Derek Sivers

from the book “”:

The public you is not you

2007-09-25

I hope you don’t have to learn this lesson the way I did.

One day, I wrote a blog post sharing what I had learned while switching between the PHP programming language and Ruby on Rails framework. At the time, my blog had no readers, so I didn’t think anyone would see it. I just wrote it for the record.

But when I woke up the next morning, my post was all over the tech news sites, and it was like I had insulted everyone’s religion. There were over a thousand comments saying that I was a complete idiot and a terrible programmer.

At first I was upset and insulted, like anyone would be. Then, luckily, something switched in my head and I realized the most important point: They weren’t talking about me. They were talking about a cardboard cut out that looked like me. A little online avatar that has the same name as me, but is not me.

I couldn’t be offended when they said I was a terrible programmer, because they had never seen my code. I couldn’t be offended when they said I was an idiot, because they didn’t know me. They had read a few paragraphs of an article and spewed some insults. Their reactions had nothing to do with the real me.

Suddenly it was like watching a little videogame character get attacked. It was funny to watch, part of the game, and not personal at all.

Then I realized it was the same with compliments. I couldn’t take praise personally, either. Some people have liked things I’ve written or made, and have said nice things about me. But those aren’t the real me, either.

So the conclusion is this: Public comments are just feedback on something you made. They’re worth reading to see how this thing has been perceived. You can even take it as feedback on the public image you’ve created. All people know is what you’ve chosen to show them. So if your public persona is coming across wrong, try tweaking it.

Never forget that the public you is not you.