I am the nice guy. I am the Teddy Bear. I am the guy you come to if you're looking for a good laugh. I am the compassionate one. I am the guy who will get it done and get it done right the first time, or at least delegate it to the right people who will get it done right the first time. I AM WRONG ABOUT ALL OF THE ABOVE!
I am a manager for a large company, and I manage a lot of people on any given day. Some of these people I know very well and they know me to be the guy who I have described above. Some of the people don't know me very well, which is where the heart of this post beats like a tympany.
There is a woman who has worked in my building for less than a year or a year at the very most. Other than the occasional smile and or obligatory "hello", we really don't know each other at all. The other day, she happened to be near me while I was joking and laughing with one of my subordinates. I saw her look at me and then double take as if I had a booger on my cheek or something. So, I say to her with a lingering smile still hanging on my face, "What's up?" Her response was that she hadn't ever seen my teeth, she had never seen me smile and that to her I have always seemed so stoic and intimidating. Stoic?..............Stoic? I have never in all of my life been refered to as stoic. Intimidating perhaps, but never stoic. So, with my quick wit, forked tongue and newly discovered stoic intimidation, I looked her straight in the eye and said,"When you say stoic, do you mean stoic like I am as solid as a rock and an unwavering pillar of this organization, or do you mean stoic like my brain is an indifferent rock rattling around in my skull?" Needless to say we have laughed and joked about it every day since and she seems to be a lot more comfortable around me than she did before.
What I have taken from this unintended misrepresentation of my own identity is that, you are not who you are, you are who other people perceive you to be. Whether they are wrong about you or not, that's who you are to them. If you look at it that way, does it change the way you conduct yourself or do you just keep being who you perceive yourself to be?