Character is like a tree and reputation like shadow

The shadow is what we think of it

The tree is the real thing

Abraham Lincoln


Character and reputation

I led a team for a number of years and I had a reputation for making things happen, being trustworthy and an expert in what I did.   After a break, I joined another organisation.  While my CV told a good story, no one knew me at the new place.  I found myself in a situation where my reputation was not known. A situation which found me having to work hard to rebuild my reputation with new people.   In those early days, it bothered me.  My standing with others was on shakier ground than before.  For a while and to some extent my lack of reputation shook my confidence.   

It was in those early days that I found comfort in the fact that I know my character is like a tree and is the real thing.  I understood that reputation is simply a concept in my own and others mind, while character is tangible and it cannot be taken away. 

When your own opinion counts

In this situation, I experienced what it was like when others were unsure of me and what I would do and how I would perform.  This resulted in others checking in with me, or questioning me to make sure I lived up to my promise.   This made me slightly under scrutiny.  Of course, all the self-awareness work I had undertaken in the past kicked in.  I realised I was in danger of fulfilling a self-prophesy around my lack of reputation.  I knew I had to find my inner core.  This is when I reminded myself that the only opinion I had to consider was my own.  I knew my own opinion of myself, in a non-egotistical way, was sound.  Over the years I had worked hard to build character.  I knew I wasn’t perfect, but I also knew I always set out to do the best I could. 

This quote is really about this:  Reputation is simply a perception based on what you and others see in you over a period of time.  Character is the real deal, it is the congruent real you, that you know exists, no matter what anyone else thinks. 

Here at People Development Magazine we showcase a selection of our favourite quotes. We love to give a short summary of what the quote means to us. This helps to provoke your own thoughts and perceptions as the reader. We hope you enjoy them!
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