In The Forest Scout’s Ask Us column, students contribute questions for staff writers to answer based on their own personal experience as a high school student at LFHS.
When should you care about what people think of you?
High School isn’t just a hub of academic learning, but rather an institute of self-learning. We discover, or aim to discover, who we are and what we stand for in these four short years before we take the next steps in our lives. But, finding ourselves isn’t always as easy as it seems, especially at an age where you are juggling school, friends, family, and sports. Often, however, we can’t handle it all on our own; we don’t know how to handle a certain situation and we need a little help or advice.
Well, to start off, I surely don’t know everything nor do I have all the answers. Yet, I do have almost 4 years of high school under my belt in which I have encountered challenges and moments that have tested my character and morals, while allowing me to develop a true sense of self.
One of the hardest things to handle in life–especially in high school–is people’s opinions and knowing when to let their opinions affect you. We are always told to “not care about what people think of you” but also to have a “good reputation founded on who you actually are.” Those two valid and helpful tips can often contradict each other. Reputations are based off of how others perceive you, so therefore it entails caring what people think.
Caring what people think is a balancing game. To start off, reputations are important. They are often what others hear about us before we meet them or are able make a first impression. They are important for jobs, interviews, and recommendations. Although they are somewhat out of our control, our actions and character do have an impression on our lasting reputations. Having a “bad” reputation by no means makes you a bad person, as vague as that would even seem, but you must realize that your reputation is what is first implanted in others’ heads when they hear about you and are influenced by your public actions.
Reputations are never 100% true representations of who we are, but they stem from our actions and the way we present ourselves in public situations, so we do have some control in deciding our reputations. For example, you may be an extremely hard worker, but you hated your first job so you never tried very hard and were seen as disrespectful. This may create a negative reputation which could hinder our ability to get hired for another job that tailors more to our personality.
Reputations, in my opinion, tend to be based on respect, appropriateness, intent, and your ability to be genuine. You must understand that there are places and people that you should show more respect and act appropriately in and around. For instance, if you’re a loud, high energy person like myself, you might have to adjust your usual outspoken loud voice when you’re around children, the elderly, or in closed quarters out of respect of those around you. It doesn’t mean you change your bubbly, outgoing personality, but simply adjust your actions based on your surroundings. These thoughtful actions will lead to a good reputation. Obviously, we all mess up. We might slip and say a swear word in front of a toddler or sleep through an alarm and end up an hour late to work, but if we genuinely apologize and show our intent was not to be disrespectful or offensive, those around you will understand and appreciate your honesty (at least the first time). All these things affect the way people view you.
To me, there is a difference between caring about my reputation and caring about what others think of me personally. I want others to view me in a positive light and to have a so-called “good reputation,” but that doesn’t mean I have to strive to please everyone nor sacrifice who I am and what I believe in order for others to think well of me. It’s important to develop individuality and opinions that are special to who you are.
Disagreement and differences with and from others are natural and healthy. It is important to express who we are and what we believe in with confidence and without regret. When we do this we may find that people disagree and don’t like what you believe or even like you as a person. That is okay–you are not for everyone. No one is. An important lesson I’ve learned these last four years is, sometimes, people just don’t like you and probably won’t ever come around to seeing you in a different light, and that is okay. As long as you treat others with respect and kindness, the same way you hope they treat you, then you shouldn’t care if they like you or not. Because frankly, it’s not you, it’s them.
As you can see, voicing one’s opinion is extremely important to me. I don’t think anyone should ever feel embarrassed about their beliefs or sharing them. I think sharing our thoughts makes us strong and secure in who we are. Sharing beliefs and opinions allow intellectual conversations and disagreements to happen, which ultimately benefits us.