Monday, October 24, 2016

Don't Believe Everything You're Told

In should probably only believe very little about yourself based on what others tell you.  Because most people only have their own best interests at heart, not yours.

I realize that sounds very deprecating toward other people, and hopefully you have people in your life you lift you up on a regular basis rather than bring you down. But in my experience, that's a rare and lucky thing to have and you should treasure those people if you have them.

In yesterday's blog I mentioned looking back, and how that's something that I try not to do too often.  Well, in looking back yesterday I began to think about regrets. I honestly try not to dwell on regrets because there's nothing one can do about them and so it doesn't do a lot toward building a happy life TODAY by holding on to things we wish we would have or could have done differently in the past.

Not to mention that if you believe that everything happens for a reason, and everything that has happened to you in your life was meant to happen to bring you to exactly where you are in the present moment, then I guess there really can't be any regrets because every mistake we make we learn from, which makes us more well-rounded and complete people overall as a result of them.

Except for one thing that comes to mind today, and which is actually one regret that I have.

I wish I hadn't believed the negative things that people said to me.

While I'm sure there are plenty of well-meaning people out there, who choose to offer us constructive criticism to honestly help us in our endeavors, there are plenty more ill-meaning people, whose main goal is to undercut others' authority or talent or ideas or intentions.  In fact, in my life (having worked in many different places, and having lived in several different states around the country) I have personally met many more people who are quick to criticize and put concerted effort into dimming another person's light instead of being complimentary and do what they can to lift up another person by their words and/or actions.

(the reason why people do this is for another day, but I've found that it usually stems from their own insecurities, fear of their own shortcomings, and just plain meanness - see Nellie Oleson posts)

And those criticizers come in all forms, most hurtfully when they claim to be people who love you.  I knew a girl in middle school who knew from birth that her father wanted to have a boy.  She had an older brother and all her father wanted was a brother for his cherished first-born son.  When she came out, she was a bitter disappointment to him, for no other reason than her chromosomes.  (Just as an aside, because the gender of a child is determined by the sperm so the father really should have taken the blame for that one.) He made it very clear to her throughout her young life that he had no expectations of her except to marry a hopefully wealthy man, and maybe be a secretary or a waitress before that.  He had no intention of sending her to college or encouraging her to be anything but the utter disappointment that she was.  And the saddest part of all? She believed him.  She believed that she was a disappointment to her father simply because she was born.  She did not think she was capable of anything special or even worthy to inhabit the earth she was walking on.  He had no right to put her down time and time again, and even if those were his true feelings he absolutely should not have shared them with her repeatedly.  She felt unloved and un-cherished, and worthless because she believed what was told to her.

(I wish I could tell you that she overcame her father's cruelty and and resentment and defied the odds by becoming a successful "something" who lead a fulfilled and happy life, but she moved away before high school and I never found out what happened to her.)

There are so many successful people who did not listen to the naysayers, but instead found the strength within themselves to turn a deaf ear to the criticism and instead worked hard to surpass not only their expectations, but the expectations of what is considered extraordinary and remarkable.

Take Michael Phelps.  He was literally told by a teacher that "He would never succeed at anything."  Twenty-three olympic medals later, nineteen of them gold, he most certainly proved her wrong. Over and over again. Both he and his mother decided that they simply weren't going to listen to what this one person said, but instead realize the potential inside this talented, if unfocused-at-school little boy.

Or how about Oprah? She doesn't even need her last name written out because she has become synonymous with success.  She was not wanted at conception or at birth, she was told repeatedly that she could never aspire to be anything except a maid like her grandmother and great-grandmother before her, and even after she secured jobs in journalism and television, she was cut down all along the way because of her looks, her name, her accent, and of course, her gender.  Practically everyone told her not to start her own talk show in Chicago but she had the courage to do it anyway, and created an empire.  She didn't listen to the criticisms. She forged her own path instead.

The list goes on and on. Barbra Streisand had an extremely unsupportive mother who said she had no talent.  Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.  Steve Jobs was fired by friends from the tech company that he founded.  All of these phenomenally successful people had criticizers close to them, but none of them listened.  In fact, I've heard that the criticisms made them all the more determined to succeed and "show them" how wrong they were.

So why do some people take the criticisms to heart and stop trying, and some take them as challenges to defy?  I don't have an answer for that, but I do believe that someone trying to put you down can be a catalyst for you working harder and persevering more and more to see your goals and dreams come to fruition.  The negative words don't have to crush your heart because you have the choice to not listen to them and not believe them. But if you do listen to them, then you also have the choice to make them work for you, and not against you.

For most of us, there will always be negative people in our lives.  I've been trying to consciously cut them out of mine as best I can, but there are always those that rear their wretched and dismissive heads.  And while I believe it's important to show kindness and compassion to everyone, that doesn't mean we have to honor their opinions by believing them at the expense of our own happiness and fulfillment.  And never forget, just because someone claims to be an expert or a professional critic, that doesn't mean that they "get" your art or fully understand how you choose to express yourself.

I've concluded that the people who tell other people "You'll never make it" are often threatened by the talent they see before them, and because the critics themselves aren't happy with where they are in their own careers (i.e. the food critic judges other food rather than being a professional chef). And while everyone who has dreams of being a success through their passion may not have fame or stardom as a result, everyone has the right to try.  Everyone is entitled, simply because they were born into this world, to pursue their goals to the best of his or her ability.  And no one, I mean NO ONE has the right to take that away from anyone.  No matter how well-intentioned (or ill-intentioned) their criticisms may be.

While criticism can be a springboard for some people to prove their critics wrong, I have found that encouragement goes a much longer way toward someone achieving their dreams.  Positivity always always always works more effectively than negativity, in every situation and circumstance.  It's a basic truth of life that every one of us will be criticized at some point in our lives.  But when it happens, it's absolutely crucial that we remember this:

When we judge or criticize another person, it says nothing about that person; it merely says something about our own need to be critical. - Source unknown

Don't believe everything you're told.  

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