I used to conduct a session on ‘First Impressions’ when I was working as a trainer with TCS. Over three and a half years, as part of this session, I’ve told my trainees innumerable times what people’s first impression about me has been. If I am to use the same words, all of my friends, which is a huge number in itself, without fail, have told me this at some point or the other in our friendship – “Radhu, you know what? I hated you when I met you for the first time. I thought you were a snob.” It was the same in school, college, PG days and work life.
For years together I thought of this line and analyzed it in different ways. Initially I thought it was because I took some time to open up and talk to people. So I tried changing myself a bit and started talking to everyone from the first day I met them. But the impression remained the same. Then I thought maybe it was because I talked a lot. This left me confused – what was I supposed to do? Talk or not talk? I tried everything. From smiling at people to make them find me approachable, to cracking jokes to make them feel I was friendly, to listening intently to make them feel I was understanding and what not. But the first impression never changed.
The more I thought of it, the more I realized one thing. No matter what you do, people will form impressions of you the way they want to. They will judge you the way they want to, because that’s how most people are. I used to get affected by this for some time because I really wasn’t a snob. I was just an ordinary girl who genuinely wanted to make friends. But no one would believe me. And it used to be a miserable feeling. It was very rarely that I came across a person who didn’t create any such pictures of me in mind and talked to me from the beginning with an open mind. Those few instantly became friends. But I was rather worried because of a major chunk of people taking me for someone I was not.
Later on in my life, when I grew as a person, I told myself it was okay. Because there were at least some people who wanted to give me a chance and get to know me. And most of those people stayed back as good friends. That gave me a lesson in life that those who want to be with you, will be with you. That lesson helped me immensely. It made me feel good that I wasn’t trying to be anyone else or doing anything I didn’t want to do, but being the way I was. It helped me filter out pretentious, materialistic friends and keep the ones who like me for who I am.
That is how I ended up embracing the Elle-18 tagline as my motto in life – “Be yourself!” Believe me, it can work wonders.