This week i am building out ideas around Reputation and Identity as part of my current writing around ‘The Roots of Story’.
Reputation can be viewed as a story, taking varied forms: partly we may seek to write that story ourselves, and partly it is written upon us by others. In either case, our story of reputation may be framed and contextualised by broader social stories: stories of gender, age, fashion, education, conformity, belief.
Reputation is likely not one, but rather a broad collection of stories, each contextually held, within varied social groups: so our ‘reputation’ with our friends may be very different from our reputation with our boss, or co-workers.
The story of our reputation travels before us, with us, and trails behind us. It precedes us into new encounters, contextualises us within the current encounter, and lies like footprints in a shadow of our actions as we move on.
We could view ‘reputation’ as a story that exists between ourselves and others, or sometimes simply between others. Certainly not a story that we own, and one that we can only tangentially influence. It may also be very difficult to throw off, and may have a long shelf life.
Identity, by contrast, may predominantly be an internalised story, that we sometimes perform for others.
There is plenty of evidence that we select a ‘self’ to perform in varied spaces: a ‘self’ of work, a ‘self’ of family, a ‘self’ under threat, and a ‘self’ that feels safe. Growing up may largely be seen as the rapid experimentation with a sequence of ‘selves’, some of whom seek to conform, and others rebel.
I think many discussions around Psychological Safety, something of a frenzied habit in many contemporary Organisations, may run the risk of viewing ‘self’ and ‘safety’ as one dimensional systems, when they are, in truth, fragmentary ones.
Which ‘self’ do we want in which space, and which ‘self’ are we seeking to make ‘safe’?
Possibly my ‘safety’ may lie precisely in the opposite: in not bringing my ‘whole self’ to work, but rather only bringing the aspect of self, or story of self, that feels safe.