“Reputation is an idle and most false imposition; oft got without merit, and lost without deserving.(Iago, Act II, scene iii)”
― William Shakespeare, Othello
One thing I noticed through my ex sociopath private message smear campaign, was that people I’d never met or even interacted with online assumed and posted things about me and what I was like based on what other people had told them. Most of the time, they were dead wrong and I kept wondering how in the world someone I’d never talked to would so confidently post “Joanna does” this or that. I’d read their comments or people would warn me about them and I’d wonder where they got these ideas! It was during this time that I learned that a person’s reputation doesn’t have to be based in fact or reality. A malignant gossip–in my case, one being fed lies by my ex sociopath–can spread stories so well that people accept them as fact and think they know things about a person that aren’t true.
“Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself.”
― Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
You can see this with celebrities too. For example, certain politicians are branded as stupid or cruel, but if you really go back and look, you can’t find any proof of these images that are so widespread. Often times, someone starts a rumor or feeds a reputation and it becomes bigger than the person really is. Or how about actors? So often “everybody knows” something is true about someone…but is it? How many of us are in a place to know for sure? One gossip magazine can print a ridiculous article and suddenly the rumor spreads until it is accepted as truth.
“Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation, for your character is what you are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
― Dale Carnegie
Or how about businesses? When I was a kid, there was a story going around that one of the neighborhood grocery stores had maggots in its meat. Did it? Who knows. There was no proof. There was no news story. No one I knew ever saw maggots in their groceries, yet this rumor persisted and people avoided the store. It ended up going out of business. Was that reputation deserved? When we believed the stories, did anyone ever stop and ask if they were true? Nope.
“Character is like a tree and reputation its shadow. The shadow is what we think it is and the tree is the real thing.”
I don’t have any deep answers or anything. I’ve spent the last few years fighting to find the source and disprove lies about myself with people who, frankly, don’t really care about my life. Their opinions shouldn’t matter to me. I finally gave up and figured if people are so silly as to believe lies about me without ever having a bit of proof, then they have more of a problem than I do. I find the whole thing amazing, though. It’s just another part of culture, society, psychology, whatever you want to call it, to consider: people can and will create a completely false reputation about someone else and that false reputation will have a life of its own regardless of what you are really like.
“Your reputation is in the hands of others. That’s what the reputation is. You can’t control that. The only thing you can control is your character.”
― Wayne W. Dyer
Today, there are many social media platforms that people can use to damage your reputation. Fortunately, online reputation management companies can help remove negative content from various online platforms. Typically, they provide Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Been verified removal services. Having said that, I guess sometimes you just have to hold your head up, live and own your truth and reality and be strong enough to let go of worrying about what other people think. The people who truly matter WILL know the truth about you, and anyone who believes false stories about you isn’t a real friend. Unfortunately, when you are splitting from a narcissist, you will find that true friends are incredibly rare. But, a true friend is far more valuable than a false friend. I have learned to let go of the illusion of all the “friends” I used to have–the very ones who were willing to stab me in the back.
“My reputation as a ladies’ man was a joke that caused me to laugh bitterly through the ten thousand nights I spent alone.”
― Leonard Cohen
The good news is…many wise minds understand exactly what you are going through if your reputation has been defined incorrectly by others with bad intent. I have included these quotes from famous people who can relate to the stress or hardship of being mislabeled. Let’s choose good character and honor and have peace within our own minds!
“By this curious turn of disposition I have gained the reputation of deliberate heartlessness; how undeserved, I alone can appreciate.”
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