This phrase is famously quoted in the seminal (in my opinion) movie, Wayne’s World, and attributed to either “Kierkegaard or Dick Van Patten”.  It’s not always easy to control how we are defined by others, but we all make attempts to do so.  Often random events or idiosyncrasies become how other people relate to you, to the extent of disregarding all the other things that you do.  Say for example you were the fat kid at school, or speccy, or wet yourself on that school trip to Largs.  Say you were the class swot, a child actor, or had a No1 hit as a teenager.  It can be very difficult to become known for anything else that you do, once you are identified with something in particular.

An Aberdeen comedian tells the story, “It doesn’t matter if you scored the winning goal for Scotland, landed on the moon or cured cancer.  They don’t give you a nickname for that.  But you shag one sheep….!”

As adults, we are most often defined by our jobs.  “Oh look, there’s Joe the plumber, Bill the Optician, Stephen the… actually I don’t know what he does.  Something to do with jobs and the Internet.”  The only place you don’t see this is at the school gates, when dropping off or collecting kids.  Adults are then defined by their kids, and usually judged on the behaviour of their kids with yours.  “That’s Mary Malloy, Mark’s mum. Mark, who was in the school play, and had a fight with Jamie Potter, and wouldn’t let our Timmy play with them. They’re a bad lot those Malloys”.  Mary Malloy may well be a GP or a High Court judge, but in this case she is defined by her kids and parenting skills.  I must confess that if I wanted to be judged for one thing, it would be for my three sons, as by far my best achievement.

Nowadays, more than ever before, we can manage the public perception of ourselves by the use of social media.  In the past, the only time most of us would publicly portray ourselves, would be via a CV, which detailed our professional lives.  And of course, that CV would contain none of the values, personality, and extra-curricular activities that give the fuller picture of who we are.  However, by using this blog as a platform, I am able to give a fuller insight into who I am, how I think, and what I believe, both personally and professionally.  By using Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Youtube,, Spotify, 4Square etc I am giving the kind of insight that previously only close friends and associates would be privy to.  I may even give air to thoughts I would be unable to express to a friend.  In doing so, I am taking charge of how I am defined.  If someone remembers me from school as a fat speccy kid, they can see that it’s no longer the case now.  By taking charge of the things that define me, on my own terms, I can ensure that everything else that I do is not negated by shagging that one sheep.


Stephen O'Donnell is a lifelong recruiter, internet enthusiast, fadgadget and peripatetic writer.

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