We live in a culture of appearances. Think, for a moment, about how many people you know — including yourself — who are constantly striving to project a certain image in order to impress, to communicate or even to connect with others.
When it comes to social media, when is the last time you posted a photo that reflects your reality? Whether it’s a filter you used to enhance the aesthetic, or an image that is more of a momentary glimpse of time than an accurate representation of your life, we select and post photos that we want others to base their perceptions upon. And while this may seem benign enough, when you consider that social media is a mere microcosm of the world we live in, the implications become a little more meaningful.
We have been conditioned to put on a façade when we want to give off a certain impression, or to tell people exactly what they want to hear. But in the long run, this effort to be anyone other than your authentic self is actually counterintuitive. Because here’s the thing — no matter how agreeable, how likable or how admirable you come off, if it’s not coming from a place of absolute truth and sincerity, then it doesn’t really hold much weight. And you will be even further away from cutting the cords to these illusions and truly accepting and embracing who you are at your core.
The great John Wooden once said: “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are…the true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”
Your true character is revealed in the details, in the seemingly trivial things. And it’s what we say and what we do when we act from our core self that really matters.
So who are you when no one is looking? Who are you at your core? This isn’t meant to pass judgment or to chastise. It’s simply meant to bring awareness to how you present yourself in different situations, and then ask yourself, “How can I be better…”
…IN MY RELATIONSHIP?
If you are in a committed relationship, step back and assess how your behavior and your actions change depending on whether your partner is with you or not. How do you interact with your colleagues at work? What choices do you make? Are you respectful of your partner and do you act in alignment with your values? Do you represent yourself and your relationship with dignity and respect? Or do you make what could be hurtful decisions?
Everything we do when we are not with our partner –the language we use, the texts we send, the company we keep, the environments we choose to put ourselves in — is a chance to show who you really are. And it’s a chance to strengthen your relationship. Because it’s easy to think that trust is built through loyalty — that if you are faithful to your partner and you show up when you’re supposed to, there really shouldn’t be much more to it. But reliability is different than trust. Trust comes when a partner truly feels that he or she has certainty that they are being put first — even when you are not physically with them.
…WITH WHAT I GIVE?
It’s easy to share strong opinions about what you believe, but are you doing anything about it?
Social media has become a prime platform for rants, raves and every soapbox opportunity imaginable. Spreading the message about a cause you believe in certainly has its benefits, but what are you doing to further the cause yourself? Do you donate your time or money? Are you starting or working for a business that will create positive change? Ask yourself how your actions and choices align with what you publicly support. For example, if you are posting about climate change but then go hop into a gas-guzzler to grab a burger, how much sense does that make?
Whether you are posting articles about a cause you believe in, or retweeting a link to a charity that needs help, any effort to garner social support is a step in the right direction. But if your actions and choices behind the scenes do not align with the values are you publicly endorsing, then it all becomes a farce. You will simply be projecting the idea that you are worldly, informed, compassionate, or whatever characteristic you are going for, without backing it up.
…WITH MY BODY?
This is not to harp on those that order a salad out in public, then return home only to binge on junk food. This is about when you push yourself to go the extra mile when no one else will notice. This is about making the hard decisions when there is no public reward. What do I mean by this?
Think about those long days at work. You were going a million miles per minute and are just exhausted. The easy choice is to put on sweats and veg out on the couch. But what if you hit the gym, or went on a brisk 2-mile run? Or just got your blood flowing with a 20-minute yoga session at home? What would that say about your dedication to your health and your body? What would that say about the type of person you are?
It’s easy to pick up fast food for a meal. The hard decision is to take the extra time and effort to nourish and energize your body the right way. But step back and think about it. If you made the hard choice, what would that say about your dedication to your goals? What would that say about your ability to commit in general?
It’s the decisions we make when it is not convenient or when we aren’t being praised in public that define who we are. It’s the midnight workout. It’s setting the alarm clock 30 minutes earlier. It’s making the time and the effort to take better care of your body, and your well-being, that can set you apart.
…IN MY PROFESSIONAL LIFE?
In your professional career, you’ve likely encountered a coworker or a supervisor that makes keeping your composure a daily challenge. From the person who seems to have the answer to anything and everything, to the guy that has made sucking up to superiors an art form, to the ones who “accidentally” reply all so that everyone can be impressed by their accomplishments — people love to show others how busy and how important they are to the company. Some will even send a company email over the weekend just to let people see how committed they are to their work. But the real value they bring to the business is not measured by their public displays of hubris. It’s measured by what they do when no one is watching.
How much thought and care do you put into your work? Are you meticulous in your approach or is your primary goal to get the work done in record time?
How productive are you behind the scenes? Are you spending most of the day browsing the internet then changing screens when your boss comes by? Or are you working diligently and taking breaks to replenish and revitalize your body and mind so you can be even better when you return to the desk?
How do you treat your fellow coworkers? Are you respectful of their time? Do you help those lower in status? Or do you spend your time gossiping and treating others with disregard?
Step back and think about what you bring to your place of work. Assess how you add value, and ask yourself if this is something you can truly be proud of. Because you are only hurting yourself when you do not do everything you can to reach your potential. If you find yourself unmotivated and uninspired in your current work environment, perhaps it’s time to make a change.
…WITH MY OWN BUSINESS?
It’s easy to talk about building a business. It’s easy to develop a website, design a logo and even write up a business plan. But if you haven’t yet gone out and validated your business and taken real action towards growing, then you are still a wantrapreneur. Wantrapreneurs are incredibly adept at talking about their business. They will often refer to themselves as the CEO, in spite of the fact they are the only person at their business. And they are great at posting on social media about their #startuplife. But when it comes down to actually building a business, for a wantrapreneur, unfortunately, all that talk and all that show doesn’t mean a thing.
Real entrepreneurs don’t focus on what others think about their status or title. They care about one thing — building a product or service that people want. And this is no small feat. Building a business, really taking something from zero to one, entails an immense amount of work. It requires late nights, little sleep and a lot of sacrifice. It requires a constant thirst for knowledge, and a commitment to your vision. It’s requires hustle, taking real, purposeful action that results in something meaningful. And for an entrepreneur, none of this makes them hesitate, because they demand more from themselves than anybody else.
So what are you — a wantrapreneur or an entrepreneur? How do you drive your business forward every single day? What lengths are you willing to go to find success?
At the end of the day, when you put on a front, the only person you are short-changing is yourself. What kind of person do you want to be? What kind of relationships do you want? When was the last time you put your health first? You have the power to make the decision to step up — to do better, to be better, and to achieve the life you deserve. But it starts with taking an accurate and real assessment of where you are at this very moment.
This post is authored by the Tony Robbins editorial team and first appeared on the Tony Robbins blog.