The hotshot crew raved about our employee Gary (not his real name; apologies to Garys everywhere), when we sent him with them on a fire assignment. "He's a really hard worker, and doesn't talk much," they said. "And he has a great attitude!"
We considered this. Hard worker? Yes. Doesn't talk much? Debatable. Great attitude? We snickered. Not so much.
Gary went about his day with a permanent chip on his shoulder, often taking it out on us. Somehow we were the reason he wasn't getting ahead in his career, not his inability to get along with others or his negative mutterings about pretty much everything. How could the hotshots not have seen this, we wondered.
Then it dawned on me. They hadn't met Gary, not really. They had met his representative.
Everyone has a representative. The representative is who shows up at the beginning of a new job, a new relationship, or a new social setting. It's sometimes called "putting your best foot forward." Social media is full of people's representatives: only the good photos, and the most interesting situations, make the cut.
Most people can't keep it going for very long in person. We had met Gary's representative briefly when we hired him; however he soon relapsed into his real self. His representative was very different from the reality.
A representative can be a good thing. Mine has gotten me through some social situations that I dreaded, assisted me with public speaking, and gained me some hiking partners I might not have gotten otherwise. I've learned a lot from my representative: I feel that she has many qualities I strive for. In the end, though, your representative just gets you a foot in the door. It's up to you to keep walking through it as the real, genuine, complex person that you are.
|This beach in Hawaii is called Shark Bay; even my representative wouldn't swim at a beach with that name!|