From a young age I was taught by my family, peers and society that the opinion of others was very important.
When I reached middle and high school age, this became even more serious as I gained a greater sense of self-awareness and the humorous excuses for childhood behavior gradually disappeared. During the difficult age of adolescence, rumors and judgment from peers became a daily occurrence and a cruel source of entertainment, and not one of us was safe from the scrutiny.
I also remember this age as a fragile time of self-discovery. While coping with these challenges, we were increasingly encouraged by adults to discover our interests and abilities. Our lives seemed to be a daily contrast as we struggled to find ourselves while appearing "cool" in the eyes of our friends.
When I was younger, the opinions of others mattered because we wanted to be accepted and liked by each other and were always fighting the battle to fit in. We studied what clothes to wear and what to say. This was especially true for my gender since movies and books were constantly showing us how to feel, how to look and how to behave. In a way it was easy to create a life based on these stereotyped expectations, a life that struggled to meet conflicting codes of behavior.
It seems we were fighting an invisible fight. We were all so busy caring about ourselves that no one really cared about anyone else. We walked around thinking that everything we did was under a microscope. Yes, there were rumors and talk, and there was the dreaded fear that I would do something so terrible as to be a topic of discussion, but everyone at one point or another was a topic of discussion.
Reflecting on these adolescent experiences from more mature view, it almost seems bad not to have been talked about. You were flying under the radar of being noticed. It was not that anyone had anything to say about it you, it was that no one knew you or cared enough about your actions or appearances to put in the effort.
As I get further and further past adolescence, the opinions of others start to become less important. Instead of focusing so much time and effort on what others expect of me, I am beginning to discover the importance of a strong sense of self. It is no longer about meeting others' expectations; it's about meeting my own and being happy with myself, being happy about the things that make up me.
Instead of always trying to strive to do better, always trying to improve our lives, to change something about ourselves, why don't we just spend some time loving ourselves?
Forming an appreciation towards yourself might be easier for some than others, and there are many who have always had a strong sense of self. I am not, however, advocating arrogance or gaining this appreciation by comparing yourself to others. Instead, sense of self should be an acceptance of one's life, despite unfortunate circumstances or ways in which we believe we don't meet expectations.
Such acceptance creates a sense of confidence that will carry us further in life than finding faults or dwelling on problems. Others will start to enjoy us as we exude this confidence, and we will start to appreciate and care about other people.
Contact Corin Harpe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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