Character is What You Are When No One is Looking

Character is what you are when no one is looking.

Read this popular quote from former UCLA Basketball Coach John Wooden:

“The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”

But here’s the deal…  I ask you… how many of us, if honest, actually live it?

Everyone wants to be their best self, but most people fail to do so.

Character is what you are when no one is looking. And character is what other people see when they look at you.

Character is something that you need to work on every single day. It’s not something that happens overnight.

This is a lesson that we all need to learn if we want to have long-term success. In this article, you will be presented with thought-provoking content in taking a closer look at your own personal character. In addition, you will learn the traits of what it means to have ‘true character’ with humility and integrity.

To get you inspired and motivated to further develop your own personal character, 35 quotes are presented.

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Understanding Character & How it is Viewed Today

According to, 71% of those polled believe people are inherently good. 

Per Rekentic, statistics show character has rapidly declined over the past 20 years. People exhibit significantly less desirable character traits than even five years ago. Formation of questionable characters starts early.

Furthermore, per Trish Popsen of Rekentic, she states:

“Studies among school children show that 24% of children as young as Kindergarten admit to lying, cheating, and stealing. Seventy-five percent of all high school students admit to cheating regularly, and 90% of middle schoolers admit to copying and plagiarizing. The consensus of students interviewed was why not cheat and steal if you won’t get caught? If you look good, who cares how you do it? Indeed. We live in a society where self-serving ends justify the questionable means. There is no inherent goodness in us.”

This is a sobering fact. In fact, it’s sad actually. We have become so accustomed to living in a world with declining standards.

The popular golden rule is more tarnished than ever.

It’s vital we must do our part in rebuilding true character among ourselves.

We must take building character seriously or humanity is in trouble as we know it.

The Reality is… We ALL Are Two-Faced

Coach John Wooden and His Famous Character Quote

It’s clear, then, that our public self is not a true reflection of our character or value, and reveals very little about us. In the words of John Wooden —

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

I may make someone upset by this statement, but I’m here to tell you we are all two-faced… Let me explain.. 

Your Public Self You Show the World

You have a side you present to the outside world. This is the best version of yourself you strive to be in the presence of our family, friends and co-workers. It’s the version we show as if our grandmother or boss were watching.

  • Our public self is the version we want others to see, so we make a conscious effort to portray ourselves in that way.

Your Private Self Is Who You Are When No One is Watching

  • By comparison, our private self reflects the information about ourselves that we don’t want the public to see — so we keep it secret and hidden.

Come on… you know and I know that ‘behind closed doors, We can easily switch to our other side of our character… We are all guilty of thinking ugly thoughts, gossiping about a friend, criticizing others and even finding ourselves telling more ‘white lies’ than we care to admit!

Let’s be honest with ourselves… how many of us call in sick when we’re really just uninterested in going to work… Or when we let the clerk’s oversight cause us to later be irritable to those around us behind those infamous ‘closed doors’ to our family?

Even so, we still think we’re a pretty good person, right? But the reality is we are all ‘two-faced’ showing only our best character or person in public, or so we think we are…

Some would say, that our ‘authentic self’ is indeed what our private self is… doesn’t speak well, does it?

We think our wrongdoings are hidden so when in public, none is the wiser. But consider this… God sees everything and knows everything.   He will hold you accountable. You must conscientiously change your behavior. We must value character as the sacred golden rule taught us: “Do onto others as you would have them do to you.”

Coach Wooden was also correct when he said, “In pursuit of being the best (person) possible, you should always assume someone is watching and act accordingly.”

Or in other words, perhaps character is better defined by what you do when everyone is watching, just as much as it is when no one is watching. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

How to Identify Your Character

Character is a mysterious concept. While we can all agree that we can’t control how we act, we all want to be good people. But if we’re honest, we can’t always tell ourselves the difference between right and wrong.

Here are a few things to consider:

– Do you have any character flaws?

If you’re looking to improve your character, it’s worth considering where you stand in comparison to your peers.

– Are you living by your values?

– How do you treat others?

– Do you try to do the right thing, even when you don’t feel like it?

– Do you keep your promises?

– Are you happy?

If you answered “yes” to most of these questions, you’re already ahead of most people. If you answered “no,” you’re probably going to have to work on it. Find a trusted mentor who will keep you accountable and make the effort to change your character for the sake and needs of others.

 Per Jon Hawkins, “a good indication of someone’s character is what they choose to do when they have nothing to gain, and nothing to lose.”

Rather than making choices that benefit them, it is in these instances that they make choices that are authentic and true to them — because, in their eyes, that task is worthwhile in and of itself.

The 7 Characteristics of Character

While everyone strives to be their best self, it’s not always easy to achieve. We know it is the right thing to apologize if necessary and admit our mistakes and don’t justify our bad behaviors.

Here are the 5 traits of character that will help you develop a stronger character.

1. Humility

Character is the cornerstone of our identity. It shapes our actions, decisions, and words. Character is the glue that holds our lives together.

You are humble to others. You accept yourself for who you are.

2. Self-awareness

You are aware of your strengths and weaknesses. You know where you stand and where you need improvement.

3. Self-control

You control your emotions and actions. You are disciplined.

4. Respect

You respect others. You put others before yourself.

5. Courage

You take risks and you keep going. You push your limits.

6. Unconditional Kindness & Compassion

These two characteristics are part of the inner ‘goodness’ we are born with. Being kind is consistently greeting people with a friendly smile and doing unconditional random acts of kindness intentionally.

7. Accountable

You know that to have the ‘best character’ consistently, one must be accountable for all his behaviors.

When you develop your character, you become the person you need to be.

How to Develop Your Character

When you develop your character, you become the person you need to be.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, character is “the quality or state of being characterized.”

In essence, character is your identity – your unique set of beliefs, values, and attitudes. When you look in the mirror, you’re looking into a window into your soul.

The good news is that you can change your character. The bad news is that you can’t change your past.

But you can change your future. And, while we can’t control the events of the past, we can shape the events of the future.

35 Powerful Quotes About Character

The quotes I share with you today are both enlightening and thought-provoking. They are worth keeping in mind and taking note of on your journey of developing a stronger character.

These are not just for our character development but also for our life improvement.

Quotes 1 thru 17:

1) “We live in a culture that teaches us to promote and advertise ourselves and to master the skills required for success, but that gives little encouragement to humility, sympathy, and honest self-confrontation, which are necessary for building character.”

David Brooks

2) “Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain – and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.”

Dale Carnegie

3) “Character is one of the greatest motive powers in the world. In its noblest embodiments, it exemplifies human nature in its highest forms, for it exhibits man at his best.”

Samuel Smiles

4) “Sometimes refinement of character happens naturally as we grow older, but for many people that growth is fostered by spiritual practices adopted and followed in a disciplined way.”

Rachel Cowan

5) “In the end, it is the person you become, not the things you achieve, that is most important.”

Les Brown

6) “Better to be a man of character than a man of means.”

Irish Proverbs

7) “Never does a man portray his character more vividly than when proclaiming the character of another.”

Winston Churchill

8) “Great and good character is often formed by imitation. And if we would shine in any sphere of life, we must consider some examples of illustrious men who have preceded us.”

Samuel Davies

9) “The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

Abigail Van Buren

10) “What a man’s mind can create, man’s character should control.”

Thomas Edison


11) “Your character defines who you are by the actions you take.”

Catherine Pulsifer

12) “We are not just products of our past; people in our present also influence us and help mold our character.”

David Packer

13) “Patience is not simply one thing. It is a concept that transcends many areas of our personal makeup and affects nearly every characteristic and behavior we possess or act on.”

James O’Donnell

14) “How we behave toward and around our children has much more influence on their character than if we only tell them about how they should or should not behave.”

Russell Kolts

15) “Tolerance is a fundamental character trait of great people and a part of the attitudes and practices of those we admire and respect. People without tolerance are diminished and poor.”

John K. Carmack

16) “Character is not something that you buy; it is not a commodity that can be bartered for; it is not a quality suited for only the rich and famous; rather, character is built upon the foundational commitment of love, honesty, and compassion for others.

Byron R. Pulsifer

17) “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

Helen Keller

Quotes 18 thru 35:

18) “I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him.”

Abraham Lincoln

19) “What is character discernment? It is simply being able to tell the “sheep from the goats” in your life, evaluating who is good for you, and who isn’t. And those who are good for us we call “safe people,” those individuals who truly make us better people by their presence in our lives.”

Henry Cloud

20) “Having a happiness that is built into your character helps you to gain confidence.”

Steven Spencer

21) “Power really is a test of character. In the hands of a person of integrity, it is of tremendous benefit; in the hands of a tyrant, it causes terrible destruction.”

John Maxwell

22) “. . . a person that remains successful over the long run has to have certain qualities within their character. One of the biggest qualities of such a person is their ability to do things whether they feel like it or not.”

Peter Jenner

23) “Our characters are refined and tried by fire and when we have gone through the furnace, we emerge as pure gold and silver.”

Edward Dunedin

24) “Your reputation is in the hands of others. That’s what a reputation is. You can’t control that. The only thing you can control is your character.”

Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

25) “Primary greatness is on the inside. It’s about character.”

Stephen Covey

26) “One test of a person’s character is this: Will you lie?”

E. Stanley Jones

27) “Generosity of character is important. It builds confidence by reminding you that you are a decent human being, and that you deserve any good things which might come your way.”

John Franz

28) “It’s wonderful to have so many opportunities to work on ourselves. It’s not just the number of character defects that can keep us busy, it’s also the endless facets that each presents.”

Anne Wilson Schaef

29) “Those who truly believe in their potential and know they can succeed have always pushed on forward, which basically reveals a strong character and the desire to be successful.” — Stephen Steel

30) “Some are blessed with physical and mental facility, but none are more prized than the one who has developed true character.”

Greg Henry Quinn

31) “Our character is a composite of people we have watched, experiences we have had, but completely relies on the decisions that we make.”

Scott Schwab

32) “Profound sincerity is the only basis of talent as of character.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

33) “Our character is a composite of people we have watched, experiences we have had, but completely relies on the decisions that we make.”

Scott Schwab

34) “If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”


35) “Every one person who trusts you will spread the word of that trust to at least a few of their associates, and word of your character will spread like wildfire. The value of the trust others have in you is far beyond anything that can be measured.”

Kevin Allen

Final Last Words

To conclude, having a strong sense of self-worth is an integral part of who we are and what makes us valuable. We are all capable of great things, but only a small number of us achieve great things.

If we look around us, we will see that many others are in this same position. That is why we must work on improving ourselves and our character.

Character is the foundation of all success. It’s the key to being the kind of person you want to be and doing the things you love.

Now that you have become more enlightened as to the real meaning of ‘character’, at the end of the day it’s all up to us to live with integrity and humility.

It’s up to us to ‘choose’ how character defines you.

Character is What You Are When No One is Looking

About the author

beth elkassih

“Hi! Welcome to the launching and introduction to ‘Made You Smile Back’! I’m so pleased you’re here. Let me share with you a little bit about myself and why I created this platform.”

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