Be proud of who you are and not ashamed of how someone else sees you. – Unknown
What does that mean?
This is a quote I wish I’d heard more of when I was little. It’s reassuring and hopeful for all those who aren’t the same as everyone else.
It is a reminder for all of us, to remember what we have that is good, useful and helpful, and to not worry about what other people see or think.
One of the things over which we have absolutely no control is what others think of us. Trying to change their mind, that is a fool’s errand at best.
Instead, we need to have the strength to ignore the haters and remember that our value is based on who we are on the inside, and not based on what others think of us.
Why is being proud of ourselves important?
We are who we are. We are a collection of decisions and actions from our lives. And we can become something else, depending on our decisions and actions going forward. What others see is their problem, not yours. Especially if what they see is something beyond your control.
Social groups can be brutal. The cliques in school were the worst, for me. Different people will have issues at different parts of their lives, based on what others see and how they react. But as mentioned before, other than trying to educate and inform those willing to listen, there is little you can do for those who don’t like what they see.
Some things can be changed to conform, if that is your desire. You can change your habits of eating, hygiene, dress or whatever, and try to fit in. Perhaps it will work, but it probably won’t. The kind of people who treat others that way in the first place generally don’t change when you change. They will still be jerks.
Instead, it is best to focus on what makes you special, and what makes you valuable to others (besides the jerks, that is). Yes, it can be painful, but eventually you will either grow out of it or grow into it, whatever your ‘it’ may be. You will either blend it, or stand out even more. And that is something of which you can be proud.
Where can I apply this in my life?
When I was growing up, I was smart, bookish, skinny and painfully uncoordinated. I could trip over cracks that others couldn’t see. I would ask questions the teachers couldn’t answer. I had far more books than friends (probably a shelf for each friend), and didn’t ‘fill in’ until after college.
My friends were, as most are, like me. At least in some aspect. I played football where my long legs and arms were useful, even if I didn’t have much skill (I played Safety and pass protection). And in college, things started to even out on the intellectual front. I was still skinny and laughed at, just not as often.
Eventually, I began to value my own evaluation of my worth and value more than I valued the evaluations of others. From that point on, my life changed. Hopefully, hearing this quote, and reading this post will help you on that same journey.
Let’s start with the obvious question. Why do you care what others think about you? Take a moment and consider the question and the consequences of the answer. Why does it matter? Why do they get such an important say in how you live your life and how you value yourself? Why is their opinion more important than yours?
While there are a handful of people who are damaged in some way and have no consideration of others, I will presuppose that you are not a member of that small group. We, on the other hand, spend too much time worrying about what others think, and what they’ll say, instead of being proud of who we are.
Yes, some people seem to just be naturally ‘cool’ (or whatever the proper term is these days and in your culture). Everyone wants to be around them and to have their favor. Why? Probably some vestige of herd or clan mentality, where leaders made life and death decisions. How applicable is that to your life today?
Grab some paper and write down the things about which you are proud, or at least hold as being valuable about yourself. Are you at least somewhat smart? Do you have an interesting sense of humor? Are you kind or helpful? Do you care about other people or animals? What are the special things about you that make you a good or interesting person?
How do you feel now, having written these things down? How would you feel if you looked at this list at least once a week, or even daily? That might be something to think about, how to revisit this list from time to time.
What about the things others say about you? Did just thinking about it cause most of that good feeling to go away? Why do you let it? Who are these other people that you value their opinions so highly? Why do you give them the power to hurt you? It might not be easy at first, but you can eventually let go of them, and their hold on you.
On the off chance that you have been the unkind person, shaming someone else for being different, how do you feel right now about how you act or acted in the past? What can you do, what are you willing to do to make up for it? At a High School reunion, I had someone who bullied me actually apologize to me. Imagine how hard that was for them.
More importantly, at least to me, is this question: What can you do to help others who may not yet see what they have to be proud of see it, and to help them ignore the haters? Someone out there is in pain. Are you willing to help?