The Struggle of Influence vs. Image

bryan_goldenBryan Golden
“Dare to Live Without Limits”

Which is more important to you; how you actually live your life—or how others perceive you?  The issue is the difference between “influence versus image.”  Those who follow a core set of internal beliefs that influence, or guide their actions—based on what they understand to be right—aren’t distracted by how they may appear to others.
Image-conscious people are just the opposite.  They make decisions based on how they will be perceived.  Other’s opinions govern their actions and associations. Their life is based on the reaction of those who see them, rather than a foundation of a firm set of personal convictions.
It’s easy to become overly image-conscious.  Image has become a media obsession.  The news, magazines, newspapers, commercials, and movies all give the impression that public image is of primary importance in determining one’s success. People whom the media say have the “right” image are lauded.  Those with the “wrong” image are adversely sensationalized in the headlines.  It’s easy to confuse your personal goals with those which are pressed upon you!
Who makes your decisions—the style of clothes you wear; the kind of car you drive; where you go on vacation; the type of house you buy, where it’s located, and how you decorate it?  You compromise who you are when you are excessively concerned about how you are perceived.
Furthermore, people generally don’t really care about what you do.  Opinions, solicited or not, flow freely.  Given the fickle, unpredictable nature of “acceptance,” do you want to always be chasing approval?
Rather than gearing your behavior to impress those around you, why not live by your core values, immune from criticism and condemnation?  Additionally, you will have a lasting impact on those around you by living an exemplary life, one you can be proud of.
Yes, you may receive criticism for not following the crowd.  Peer pressure is powerful…but don’t give in.  It’s well worth the effort required to stand firm in your beliefs.  The more you do it, the easier it becomes. Demonstrate, by your conduct, the value of following your inner voice instead of jumping to embrace the utterances of others.  By so doing, you define your life by influencing others rather than by being swamped by opinions.
Even though you are only one person, don’t underestimate the power of your example. When you have a positive influence on another person, there is a ripple effect.  Just as someone will follow your lead, another person will then follow their example. When you behave in a way that influences others, you make a real contribution.  Those who lead image-oriented lives continually have to alter course, following fickle winds. Buck the trend, live life on your terms.
Bryan is a management consultant, motivational speaker, author, and adjunct professor. E-mail Bryan at or write him c/o the Resident
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