Zero To Hero Day 16: The Reputation Spectrum

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about reputation. The funny thing about reputation is how wildly it differs depending on who’s perceiving it. It’s a matter of an individual’s background or beliefs; we judge each other based upon our own expectations. A reputation is just an impression of only a part of someone’s personality; it’s like assuming a person’s whole identity based solely on their musical or literary tastes. Or their sign and Myers-Briggs type, for that matter; I’m an INTJ Scorpio, but such classifications have limited relevancy. Human beings are more complex than that, and everyone needs to be mindful of not cramming each other – and themselves – into little, stereotypical boxes.

If everyone I knew were to attend my funeral, no one would be able to agree on the exact way I’d be remembered. My reputation spans a whole spectrum of social expectations. Everyone would I agree that I’m intelligent, with a knack for observation and planning. Weird and quiet, too. But beyond that? It’s up in the air. Part of my family would disgustedly declare that I was decidedly unmanly, just because I don’t conform to their idea masculinity. They’d say my love of literature, humanities, and style was…interesting, but they couldn’t fathom why I’d rather be alone instead of going shooting, getting drunk, or watching sports for hours. Another part of my family would argue that I was an ungrateful, blasphemous rebel who left everything behind. They’d say I was just a distant, morose shadow who blatantly disregarded the rules, asked too many questions, and should’ve gone to church more. Other family members would claim that I was kind and thoughtful for keeping the house running, helping them when they were sick, and making them laugh when they needed it most. A few might even whisper about my fiery temper in hushed tones.

My coworkers and classmates would say that I was efficient, responsible, and withdrawn. Maybe a little insane. They’d all talk about how I’d traveled the world, and actually camped under the stars the old fashioned way. That I’d always somehow grab everyone’s attention despite being so shy. There would be anecdotes about how I seemed always able to explain something in simple terms. That I wrote papers and solved puzzles with reckless abandon. And switch from serious to snarky at the drop of a hat. They’d say I was crazy for not owning a smart phone, but admit bringing homemade lunches every day was clever and healthy. The higher-ups would say I was either a great mentor, a good sounding board, a vicious debater, arrogant, sarcastic, frightening, or intimidating. That I preferred stating awful truths instead of pretending. That I refused to play politics, for better and worse. Some would concur that I was a total charmer, despite my protests otherwise. They’d say I had warm, boundless energy and a knack for making people smile.

Certain circles in gaming community would say that I was an awesome reviewer with high writing standards. There would be tales of enigmatic emails featuring advice on critical writing and video game history. They’d mention how I’d always lurk somewhere in the background, surprise everyone with a new article, and vanish again. Some of the old timers would reminisce how I worked my way up from a crappy newbie. Anyone I’ve played against online would accuse me of being a flagrant trickster and a completely off-the-rails strategist. They’d moan about how I didn’t take anything seriously, yet somehow managed to beat them on several occasions. Very few could claim they ever spoke to me personally.

See what I mean? Reputation isn’t set in stone; it’s based upon others’ perceptions of you. A single person could have dozens of stories levied against them. The real danger is when you start buying too much into the expectations; if you focus too much on how you should act, you end up losing sight of your real personality. Everything I mentioned in the previous paragraphs has a bit of truth to them, but they’re ultimately inaccurate. They’re just like jigsaw puzzle: small pieces of a larger whole. I’m not sure what I kind of reputation I’m developing on WordPress, but I hope it’s a good one.

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Daily Prompt: Fear Factor, Or: Rejection VS Individuality

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about fear. Namely, what do you fear. Don’t be fooled by anyone who claims to be fearless. They’re either covering up insecurity, a computer, or an alien. Maybe all three. Everyone has a fear; it’s one of the defining aspects of your humanity. It’s a natural, instinctual response your body has to perceived threats. It’s just a matter of exactly what it is. For me, it’s nothing tangible. I don’t fear death, the dark, insects, etc. I mentioned recently that my fear is living a meaningless existence. Life is inherently meaningless; it’s up to each individual to find their own meaning. Putting that into practice is not only hard, but scary as well. What do you do when the whole world is out there, and you don’t have a dream? The scope of it is downright terrifying.

While this kind of fear works well for philosophical discussion, this particular prompt calls for something a little less…overarching. So, how about something a bit more intimate: Rejection. I’m not talking about the romantic kind; given the amount of barely-averted looks and flirts directed toward me, I wouldn’t have any problems…if I actually tried going with it. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a textbook introvert. I’m really shy and I try to avoid being in large groups of people. Not because I necessarily despise them, but because interactions are tiring, and I never know what to say. Hey, let’s see you bring up the psychologically manipulative set designs of The Shining or the recurring themes in Haruki Murakami’s novels the next time you’re chatting a party. By all means, go ahead. All I get those confused stares, a request to speak up, or a lingering sense that I never should have opened my mouth in the first place. I get through it with a (hopefully) charming smile and heavy doses of sarcasm. A lot of people find it endearing. Others ask me what planet I’m from. I scramble for the quietest corner, take out the book I smuggled along with me, and leave my horribly awkward real world behind.

But why?

It’s a lot easier to close yourself off from what you fear. Since I dread rejection so much, then why bother interacting with people at all? Oh wait, that’s right! Social interaction is the core tenet of human civilization. Can’t get around that one, can I? Well, technically I can, but it’d cost me my sanity. Pretty sure that’s something you want to hang on to. So since shutting everyone out isn’t feasible, that means dealing with the fear in question. How exactly am I supposed to do that? That’s not a rhetorical question; I really don’t know. It’s been a part of me for as far back as I can remember. A lot of my elders were – and still are – religiously conservative. Look, I’m not going to start a debate about this. I have no problem with religion; some folks need something to believe in. But when you use religion to oppress and slaughter people who don’t share your views? Yeah, humanity doesn’t exactly have a spotless record. Now, imagine trying to be the model son raised by conservative, often absent parents. Sound difficult? Try doing that with an independent streak as big and deep as mine. I’ll give you a hint: it’s not very fun. I was the kind of kid who’d always ask the difficult questions, the one who wanted everything explained in non-sugarcoated detail. The phrase “Because I said so!” was never good enough for me, and I refused to accept excuses. Many adults found it irritating, and it hasn’t won me many fans in my adult life. There are some at my church who still won’t even look at me.

Well shucks, I’m so sorry that I can’t just play along. That must be such an inconvenience.

I’m not trying to be rebellious. I’m really not. I just need to experience the world on my own terms. New ideas and concepts are fascinating, but not necessarily feasible for me. My concern isn’t so much about religious beliefs, laws, structure, etc. The only thing that matters is if it works. And a lot of what does work for me doesn’t do so for the people in my personal and professional life. I’d been rejected, bullied, and dismissed so many times growing up that I learned to expect it. Trying to conform to others’ expectations left me an emotional wreck. I’ve let myself become less restrictive, though. My contempt for gender roles is probably the most noticeable result. I’ve got enough long, curly hair to resemble a young Robert Plant or Dustin Hoffman’s Captain Hook. I rockĀ the androgynous look. A lot of women find it fascinating and ask me about it, but others just frown disapprovingly or assume I’m transgendered. I stopped caring years ago. If I’m in a suit, I’ll occasionally get asked if I moonlight in a heavy metal band. I’m one of the few people on either side of my family that actively reads and writes. People think I’m weird because I don’t spend my free time on Facebook, clinging to my phone, watching sports, or going bar-hopping. I don’t know anyone else my age that doesn’t drink. You try being the only sober person in at a party. Or how about hearing the phrase, “Why don’t you have a girlfriend?” Gee, I don’t know. Maybe because it’s hard to trust people when you’re an outcast.

Just saying.

Gah, what a mess. I need to work on the self-confidence thing. How do I get over social phobia? There’s got to be a niche for me out there somewhere. If not, I’ll just have to carve out my own. That’s got to count for a little bit of courage, right?