The answer to this question may seem to be very simple on the face of it but when you actually think deep within and ask yourself this question, you may not be able to come up with an instant answer. We being in the profession of image management or identity management, understanding our own identity before we mould others’ becomes very important. You may identify yourself as a PR executive or some may like themselves to be known as reputation management consultants or you may identify yourself as a corporate communications head of ABC organization etc. But that may just be your designation or your work profile but a question about one’s identity stumps the vast majority.
According to the Marshall Goldsmith, author of bestselling book – ‘What got you here won’t get you there’, says, “identity is a complicated subject, and we make it even more complicated when we’re not sure where to look for the best answer.” Many people tag their identity based on some past experiences, achievements or failures. Some build basis testimony of others – a boss or parent’s view as defining themselves. Some others look at themselves as what they want to be in future rather than their past or present.
To make this more simpler, I would like bring forward four different personalities who have assumed their identities based on their past; others testimonies; programming done by others such as mentors, teachers or parents; and the last based on self belief – what he would like to be in future.
So there are four siblings, Sita, Geeta, Shyam and Ram with different identities of themselves.
Sita, started as an account executive in a mid-sized agency, was not very great at academics and hence had issues with the language. She goofed up many a times and was constantly reprimanded and ridiculed by her senior as useless, good for nothing etc., without being properly trained on the job. She however continued to sail through a career, moved from agency to agency and on the way also picked up skills that not only kept her in the job but also helped her move up in her career. She is today a
Sr. Account Manager but still has a very low self esteem about herself. Though she is good at her job but is always scared of her seniors for no reasons, giving undue advantage to her juniors to bully her. She has not goofed up even at single instance in the last two years, her bosses are happy with her but instead of crediting herself with her achievements, she continues to remain in the past considering herself to be useless and not so intelligent.
Geeta, a flamboyant beautiful looking lady, also started her career as an Account Executive in large agency. Even she committed many mistakes during the beginning of her career but due to her suave and friendly attitude she always managed to cover up. Her peers liked to revolve around her for gossip and to be part of the laughter she used to spread around. They used to shower her with praises and attributes, which she started believing to be true rather ignoring it as flattery and lies. She climbed her career ladder along with the attitude and identity she developed about herself. She didn’t think it was important for her to learn the skills required for her career. Juniors who didn’t flatter her couldn’t survive in her team, clients found her annoying but Geeta could never figure-out why suddenly everything started to turn around.
Shyam, on the other hand joined the industry after being a journalist for few years. His mental programming was slightly different from the practitioners who started their career in PR from the entry level. He could identify the stories well, but found it difficult or below his standards to request a journalist to consider his pitch. Freedom ran in his blood, corporate attire used to irritate him. He always believed that client didn’t understand much about their businesses or doing something unethical in the guise of running their business. Being a journo of great caliber didn’t make him a successful PR practitioner because he was not programmed to be one.
Ram, our hero was a self starter. Right from the beginning of his career as an executive knew what he wants to achieve from life or where he wants to be seen few years down the line. He was hardworking, always hungry for knowledge, did his job well, and while at the same time was humble to the core making him the most sought after person to hang around. His clients listened to his advice/recommendations than his senior colleagues as he was always ready with facts backing his advices. He remained focused in his career and within few years he was already heading a mid-size agency with a decent roaster of reputed clients. He was just another example of how a focus and belief can also make an ordinary chai wala, a prime minister of world’s largest democracy.
Ram’s case was exceptional, which is why we have few successful people and most are like Sita, Geeta or Shyam. The identity that we create for ourselves from our experiences gets so fixed to us that many of us start believing that it cannot be changed. As a result we never try to create a new identity for ourselves, creating real damage to our future. Many of us believe that we make awful presentations, can’t pitch correctly to the media, can’t write well etc., and find a way to fulfill our prophecy. Most of the time we literally groom ourselves to fail, before even trying.
So the question is how to do alter our identities? As per Marshall Goldsmith’s suggestion, we first need to review the various components of our current identity. Where did they originate? Then, review the matrix in the context of how you see yourself today – and who you would like to become in the future. If you present identity is fine with you, then work on becoming even better. If you want to make a change in your identity, be open to the fact that you may be able to change more than you originally believed that you could.
Also from the perspective of seeing others, we should understand that people do change over the period of time with experiences, self realizations and eye-openers. Hence labeling anyone based on the past experiences for their lifetime may only be foolish. So there is no harm in experimenting to work with people again, whom you once considered to be not worthy. Give it another chance and you may find real gems that were unpolished then.
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