“You only know me as you see me, not as I actually am." ~ Immanuel Kant
Have you ever come up with a great idea at work and told your boss about it, only to find yourself sitting in a meeting, fuming, while she takes credit for the idea, as if she thought it up herself? I have. It’s not fun. It’s enraging. In my case, I didn’t say anything to anyone about it, I just found another job and quit. That boss, that job, that company were ruined for me. I could never again want to do my best for them. You might think that was petty of me or that that’s just the way it is in business and everyone simply has to suck it up, that it happens all the time, always has and always will. Alternatively, you might tell me I should have confronted the boss or told others it was my idea. Really? How do you think that would have gone for me? No thanks. What you might not think is that I should have gone home, decluttered my bookcases, placed red pillows on the sofa, hung a crystal in the window and sunburst artwork on the wall, and added plants in red pots, candles, and a ceramic leopard to the room. I didn’t back then, but when I started studying Feng Shui, that’s exactly what I did to my living room, which happened to be in the Fame and Reputation area of my home bagua.
But let’s back up a bit here. Although we live in the era of the Kardashians and all the varieties of Real Housewives, when everyone is supposed to crave fame or at least a video blog with millions of viewers, most of us will never be famous or even want to be. However, we all have a reputation, or really several reputations, and how we are thought of and treated by others is an important part of our lives. We all want to be seen as we are and treated with respect. We all want others to recognize our abilities and accomplishments. We all want to be judged fairly, based on who we really are, what we really do, and what we’re really capable of.
The whole idea of creating and maintaining a “personal brand” is a recent addition to the Western cultural lexicon. It has even developed some negative connotations, worthy of ridicule, since many have tried — often, successfully — to create a public persona that is not honest and is only meant to manipulate others into believing lies and buying some kind of product, whether a line of clothing, an expensive car, a political candidate, or even a particular sport or television show. Human beings are not products, and what most of us want is just for others to see us as good, smart, competent, and reliable. So, while we may not want to be associated with self-serving machinations, Fame and
Reputation is an important area of life for all of us. We can’t ignore it and expect it to be strong and healthy.
This is a good place to examine your self-awareness. Who do you think you are? Who do you want others to think you are? How do you want to be treated by others? No one is perfectly aware of themselves or of how others see them, at least partly because we’re always changing and self-awareness is a never-ending process. However, it’s worth spending a little time getting as familiar as we can with this aspect of our lives, because it affects us in community with others, from our everyday interactions to our overall success and happiness in life. We may want the people we work with to see us as honest, hard-working, capable, intelligent, reliable, and talented, while we care more about the people in our neighborhood seeing us as respectful, tidy, quiet, and law-abiding. Maybe we want our friends to see us as kind, generous, fun, trustworthy, and helpful, while we want our clients to see us as expert and discreet. We live in a variety of communities, and each one comes with its own set of appropriate qualities for us to aspire to.
In the 1950s, two psychologists, Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham, came up with what they called “Johari’s window” — a way to examine yourself from four viewpoints:
What you know about yourself that others also know.
What you know about yourself that others don’t know.
What others know about you that you don’t know.
What both you and others don’t know about you.
A two-dimensional representation of Johari’s Window looks like four boxes, two on top and two on the bottom. The top left-hand box is for your the things you know about yourself that others know, too, or your Open Self. Next to that, on the right, is the box for things you don’t know about yourself, but other people do know, or your Blind Self. On the bottom, the left-hand box is for your Hidden Self, the things you know about yourself, but others don’t. And, finally, the box on the bottom right represents your Unknown Self, things both you and others don’t know about you. From a list of 56 adjectives, you choose the ones you believe describe you and someone else chooses the ones they think describe you. The adjectives are then split up between the appropriate boxes — what both you and the other person think you are, what you think you are, but the other person doesn’t, and what the other person thinks you are, but you don’t. The Unknown Self box will alway be empty, since neither you nor others can offer any information there.
Here are the 56 adjectives used for the Johari’s Window exercise:
This exercise can help clarify your reputation in all your various communities, and that clarification can help you see where some changes might be in order. Remember that different people, from different parts of your life, will likely choose different adjectives, because they know you in different contexts. Also, we don’t all have exactly the same understanding or connotations for the 56 words, so some variation in definitions is inevitable. But overall, it’s a useful tool for elucidating the reputations you have and the ones you want. You can stretch the boxes by learning more about yourself and what others believe about you, and sharing more of yourself with others.
The Fame and Reputation area is at the top of your bagua, in the center. So when you place your bagua over your floor plan, it’s in the center section of the wall opposite the mouth of ch’i wall. It’s associated with the color red, or a range of reds, and with the element of Fire. So, you can enhance the reputation area of your life by decluttering this area, and then decorating with reds (from burgundies through oranges), triangular shapes, and artwork depicting the sun, fire, people and animals. Also, light from windows, skylights, and lighting fixtures or lamps bring Fire into the room, and candles add Fire, even if they are not lit or are fake candles with LED flickering “flames.” If you don’t already have a fireplace here, you can add a fake one, if you wish, or use a DVD of fireplace flames on your television.
However, don’t forget to represent the other elements as well, and think about which room of your home falls in your Fame and Reputation quadrant. For example, too much Fire element might give you trouble sleeping, if it happens to be your bedroom. On the other hand, too much of the Water element can put out that Fire, so watch out for the color black or very dark blues and greens, seascapes, wavy and asymmetrical shapes, glass and mirrors. If a watery place, like a bathroom or pool happens to be in your Fame and Reputation gua, that’s less than ideal, but can be helped by beefing up all the other, non-Water Elements. Remember that Wood weakens Water and fuels Fire, while Earth destroys Water, but also weakens Fire. Color is the easiest and most powerful way to add Elements, but a fire pit or barbecue near a pool can also enhance Fire in this area. Be creative in finding ways to incorporate the needed Elements.
This is also the area where you will want to have specific symbols of what you want people to know about you and how you want them to see you. For example, depending on what room this is in your home, you can place framed diplomas and certifications (this works best in your home office), or photos of you in settings that say what you want to say about yourself — in your work, with your family, or with other people. Objects such as paperweights, statues, or even small toys can symbolize your life’s work, profession, or a part of you that you want others to know (one of the 56 adjectives from Johari’s window).
Find the Fame and Reputation area of your home. What room or rooms are here?
How much of the Fire element — reds, triangles and cone shapes, flames and electric lights, animals, people — do you see?
How much of the Water element — black and dark blues and greens, glass, mirrors, wavy and asymmetrical shapes — do you see?
Rebalance the Elements, remembering to maximize Fire and minimize Water, in a manner that is appropriate to this room.
Finish these sentences for each community in which you live (work, neighborhood, church, school, etc.):
I want people to see that I am….
I want to be respected as….
Words I want other people to use to describe me are….
Find symbols of the qualities and accomplishments you want people to know about you. Choose at least one object that represents who you want others to know you as and place it in the Fame and Reputation zone of your home.