Image, identity, and influence over issues. Reputation management. Self-representation. Contrary to popular belief, not all publicity is good publicity. These concepts were drilled into my head over and over thanks to my PR major, but I never really understood the extent of their power until years later in Japan.
I remember one milestone on the trek to building up my self-esteem was at… a club! I was talking to a girl when she cut me off abruptly. “I don’t know if I can trust you. You seem like a player.” [Note: she actually said playboy, but that’s how they use that word over there.]
Wow! Me? A player?!
That was one of the best compliments of my life! If I could take any message and send it to my past self, this would be one of them. “Dude, someday a girl’s going to think you’re a player.”
I would later call and tell my closest friends back home. They would laugh at the ridiculousness of the comment, but I continued to beam with pride. For me to have anything resembling that character type– it’s safe to say any notions of insecurity were becoming more and more distant.
I remember asking her what in the world made her think that. “I see you walking around talking to every girl in the room.”
Hm. Was I talking to every girl in the room? No doubt, probably! But it wasn’t just the girls, I was talking to everybody.
Who tries to have actual conversations with people in a club? This guy!
Whatever she perceived me to be is besides the point. I was in control of the action of rounding the room and being social. I made that image. How true is that towards my actual identity? Eh, I wouldn’t ever call myself a social butterfly. But the fact remains– I helped frame that narrative.
Sometimes we’re just not aware how much power we have in controlling that story. In another instance I touch on in the video below, I built myself up to be a hopeless romantic.Was I or wasn’t I? That doesn’t really matter because my stories for the first couple of years would only re-affirm one things to my students: Jon Dao is a loser when it comes to love.
Back in the day, one of my coaches used to say “If you look like a piece of crap and sound like a piece of crap, you might as well be a piece of crap.”
In this case, I wasn’t a loser because I hadn’t yet hit my stride or achieved any major “success”. No, I was a loser because I shaped myself out to be one.