No matter what you think of yourself, part of your identity is how others think of you. Their opinions and thoughts of you influence how they relate to you, what they say about you, what connections they offer etc. This isn’t new information. What may be a new concept, however, is that you have the power to shift how they think of you. With a bit of intentionality and time, you can shift this in five steps, here’s how.
1 – Get clarity on how you’re seen now
The easiest way to do this is quite simple. Ask. Ask as many people as you can to describe you in five words. To get a really great holistic view look to ask someone from each area of your life, or community that you’re a part of. I asked someone from each of these groups : siblings, parents, gal pals, co-workers, gym buddies, neighborhood buddies, church pals, social media.
Keep in mind that they’ll likely share the positive things with you, it’s rare to have a friend, even more so an acquaintance, that will actually be straight and share negative impressions with you. The first thing you can do to combat this is to be clear that you want honesty, not flattery. Additionally, you may also look for the more blunt and honest people in your world and ask them what five words they often hear others use to describe you, good, bad and neutral.
The words I got the most often were: Aggressive, Smiling, Intelligent, Caring and Bossy/Pushy.
2 – Decide how you want to be seen going forward.
Take your time with this. Be intentional. Choose five words that you want to embody. I sat down with a thesaurus, dictionary and the internet and really looked at the definitions, etymology (history) and various associations with words. Once I found a word I pulled synonyms and definitions together to create my own – what I mean by that word.
Here are the five I chose:
Catalyst: a person or thing that precipitates an event or change; a person whose talk, enthusiasm, or energy causes others to be more friendly, enthusiastic or energetic.
Fun: inspiring enjoyment or playfulness. providing mirth.
Tenacious: holding fast, persistent, holding together, stubborn, cohesive, not easily pulled asunder; tough.
Thoughtful: showing consideration for others; manifesting careful thought; mindful.
Smart: quick in action, ready mental capability; clever, witty or readily effective, dashingly or impressively neat or trim in appearance, socially elegant, sophisticated, saucy, pert.
3 – Embody this new you.
This can be the hardest part. Especially if you think that you’re already some of these words. For example, I felt that I was already tenacious, but that it was being interpreted as bossy/pushy. So I had to spend time really looking at what it would take to have my commitment to a result show through, rather than bossiness or forcing something.
Whenever I found myself feeling stressed, annoyed, or under pressure and returned to these words, as a grounding point, as my commitment.
4 – Create a structure to remind yourself of what you’re committed to.
These words became a bit of a mantra for me. I am a Catalyst. I am Fun. I am Tenacious. I am Thoughtful. I am Smart. And, life happens and it can be super easy to forget this type of project. So create some structure to support your future self in success.
Print the words/definitions out and post them in a prominent spot in your environment. Move them every few weeks too, so they don’t begin to blend in and become part of the landscape. I started with them on my fridge and over the course of the year they lived on my bathroom mirror, next to my bed, next to my computer screen, over my kitchen sink, in my car, you get the idea. I also created a small image to make the screensaver on my phone as well as the desktop background on my computer.
5 – Check in with others to see how you’re doing.
After the initial inquiry to my friends of 5 words, they think of related to me. I made it a practice to check in every 4-5 months. What was interesting for me is that the second time I asked, people were a lot more likely to share words that could be perceived as less flattering.
I didn’t say it would be easy, but it is fairly simple.
I never quite got to where everyone always related to me as my five words. I did get to where it was close: Transformer. Fun. Tenacious. Compassionate. Smart.
The bigger impact I see, now that it’s been a few years and I have the benefit of hindsight, is how I think of myself. I now know that I have the power to shift not only how I see myself, but also how others see me. This is just one element to designing my life, creating my world, ensuring that I get to live the life of my dreams.
What are your five words?