The value of what people say about you when you’re not in the room

The value of what people say about you when you’re not in the room

It can be interesting to understand how people experience you and view you. Not because they are always right, but because they might see a certain aspect of you that can benefit a more objective self-awareness. Let me show you the importance of self-awareness for building a personal brand and the value of what people say about you when you’re not in the room.

the importance of self-awareness

The seeds for the brand

Years ago I had a roommate that was really into sports and always had a joke to tell. If someone was bored, he came up with something funny. If we were having drinks, then he was the person that would make an effort to entertain people with a self-made game to play. If you’d decide to give a party, then he would definitely be the first one you’ll invite.

I also have a friend and she’s super listening and is always reading between the lines of what I tell her. If I have things going on in my life then I will share my thoughts and feelings with her. She never judges and really pays attention to whatever is going on in my life and that makes me feel comfortable to go to her with personal stuff.

But my other friend likes to read and learn about the same kind of topics as me. Our conversations go from new tech startups to medicines against viruses to the latest Netflix movie. I love to have conversations with him and call him to share my thoughts and ideas. It’s what connects us.

I believe we all have these different kind of persons in our lives. Whether friends, roommates or collegeaus, based on their behavior they all create different expectations with people. Those expectations are part of what they are known for and it makes me decide whether or not I go to them for something specific.

Also, it’s very likely that others have a certain impression of you too, due to how you made them feel in a given moment of time. It would be interesting to bring all the people that know you and have known you together and ask them to describe you. The sum of all of those perspectives might give you a more complete picture of you. And we can call it your personal brand.

A true, objective overview of yourself might be best explained as your personal brand. It’s about that blurred line between that sense of yourself and the way other people view you. It might be meaningful to become more self-aware of who you are and how other people perceive you.

“your personal brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room” – Jeff Bezos

The journey of self-awareness

But how much stock should we really be putting in other people’s opinions of us? The way my friend sees me, for example, is still just one way of looking at me, and who’s to say it’s the right way?

So, as research shows there are two types of self-awareness. There’s something that is called internal self-awareness, which is understanding inwardly who am I, what makes me tick, what do I want to do in my life. And there’s another kind called external self-awareness, which is knowing how people see me. And what’s fascinating about those two things is that they are completely unrelated. You can be high in both, you can be low in both, and you can be high in one and not in the other.

Somebody who’s high in internal self-awareness and low on external self-awareness is saying, I don’t care what people think of me, because I am really in touch with myself — and I’m the only person that matters. And then on the other side of it is someone who is so interested in how they’re seen by others that they don’t necessarily do the work and make the choices that are in their own best interest.

I would say that it’s a balancing act between these two types of self-awareness. Sometimes people say things like, Other people’s opinions of me be damned! It doesn’t matter what people think of me! I mean, they’re welcome to feel that way, but the second part of their statement isn’t really true — it actually does matter what people think of you. If you want to be successful in your career, if you want to have strong and lasting relationships, if you want to have a happy and fulfilling life, a lot of that is dependent on you understanding how you’re perceived.

The journey to self-awareness is one that lasts a lifetime — it requires courage, energy, and commitment to see ourselves more clearly. And though the process is complex, it always starts with a simple (but not easy) decision: to question our assumptions about ourselves, to take charge and proactively examine how we’re seen, and to pair our quest for the truth with a positive mindset and self-acceptance. In a nutshell, we start by making the decision to become braver but wiser.

So many things that we truly can’t see

Let’s make this clear: there is no way that I think that all that matters is what other people think of you. But at the same time, if we truly care about ourselves, we have to take into consideration both of those pieces of information. People who are the most self-aware are those who are really clear on who they are, but are also willing to question the assumptions they’re making based on what other people are saying. They know that they can be wrong and are willing to change their opinion.

Our own internal opinions about ourselves do matter, but there is research showing that the way other people see us is more objective than the way we see ourselves. And other people can also predict our future behavior better than we can. The example I always give is — think of a time when you met one of your best friends’ brand new significant others, and you talk to that person for five minutes, and you say, this relationship is doomed. And then you’re right.

There are just so many things about ourselves that we truly can’t see. Also, other people are just less inclined to see us with rose-colored glasses — they see our behavior more objectively just by being in a different position to view us. It’s not necessarily that we’re wrong, or ignorant about ourselves. It’s just that sometimes other people can see things more honestly. And that’s why I just think that we owe it to ourselves to get feedback from others and be objective.

Your personal brand

A great example of someone that recognises the blurred lines between your personality and your business might be Jay-Z. The rapper once said that all of his businesses are close to him and that he is not running GM, where there’s no emotional attachment. He confirms the importance of self-awareness and points out that his personal brand is an extension of himself. To figure out what your personal brand is, you need some introspection and that’s when the importance of self-awareness comes in.

That personal brand is something that can be distracted from the view that other people have of you. I mean, identity is like a prison – you can never escape it, even if you want it to. Becoming more self-aware might be great for discovering your personal brand. The way to redeem your past is not to run from it, but to try to understand it and use it as a foundation to grow.

At its core, a personal brand is about personal connections and human emotions. It’s about how you want to make your customers feel. When someone says to you, “I’ve worked with Laila for many months now, and honestly – she was a pain in the ass”. Would you start to think about Laila in a certain way? Especially when you’ve never met her and you have to work with her anytime soon? The same goes with brands.


Ofcourse, don’t care too much about what people say about you. It will make your life easier. But the importance of self-awareness is evident to me. If only it helps you to find ways to be happier and lift up to your better self. That improvement can last a lifetime. So the following question might bring you a more objective self-awareness as well: what do people that truly know and care about you say about you, when you’re not in the room?

If you’re interested in more blogs about personal branding and the importance of self-awareness, head over to these ones:

Educated by Tara Westover
Head over to my book review of Educated by Tara Westover
150 150 Lisanne Swart
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