The following is a variation of a conversation that happens more often than I'd like to admit: Person: "I always thought you were kind of a jerk until I actually had a conversation with you and got to know you." Me: "...Thank you?"
It's a confusing spot to find myself in. I guess it's a good thing--I'm apparently not actually a jerk, and people feel comfortable enough to share that with me.
I'm aware of the fact that, especially when I'm focused on a task, I can hone in on whatever it is I'm doing while ignoring everything and everyone else around. It can come off at best preoccupied and at worst cold or standoffish.
I think, though, that what these conversations prove more than anything else is that I can't control what people think of me. And that drives me crazy. I'm not much of a Type A personality, not much of a perfectionist or control freak...until it comes to my image and people's perception of me. I hate that I could work hard to be a certain kind of person or to live my life with certain values and there will still be people who think, "That guy's kind of a jerk." Or "That guy doesn't care." Or, worse yet, "That guy can't possibly eat that whole pizza" (because I CAN). Or "That guy is a quitter" (this is for another post, another day entirely).
How could someone think that? What am I doing wrong? What do I need to change?
The answer, for me, is nothing.
My closest friends--those who rub shoulders with me and do life with me--they know who I am. They know what I'm about. They know all of my strengths, all of my positive qualities, and they're also the only ones who really know my weaknesses. When it comes time for me to face a shortcoming that demands a change, those people will be the ones to facilitate that.
Not the people who see me walking through the lobby at church.
Not the people who pass me in the hallway at work.
Not the people who think they know who I am because they see me post some random thought on Facebook.
Not the people who haven't seen the man behind the curtain: the hopes, the dreams, the fears, the struggles, the failures, the rallies, the loud moments, the quiet moments, the moments I jump up and down laughing, the times I can't sit down because I'm so angry.
For the people who know that guy, I'm laid bare, and they see me for who I am. Good and bad.
I can't waste my time trying to live my life in such a way that pleases every single person in my sphere of influence or interaction. It's impossible, and I will wear myself out chasing the wind.
So if you're someone who's thought of me as a jerk, I'm sorry, but this probably won't help: I can't worry about that anymore, so I won't. But anytime you'd like to sit down and have a conversation and share life together, I'm game.