How much of your energy do you devote to managing other people’s impressions of you?
It’s probably so much more than you think. It may even, invisibly, be the single biggest focus of your attention.
Kind. Devoted. Generous. Creative. Helpful. Courageous. Strong. Powerful. Important. Intelligent. Successful.
As well as managing other people’s impressions you’re also likely to be managing your impressions of yourself, which means that in one way or another there’s always a part of you watching while other parts make sure what is watched-for is always being produced.
All those eyes on you. All those expectations you’re upholding. All that work and attention devoted to making sure you never get seen in ways that don’t fit your own self-image.
Perhaps you hardly even know you’re doing this at all, so convinced have you become that an image you may have been holding for many years is you.
The irony here is that the more effort and vigilance you put into maintaining an image the less space you have to let your most genuine qualities come forward. Life-as-image-management is life lived looking down the wrong end of a telescope – only a tiny part of what there is to be seen ever gets to show up.
If you’re going to lead, or create, or enter into deep relationships with others and with life, it pays to find a way to work with this. To, over time, gradually learn to let go.
This is, in many ways, a project big enough and difficult enough to occupy most of us for a lifetime.
And it’s vital. Because a life of keeping up appearances is also a life in which so much of what you have to bring is held back before it has any chance of being seen.