
I know that how I parent my children, how I respond to others at work, and what I share about myself with others gets observed by folks around me. Some might call me nice, so helpful, or a good mom; others might call me rude, a perfectionist, or that I think I’m better than others. Hopefully, they have a positive view of me, and hopefully I’m making good choices in life that are seen as such.
Here’s the truth: People will judge you by your actions, not your intentions.
And fortunately (or unfortunately), how others view us can be both the easiest and the hardest thing to change.