Scott H Young

Stop Trying to Impress People


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Someone once told me that, “Integrity is being the same person in your house that you are on the street.” More than just integrity, I think that consistency has a huge effect on your self-image. How can you be comfortable with yourself if you feel the need to impress other people?

The people I have the most respect for aren’t trying to get my respect. They are just living their lives. Any respect I have is a side-effect, not the purpose of what they do. Despite this, society is fueled by marketing. Having the right image, resume or introduction can mean better friends, relationships or million dollar business deals.

For a long time I’ve had trouble reconciling this problem. On one side, not trying to impress other people leaves your self-image independent and it is the only route to get genuine respect from other people. However, in a world driven by first impressions, people see the clothes you wear first, and not your integrity.

Dressing for Yourself

A friend of mine once told me that he dresses to look good for himself. He doesn’t put the effort in order to impress other people. But even if he dresses for himself, it still impresses other people. Although this was just an offhand comment from a friend, I feel it hints at the solution to the paradox I mentioned at the start of the article.

Although some people who don’t try to impress are cool and non-chalant, most aren’t. Instead, these are the people with unpolished social skills, makeshift appearances and bad resumes. Life isn’t going to reward them, in spite of their integrity.

I think a better approach is the one my friend spoke of. Dress to impress, but to impress yourself. I think that philosophy applies to a lot more than fashion. Any time you’re doing things with the goal of boosting a resume, being popular or marketing to others, you should internalize it. Make your goal to impress yourself, not just the other people around you.

Private Motivation

Impressing other people should always be a side-effect of the way you live life, not the main goal. Aside from losing integrity, putting impressiveness first has other dangers. One is that it is harder to stay motivated if the reasons are only superficial.

I certainly don’t want to sound self-important, but the few things I have accomplished in my personal life weren’t done for other people. I didn’t become a vegetarian, start waking up early or read seventy books in a year so I would have blog posts to write about.

A year ago, when I was starting the website, a reader had a recommendation for promoting the website. He suggested I try a crazy stunt like Steve Pavlina’s polyphasic sleep experiment in order to get more attention. While that might have brought in a few visitors, I told him that I never wanted my self-improvement efforts to become a marketing tactic. I’m not saying that was Steve’s motivation for trying out crazy sleeping habits, just that it couldn’t be mine.

I wouldn’t have the motivation to do it. There is no way I could spend months of my life striving for something, just to write a short article about it later. Staying committed requires private motivation. Not just the motivation to act in front of others, but the motivation to be the same when there is nobody looking at you.

How to Impress Yourself

I strive to impress myself. This means setting my appearance, communication style and goals towards what I see as being ideal. This doesn’t mean I ignore all the first impressions and marketing advice. It just means that my main goal is to impress myself and let other people think what they want.

Although this is a freeing mindset, it isn’t easy to accomplish. I’m certainly not perfect and it takes a lot of discipline to keep yourself focused on your ideal self-image, not the immediate reactions of other people. It’s often easier to take a short cut and just follow the opinions of other people than it is to have integrity.

Whenever I see myself focusing too much on impressiveness, I try to turn that focus inwards. Instead of going to the gym to look better for other people, I go to be strong, healthy and look good for myself. Turning those motivations inwards helps you ignore the shallow feedback from other people and focus on your deeper drives.


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24 Responses to “Stop Trying to Impress People”

  1. Kali says:

    Good article, Scott. I agree the goal should be to impress yourself, not others around you … Sometimes you mention a goal to someone and their attitude towards it is kind of pessimistic (of course, they deem it realistic and maybe it is). But this pessimism can sometimes be very helpful because it makes you look within to see how much you really want. If the realization is you do, indeed, want this then the consequence is action to reconcile where you are and where you want to be.

  2. Shanel Yang says:

    Very thought-provoking post! Maybe what I strive for now is not so much dressing to impress myself as to just be myself. I’m pretty hard to impress. ; ) If I tried to dress to impress myself, I’d spend a fortune. But, being myself — now, that’s another story.

    The problem was I did dress to impress myself, and my tastes were always much more expensive than anyone else’s around me. It always made me feel great to wear those clothes, whether anyone saw me in them or not. The feel of the fabric against my skin on a well made suit is a luxury like no other! It made me feel like I was wearing nothing at all, yet strangely glamorous and powerful at the same time. Then, I had to wake up to the fact that I simply could not afford to keep impressing myself with my clothes. I let it go — for now.

    My wardrobe is still me, but it doesn’t impress me at all. It’s just sweats, jeans, and tee-shirts 99% of the time. That’s freed me to focus on other things besides what to wear everyday. Now, I impress myself with what I produce on my blog. I “wear” my words instead. I think it was a good trade-off. : )

    Thanks for another great post, Scott!

  3. Avani-Mehta says:

    Stumbled upon your site. Enjoying your articles. Looking forward to read more.

  4. Sara says:

    I like the distinction between not trying to impress other people and trying to impress yourself. Those who don’t even try to impress themselves are aiming pretty low. There are cases where trying to impress another person can be a good thing, though, provided it’s someone who has earned your respect. Still, the more satisfying victories tend to be those we win for ourselves.

  5. david says:

    Great post, Scott!

    One area where this apply in my life is exercising, like you briefly mentioned towards the end of your post.

    Lately, I think I unconsciously have shifted focus from wanting to become more fit and better looking to impress and get attention from others, to instead have more energy and feel better in the long term. I have not been totally aware of this process, but reading this post, I think what I have been starting to do is to shift focus to impressing myself. And I have found it now to be so much easier to push past those first weeks that normally would have me give up, being discouraged for not seeing results fast enough. I no longer feel it is something I _have_ to do, something that is forced upon me (by myself), but as something I _want_ to do for myself.

    It’s such a subtle change of focus, but it is very powerful!

  6. Scott Young says:

    Kali,

    I agree. If you’re going for the “impress others first” mindset, you might get off track on your personal goals.

    -Scott

  7. Rich says:

    Great idea. I had been wondering how to internalise goals and the idea of impressing yourself is really useful.

  8. peaches says:

    This doesn’t make sense. You always internalize your attempts to impress people. If, for instance, everyone in the world except me went blind, I would still despair over a ten pound weight gain. So I would be “impressing myself” as I attempted to lose that weight, but it would all go back to internalization of external messages of what I’m supposed to look like. And as you can see, being conscious of it doesn’t even help much.

    This doesn’t work because you are taking the very problem itself and claiming that it is the solution.

  9. Scott Young says:

    peaches,

    I disagree. The point of internalization is so that you do actions because they are important to you on a personal level, not out of guilt.

    For example, internalizing something like weight loss might mean that eating healthy and exercising are important to you, regardless of what other people consider the ideal body type. Perhaps I should have been more careful with my description in the article.

    -Scott

  10. […] Stop Trying to Impress People – “Someone once told me that, “Integrity is being the same person in your house that you are on the street.” More than just integrity, I think that consistency has a huge effect on your self-image. How can you be comfortable with yourself if you feel the need to impress other people?” […]

  11. Eamon says:

    Just want to add something to this debate. I think Scott is making some valid points but I would add that the inverse of impressing yourself also applies. In other words, although it is a good idea to try to impresss yourself, it is also a good idea to identify your own minimum standards and to not go below these. Now other people may have higher minimum standards, in which case they will view your behaviour (whihc might be at YOUR minimum) without much respect. However, the point is: YOU DON’T CARE! This frees you up from trying to raise your minimum standards JUST to please other people.

  12. Avi says:

    Scott, I agree with you that one does not need to impress others, it is one of the reason for some much pressure in human society today. Try to be acceptable.
    We also cannot be self-obsessed remember!!

  13. Kim says:

    Wow, Your article’s inspiring!
    I’m just starting my first year of college and I really hope I don’t get caught up with other people’s lives again. In highschool I was very shy and quiet. Whenever someone new entered my life I usually latched myself onto them. I just loved the feeling of being noticed and being apart of the excitement. I became so obsessed though that I did anything to get attention and it really left me depressed. I feel like sometimes I try so hard to impress people that I start hating the things that I’d normally love. I also want others to feel satified so I feel bad whenever something right happens in my life but something wrong happens to theirs. Thanks for words of encouragement though!:)

  14. Saad says:

    Until today, I had never realized that there was someone out there that felt and thought the same. I happened to just come across your website and you’ve discussed the same things that I’ve thought about. I see that you’re also experimenting the same thing I am! It’s hard to get more out of life… but once you get the hang out it, you never forget.

    To get more out of life today, I went to a completely random Chinese restaurant and had the most amazing dish. It’s been 4 hours and I’m still cherishing it.

    :) keep it up man!

  15. Jeff says:

    Scott,

    This is a nice website, and the article was very helpful! This was the line that I think sums it all up for me “Impressing other people should always be a side-effect of the way you live life”

    Here is an article form our site on the same topic that is right in line with your thoughts. We thought your readers might like this as well http://www.topsuccesssite.com/2011/08/31/how-to-impress-people/.
    Again, very well done! The Editors at TopSuccessSite.com really liked your article! We have added your site as a favorite as well!

    Thanks,

    Jeff Moore
    CEO TopSuccessSite.com

  16. Chan says:

    Nice article!!

  17. M.S says:

    Dear Sir,
    I have found a good way not to impress people. It is found in Joyce Meyer’s books – Addiction Approval. and some good preacher’s teaching like Dr. Creflo Dollar’s teaching.
    I never read your books, perhaps i m in a small country. i will take note on your books and buy it when i go to big book shop in Singapore.

  18. M.S says:

    Dear Sir,
    In the book ‘Addiction Approval’ written by Joyce Meyer, it is mentioned that other opinion about us is not our responsibility but it is between them and God.
    If we so care what people say about us, we become a big meal of satan. Her books become best selling in previous year.
    I believe that taking God out from our life formulae could not solve the roots of our problem. Every problem normally have the roots problem. if the roots problem could not be solved, it will appear again and again.

  19. D says:

    Thanks Scott,
    You just saved my 7 days of coming to the conclusion. Reading your post was difficult as it again forced me to see the reality and accept it. I have been having a constant battle of accepting that I do it. I finally agreed this morning that I constantly try to do things that impress others and it is much deeper than your post.. . I have realized that trying to impress others never really helps and finally we resort to emotionally blackmailing those who are close to us and this is not fair. Much credit goes to my family and some of my friends that they kept getting blackmailed. But finally it does not help, as it diverts us from our main goal. Thanks to my Boyfriend that he never got emotionally blackmailed, not that he clearly mentioned it to me and I still don’t know if he is aware of it. I hope since I have taken the first step of accepting it and I will find a way to integrity. Thanks a ton.

  20. Pelegrin says:

    Simple response here, but it has come to be philosopher-cynics view of life. In truth, in the great majority of cases, trying to impress others is seld-defeating. The more you try to impress others, sure the more you might apparently on the surface gain, but in reality the more the very same others will try to take advantage of you. They recognize that you have this desire to impress them, and they use that to get more and more out of you. That applies to all areas of life. The only exception might be with respect to those who love you and have loved you even before you ever had opportunity to try to impress them in any way.

    In work, the more employers think they can get from you, the more they will ask for. In relationships, if you begin by impressing your partner leading them to enter into the relationship with you, then they will almost certainly continue to expect you to continue making that same effort; and when you don’t… well that’s generally when the problems in the relationship begin.

  21. Gurj says:

    this article makes so much sense, what I struggle with is that I come across nonchalant people have complimented me on various things such as my body posture, my walk, my confidence, my looks and so on, but because I’m more myself, I find it hard to connect with people. So even though I’m doing my own thing and being myself, I find it hard to connect with others when it feels like they’re all just trying to fit in and talking about the same stuff that I really don’t care for. Any thoughts?

  22. claire says:

    I really take on board your comment,,, “dress to impress myself”.. not others… I do sometimes seek out others approval,, when really I know I am a g ood, honest person.. it can be hard sometimes.. interesting and helpful article – Thanks

  23. […] The point isn’t to impress other people with your clothes; the point is to impress yourself. […]

  24. Impress Off! says:

    This is an interesting topic, and a widespread failing of human kind in my mind. I am nauseated by people who do things in order to impress others, more so now after I realised and eventually accepted it was indeed a failing within myself, at least it used to be. Why do people do it? To garner respect, heightened social standing, and to wallow on the plane of ‘I’m better than you’. Don’t people who do it realise it quite often brings about a polar opposite reaction within the minds of those they are impressing? As it happens, I now pity and loathe in equal measures people who consciously or subconsciously attempt to impress others. Aside from the reek of insecurity for which I can find some sympathy, I have generally found people with a definite leaning in this direction to be high on my reasons to dwell in misanthropy.

Debate is fine, flaming is not. Pretend that this comment form is a discussion taking place in my house. That means I enjoy constructive criticism and polite suggestions. Personal attacks, insults and all-purpose nastiness will be removed especially if it is directed at other readers.

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