People’s impressions of us can have an enormous influence on how we see ourselves. If they have a positive impression, we see ourselves in a positive light; and if it’s a negative impression, we form a bleak view of ourselves.
But people’s impressions are just that: THEIR impressions. They do not reflect who we truly are and what we are like. They may reveal something about us that we have overlooked, but the fact that other people have certain impressions of us doesn’t mean that these impressions are necessarily true.
People can only judge by what they see, and what they see is heavily conditioned by what they already think. You may be a very confident person, but in one incident, you weren’t really sure how to behave, and gave the impression that you are shy. For people to assume that you’re shy doesn’t take away from your confidence, unless you start to believe what others think of you is true!
This is especially damaging when you strive to grow and become a better person. Growth means that you undergo a positive change. In other words, that you are no longer the person you were. If you struggled to overcome a bad habit, or have changed your view on life, people may still assume that you’re the same person you were when they met you, which overlooks all the progress that you’ve made and all the hard work you put in to develop yourself.
Does it mean that you have not undergone a change?
Of course it doesn’t!
But, again, people can only judge by what they can see. On top of that, if they believe they’ve already seen it, they won’t bother to look again. In other words, if people have already come to the conclusion that you are an impatient person, for example, they won’t try to form a new impression of you as a patient person, no matter how many incidents prove that you are. People will go by their initial impression (i.e. the person that you were) rather than consider the evidence presented in front of them (i.e. the person you are right now).
We should also bear in mind that most of our behaviours are judged by the intentions people assume we have. The same action can be seen either positively or negatively. We can see a salesperson as being caring and helpful, or as being deceptive and cunning.
Judging intentions is impossible in many cases, precisely because we can’t see them, and we often conclude what they are based on the impressions we have already formed of others, which may not be true at all.
This is a major way in which people can have a completely false impression of us. There is no reason why we should accept their impression to be true, nor should we be devastated when others reach a wrong conclusion about us.
All we can do is know who we truly are, consider what possible truth there is in what others think and strive to be as clear as possible in the way we communicate to others and how we present ourselves.