Image from Pexels

Image from Pexels

You have it. I have it. We all have it. Now, what would that be? A bellybutton! Just kidding; we all have a reputation. Think about it. When you see someone, there is always an idea or opinion about that person that just pops into your head: slacker, geek, stylish, athletic and so on and so forth. Whether or not you have ever interacted with that person, the opinion still presents itself in your mind. Sometimes it can be a great reputation, while other times it can be pretty negative.

However, whether it is positive or negative, I hate all reputations. Now that may sound a tad extreme, but let me explain myself. My hatred for reputations may be partially – actually it is – rooted in the fact that I believe my own reputation is quite incorrect and not representative of my person at all. Apparently, I’m perceived as a socially awkward overachiever who is also mildly (or for some, extremely) intimidating. Contrary to popular belief, I am not really any of those characteristics. I am actually quite carefree and just a bit introverted at times (it’s not my fault I like to stay home and sleep and read instead of going out). If there is such a large discrepancy in how I view myself and how my peers and my community seemingly view me, one of us must be incorrect.

One of the main issues I have with reputations is that (from my experience) they are often based off of one moment and an interpretation by one person – or a small group. Therefore, it is extremely subjective and highly likely to be incorrect. Often times I see a person I have never talked to in the hall and immediately think, “Oh, I heard s/he is really uptight.” That opinion is immediately ingrained in my mind just because I heard a friend speak about the person in that way. A reputation is just not a fair way to judge someone of his/her entire person. Moreover, they are often contrived by the person’s appearance. How much can an appearance really reveal about a person? Almost nothing. There is no substance to a reputation.

Furthermore, there have been plenty of times where I was too afraid to approach someone because of his/her reputation. I admit that I was partially in the wrong for not ignoring the reputation. However, there are so many incredible people in this world, and just missing out on understanding a person because of a reputation is something I now find appalling. A reputation does not define a person. It shrinks the person by trying to cram who the person is – all his/her characteristics and passions – into a word or two. We miss out so much just because we are too afraid to approach these people with so-called “bad” reputations. Recently, I have had the chance to observe these types of people in one of my classes that I never expected to have seen these types of people in. One of the students, who is not known for being a “genius,” is actually much smarter than I had thought. Looking back, I see that my surprise was totally uncalled for. Why did I have the right to make any judgments about this student before even seeing him in a classroom setting? It was entirely unfair for me to make a conclusion before I had any evidence.

Often times, these reputations can be harmful to the person as well. Bullying can often occur due to a false rumor and thus a false reputation. Another instance can be seen in any type of group project setting (boy, those sure are the bee’s knees). As the type of person who often is viewed as intense and overachieving, I usually get all the work dumped on me. How is that fair (the world isn’t fair, Jenny)? Just because I care a bit more about my grades, does that mean that the rest of my group has the right to just expect me to complete the project? No. it goes the other way as well. Sometimes, I don’t trust some of my group members. Just because my peers did not try their hardest on the most recent project, does not mean that I should doubt any of their sincerity when they wish to help out.

Basically, what I want to say is that reputations really don’t mean anything. Never will they define a person. Without ever meeting a person, there is no way to actually make a definitive judgment as to who the person is. And, if you’re the person with the bad reputation, take some advice from Joan Jett.

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the author

Jenny Zhang is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, who is thinking about majoring in economics (but that is definitely not set in stone). She has many talents such as falling asleep anywhere at any time (this can be verified by her roommate) and procrastinating. Jenny likes to spend a lot of her time on YouTube watching baby videos and obsessing over anything Jeremy Lin-related while eating various forms of food that are high in sugar and/or fat. She is currently trying to learn how to play Ultimate Frisbee to avoid the Freshman 15 and attempting to perfect her street-crossing techniques. Her spirit animal is a panda. You can follow her on Twitter @JenKnee_Z

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