Impressions are a Pseudo-Greatness

What to avoid and what to build as you navigate your life’s path

Source: Andre on Pexels.

“You only get one chance to make a great impression.”

We’ve all heard this; the ideation of good first impressions is interwoven with some of our highest values in society.

This is folklore that morphed into the status of adage. To question this statement is to question the essentials; the fundamentals and the foundation.

Yet, if you were to ask what the essence of the first impression is, your ears will fall on the sounds of mouths roleplaying ventilators. If we challenge the very fabric we are taught to abide, we begin to understand that the impression is falsely held to a higher standard than the quality of good character and amazing work.

To say that a first impression is so important is to accept fantasy as the only metric on which to measure reality.

When we begin to challenge the platform on which impressions stand, we come to the realization that it has nothing to do with the following things:

  • Actual wealth
  • A meaningful life
  • Any answers

Here is what I mean.

Impressions are a lot like those old-century self-portraits of kings in official uniform standing posed at some bizarre angle.

Image for post
Image for post
Painting of Napoleon Bonaparte by Andrea Appianin, 1805. Creative Commons.

Here is Napoleon Bonaparte, who, at one point, led the strongest empire in the world.

The portrait has several obnoxious things that even people over 200 years ago wouldn’t be doing in everyday life.

  • There is a handkerchief that looks to weigh about five pounds coming out of the bottom of his neck.
  • He is wearing several uniforms each tied tightly around his body. From the point of his handkerchief, you’d see another scarf weaving his neck.
  • He’s wearing a duvet on top of everything else.
  • Emulation of Dracula.
  • Several strange house ornaments as emblems and pieces of self-claimed honor.
  • His hand is on a bejeweled crown, and the crown is resting on a quilted-duvet-fashioned pillow with extra house ornaments.
  • He has some kind of family insignia fashioned into every inch of his outfit, including his silk-looking gloves.

Normally, I’d let Napoleon be. Who cares, after all?

But it’s a great lesson in impressions and the relationship it shares with the ego. The semblance of greatness is never the same as greatness.

For the same reason that advertising success is not the same as being successful.

One is not a requirement or a basis point that suffices for the actual thing.

An impression, at its core, is a fraud. It’s not real, it’s self-concocted and brewed in the mind — specifically, in your own mind.

Impressions are also easy. It’s easy to be Napoleon, to force the people around you into painting you in a specific light, at a specific angle, with specific colors and stances.

It is far harder to get the people both around and far away from you to think amazing things without you telling them. When people see the Michael Jordans or the Kobe Bryants of the world, they know that they’re witnessing greatness. They don’t need to be told about it.

When Eliud Kipchoge breaks 2 hours in the marathon, people immediately recognize him as the greatest of all time.

Impression is merely projecting a self-truth onto others by force.

Actuality is the reality that others accept without that projection.

Real wealth and meaning are found in the actual. The divide between the fantasy and reality renders from the impression.

Written by

UC Berkeley, mathematics. Los Angeles. Long-time runner. Top writer on Quora, 100M+ total content views. New to Medium. Inquiries:

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store