Introduction What are we really? What is that we have and don't have? What is something natural in us? What is something not there in us? The answer to the last question would, at the individual level, point out " the real me". Yes, it's final. Game over. Yes, we can attempt to change a bit or even to a large extent. However, trying to be too smart at projecting a wrong message through some short-term actions can easily spell disaster. This is one of the worst mistakes that we could do. We are trying to just put up a show. Those who intimately know us would simply laugh at us. We would end up feeling miserable if someone ridicules us. All of this can be avoided only if there is consistency in our actions. This is a very big ask. The dangers of projecting a wrong image of ourselves are a) Losing good friends who would have accepted us b) Needless controversies on changed behavior c) Getting stuck with new image traps d) Domestic misunderstanding and conflicts and e) Wrong Communication when reference checks are made
Losing good friends who would have accepted us There are hundreds of friends who accept us for whatever we are. For example, let us take the case of Ramesh ( name changed), who was basically a very stingy man. His father was a very stingy man and his behavior was closely modeled on that. However, he was one person who would volunteer to do all work in any marriage of any son or daughter of his close friends. He had a big whats up group and regularly donated blood. He had many volunteers among his close friends, who would do tree planting and also spread such good messages in schools and colleges. His close circle of friends always made it a point to rally around him. His only weakness of being stingy was readily accepted by his close circle of friends and relatives. Ramesh was what he was. However, another person with similar qualities who worked in the same organization, but in a different organization, though he could do something different. Unlike Ramesh who belonged to a rich family, David was from a family that was just above the lower middle class. He thought he was doing an image changeover. He hosted parties in good non-vegetarian hotels and the expenditure was fairly high. The next month, his father became unwell and he had to borrow money. Some friends who stayed away from his parties took him to their usual meeting place and made him realize that he had tried to unnecessarily changing his image. He was basically a good man and had done very good social work too. Hence the need was to just be what he was and not try to project a new image. In a Behavioral training program, this was also pointed out to him, by his colleagues who tried to reason out his behavior by anchoring it in the Johari window model. David understood the message. Since both the workmen, who senior most in terms of years of service were subsequently promoted as first level supervisors, their organizational roles sort of gave them enough scope to do very good work, by just being what they were, and not trying to be what they were not. Of course, Ramesh was obviously unchanged at any point in time. Since both of them were known to this author, the hand-holding in the organizational context was rather easy. They were able to understand the wider context of whatever they were, naturally. Of course, we could even stand a chance of losing friends who may not like our new image makeover. They might think we are putting up a mask.
Needless controversies on changed behavior We lose our credibility when others start thinking that we are either boasting or unnecessarily doing something that does not fit our personality. There are some who pretend to be extroverts at weddings. They are not extroverts at all. They end feeling miserable when someone does not consider them worth talking to. There are more controversies when someone starts to give unsolicited advice. This can be very dangerous, more so, as the person receiving it may not like advice from a total stranger. This can damage all relationships between relatives as the parents of the concerned persons will also enter the fray and do further damage. All this happens, when we sometimes "try to be different". This is an unwanted change in behavior.
Getting stuck with new image traps KamalHassan, the brilliant actor, is now having this problem as a politician. His comment on Godse as a terrorist who killed Mahatma Gandhi was seen as an attempt to appease the Muslim community. He always was against the BJP's communal politics, even before he entered politics. His followers had done good social work in many places. Yet, he should have entered politics even when the imperious Jayalalitha was alive. He did not. He was seen as a rich actor who did nothing for the common man. He still has many tasks to do. He has to mix with people. He should fight for their rights. When he goes around trying to identify people issues and addressing them, he will slowly gain credibility. His image trap is unfortunate now. He has to grow far beyond his image trap and set out to do different things. However, he needs consistency and only when he is seen as consistent, he will be able to make an impression.
Domestic misunderstanding and conflicts David, quoted above, had to face huge opposition from his wife. She did not like his changed behavior, as the money was important for her. The family was itself quite modest in terms of resources. Yet, his throwing such parties made a big hole in their savings and his wife was upset. Fortunately, he was made to understand the position quickly and the conflicts were quickly avoided. This is exactly what can happen if we try to change our image through sudden spending of money. All this is unwanted.
Wrong Communication when reference checks are madeThese are days when the references are made about fathers and mothers. It is not just about sons are daughters. There is every chance that someone makes a reference to us ( that is man or woman) as a "strange person". When asked to explain their opinion, they would merely explain that the concerned person had recently changed his behavior for some unknown reasons. Or something to this effect. Hence, we should not try to project a wrong image of ourselves. What is normally accepted by others is fine enough. After all, we might be having so many strengths. It is fine if we try to milk such strengths and do as much good to as many people as possible.
Conclusion All of us have our own personalities. We need to strengthen what comes to us naturally and be done without it. If we try to project a new image, there is every danger that we could invite trouble on some aspects, as described above.
This article is a must for people who wear a beautiful mask to conceal their true identity and intentions from the outside world. By portraying an attractive but false image of oneself, there could be short term gains but in the long run, it is inevitable that such people would be 'unmasked'.
This commonly happens, when a new person moves into the neighbourhood, joins as a new recruit in a company, while looking for an alliance and most important is when people interact on the virtual internet and social dating sites.
When an individual is found to be painting a false picture of himself/herself, then their core values (honesty, integrity, trust, reliability, loyalty) would be questioned by people around them (friends, superiors, firms/companies, and even family members). At this point, the person is embarrassed and would fall from grace.
What is more important is people with experience in life and seniors/peers would be able to identify such traits in people. Then, it would be our duty to educate the person against all the ill-effects and help then get back to their true self.
Even if one gets away with a false image of themselves at times, they would be ashamed of themselves when they look into the mirror. We can cheat anyone but not our own inner self.