Upon walking into my friend Lizzie’s apartment yesterday, I was disappointed to find that she had also invited a girl we’ll call ‘Marie’ over. Now I’ve never particularly liked Marie, although until yesterday, I couldn’t really tell you why. My interactions with her have always been fairly limited (considering she’s not my friend), so I’ve never really given her the opportunity to actually piss me off. Still, she has always rubbed me the wrong way. It’s as if I subconsciously feel like her very existence would have made the fake baby Jesus cry.
Lizzie and Marie were discussing Marie’s two cats when I arrived. Apparently, Marie had suddenly decided after 12 years that she no longer wanted to be a cat owner. Since Lizzie is a veterinarian, Marie was asking her advice on how to best go about finding them another home.
“I hate to tell you Marie,” Lizzie was saying, “But not a lot of people are looking to adopt two 12 year old cats. They are senior citizens at that age and most people would prefer not to bond with a cat that is just going die in a couple of years.”
I plopped down at the kitchen table and motioned for the two of them to continue their conversation. I have a theory that it’s impossible to reason with a jackass and Lizzie was in the process of proving me right.
“So what you’re saying is,” Marie asked, “That the only option I have is to keep the cats or get them put down?”
“Yeah, pretty much,” Lizzie answered.
“So I guess I have to get them put down!” Marie cheerfully concluded. “Only…would you mind taking them in and doing it for me? I’d rather not be there when it happens.”
Obviously surprised at Marie’s choice, Lizzie carefully responded, “Well, if you’re going to have them euthanized, it would probably be easier on them if you were there…” She trailed off helplessly.
“But, if I take them in to be euthanized without them actually being sick, people will think I’m a bad person!” Marie whined.
I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I cut in.
“They won’t think you’re a bad person,” I insisted, “They’ll know you’re a bad person.”
“But I’m not a bad person!” Marie objected, “I just don’t want cats anymore!”
“Well, I hate to break it to you,” I countered, “But killing two animals simply because you’re fucking bored with them is the very definition of a ‘bad person’ in my book. I’m guessing that most of the people in Lizzie’s office will agree with me. This doesn’t make them wrong. This makes you a shit head.”
I won’t bore you all with details of the screaming match that ensued after this little confrontation, but I did want to emphasis a very faulty way of thinking that seems to be becoming increasingly common among this generation. Namely, that we have the ability to invent the reality of our character on a whim. People seem to be under the impression that they are what they say they are. In other words, if they say they are a good person, it must be so. Their actions do not matter when deciding what kind of person they are. The only thing that matters is how they brand their self.
Speaking of branding, I was surfing around the Internet a few days ago when I ran across a website written by Dan Schawbel. Apparently, Dan Schawbel is a self described ‘personal branding expert.’ Less hip members of society might be wondering now what, exactly, is ‘personal branding.’ Lucky for us all, douche bag Dan Schawbel defines this little bit of idiocy for us. He states:
Personal branding describes the process by which individuals and entrepreneurs differentiate themselves and stand out from a crowd by identifying and articulating their unique value proposition, whether professional or personal, and then leveraging it across platforms with a consistent message and image to achieve a specific goal. In this way, individuals can enhance their recognition as experts in their field, establish reputation and credibility, advance their careers, and build self-confidence.
All of this goobly-gook is a clever way of saying that instead of going to the effort to become a certain sort of person, we can just insist that we are that sort of person until others give in and believe us. Instead of developing our personalities into something with substance, we can simply buy all of the proper accessories needed to project the right ‘image.’
Funny, back in the day, one enhanced their recognition as an expert in their field by actually going to the effort of becoming an expert in their field. They established a good reputation and advanced their careers with actual accomplishments. They did not just pop a logo on their backs and call it a day.
An artist isn’t an artist because he wears black turtlenecks, listens to sad music, paints his fingernails black, and carries a certain brand of fucking cell phone. An artist is an artist because he creates art. Likewise, it takes more than announcing yourself as a good person to become one. It doesn’t matter if you say you’re a good person, or think you’re a good person, or even in your deepest heart of hearts feel like a good person. A good person is someone who does good things. Words and intent do not matter. Actions do. Period.
A lot of people have described me as a good person, believe or not. They insist that because I ‘mean well’ that ultimately, I must be good. I try my best to explain to them that this is an incredibly faulty way of thinking. After all, if I were to jump a curb and run over a family of 4, I would be at fault. It doesn’t fucking matter that I didn’t ‘intend’ to kill them. They are still fucking dead. So yeah, my friends are correct in that I nearly always mean well. Unfortunately, there is more to being a good person than meaning well. It takes actual, tangible action to be good. I am a bad person simply because I do bad things. Intent doesn’t mean shit.
Personal branding is a bunch of garbage. We are not our clothes. We are not our accessories. We are not the music that we listen to or the city that we live in. We are not what we claim we are and we most definitely are not what we wish. We are not images. We are our actions.
If you are unhappy with the person you see in the mirror, think less about developing a personal brand and think more about actually becoming what you desire to be.
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