The other day as I was leaving a meeting a colleague approached me and asked if I had seen an email that he’d sent the day before. I said that I hadn’t, to which he replied that he had definitely sent it during the previous afternoon. He had obviously been expecting a swift response. I was fairly certain that I had had no such email, but then I started to doubt myself, perhaps I overlooked it or it had got swept up in one of my ‘What the hell is this?’ moments and I had deleted it with another load of emails.
Then my colleague identified the title of the project. Said project had absolutely nothing to do with me. Rather, it was to do another (female) colleague who had also been present in the meeting.
He said our other colleague’s name out loud as though he was addressing me. To which I replied, “Well I’m blah blah and I don’t deal with that area.” He had obviously thought that I was in fact her! This is despite working together for nearly a full year and him having addressed me with my actual name a bunch of times.
Upon realising his mistake, I anticipated some sort of acknowledgement from him, at a push an apology, neither of which transpired as he simply walked away. I however walked away feeling irritated.
My irritation morphed and grew into full on rage by around an hour later. I had assessed the situation and the damage to my self-esteem and found myself thinking: this happens a lot!
I am often mistaken for other people and usually to those who I don’t feel like I have a genuine physical similarity to in the slightest. To make matters worse, this is not the first time that this has happened at work. Only recently, the head of Human Resources called me someone else’s name and began telling me about something (which I can’t recall now). When I corrected her, it was as though I was in the wrong and I couldn’t actually be who I actually am!
Why does this happen?
No one seems to know who the fuck I am! I feel that I am disproportionately mistaken for other people at an alarming rate. I don’t know whether I am over-reacting or perhaps I am just one of those people who blends into the background like someone with a faceless face.
Don’t you know who I am?
I feel your pain.
I also have experienced that sinking feeling when someone is talking to you as though you are someone else. This is an existential blog after all… but putting that aside, it doesn’t ignore the fact that you are pissed at the idea of other people not knowing you.
The frustration at this incident indicates a deeper level of questioning of who you are. You want to know why this is happening? Why it keeps on happening? And with a particular significance due to the fact that it is colleagues who seem to be utterly incapable of putting the correct name to a face.
Our memories in spite of their awesome complexity and genius have a terrible way of convincing us of taking false information as fact. I was once convinced that I had contacted a colleague about some work related issue, adamant in fact. This was to the point that I was steam-rollering over any say otherwise. It was only when I checked over a back catalogue of emails that I realised that I was in the wrong. I had to see the mistake in Times New Roman before I backed down, held my hands up and admitted defeat.
So by any chance, are you more annoyed at the fact that he didn’t apologise or the act itself?
Look hard at that question. As one part relates to your normative understanding of situations and interactions with others, whilst the other relates to your ego.
Your ego of course helps constitute part of your consciousness. When that is indeed questioned, it casts doubt on your sense of self. You may wonder at one level, why doesn’t she or he know who I am? But at a deeper level, you are wondering who am I? What am I projecting to others that they either don’t or choose not to see?
Whichever, the issue lies with you. It is unlikely that your colleague has spent much time ruminating on this incident since. In fact he probably hasn’t thought twice about it, because after all he doesn’t know who you are.
Enough of the philosophy and introspection, maybe you want some concrete, practical advice:
- A name badge may help, you could even make a new name up that no-one could possibly forget. There are plenty of helpful websites out there. I suggest something mythical straight from Game of Thrones.
- Alternatively, you could get in your colleague’s face as much as possible until he has absolutely no uncertainty about who the fuck you are. If you choose this option, pretend like you are drunk and shout your name a few times in the next meeting. Then he has no option but to take heed and listen.
Another way to look at it is that at least if you have one of those faceless faces, you could rob a bank and maybe no-one would know it was you? You could even blame that colleague of yours with the remarkably similar features, or even better yet the one who thought you were one and same?