I had a recent conversation with a young woman about being happy. She claimed that society and the world in general is so awful now it wasn’t possible to find anymore. She could list more than a dozen things wrong or unfair, probably more if I had let her go on. I stopped her in the middle of her tirade.
“I don’t disagree about the things you’ve pointed out, but there is also a lot of good in the world too.”
She didn’t even considered my words, going right back to the many complaints she thought cancelled out any good. I wish her well but I worry about her mental health. A constant focus on the negative in our life drains our capacity to cope with the many challenges we face. It is better to put your energy into seeing the good. Trust me—the bad doesn’t need your constant focus to thrive. You, on the other hand, won’t survive if all you see is doom and gloom around you.
I recently heard a speaker say something not only funny but profound. She said, “Yeah, in my teenage years I knew everything, but as I got older, I realized it was too exhausting to keep up.”
What a statement. It really hits on an aspect of know-it-alls that I hadn’t considered. Said person must produce an endless supply of effort to keep up the façade of knowing everything. Ugh, I’m exhausted just thinking about it. After that day I’ve found myself much more comfortable with saying, “I don’t know,” than I ever had before. Maybe you will too if this has been one of your struggles in life.
Growing-up, I never thought I assessed my worth by outside affirmations, until my ninth grade English class. Assigned a seat next to the new boy in school, I wanted to make a good impression. No girls, it’s not because I thought he was cute. My parents had drilled the idea of always using good manners. Yet, from day one, this kid despised me.
After he called me a “know-it-all” under his breath for answering a teacher’s question, I never spoke again unless the teacher called on me. When he complained that I smelled, I brought extra deodorant to school and ran into the bathroom to re-apply before English class every day. When he wrinkled his nose and said my frizzy hair was getting all over his stuff, I began pulling my “frizzy” hair back into a ponytail before class. It didn’t matter what I did or said, nothing made this boy like me—or at least lower the level of disdain I saw whenever his eyes met mine.
One day, when I’d had enough. I caught him after class and asked, “What did I do to you? Why don’t you like me?”
He shook me off and said, “Look in the mirror—you’ll figure it out.”
I did figure it out—allowing this boy’s judgments to dictate to my actions was stupid. I can’t change who I am. This realization liberated me from the many snide remarks I heard from him in the years that followed.
Unfortunately, in this life, not everyone will like you. Sometimes personalities just don’t mesh. But the only person who really counts, is the one staring back to you in the mirror. When you choose to accept and love yourself as you are, nothing and no one can drag you down.
It’s not wrong to desire and work at strengthening your inner self. No one can answer that ever burning question of what makes up you—but you. However, we are not meant to live this life as solitary creatures, nor is it weakness to lean on others from time to time. Trust me, those who know me will tell you I’m a pretty strong and opinionated woman, but even I can’t do this whole living thing alone. Really, I have no desire to do it alone. By letting others into your life, their support can become like bracers for your own. For those days when you just don’t know what to choose, others might be able to offer you a different point of view, which might lead to greater clarity. When it comes to making choices, greater clarity is never a bad thing. Yes, there are those that might not have your best interest at heart, but that is still not a good reason to push everyone away. It takes time to weed out the bad and create solid friendships around you, so start now. You want those friendships forged before the crisis comes.
Nothing you want in life happens by accident. The singer you revere on the radio, the movie star you love to watch, that incredible athlete everyone talks about, those people didn’t get there by accident. Success, however you want to define yours, will never be achieved by hoping for it. A sacrifice is always required, whether it be physical or emotional, those who reach their goals gave up something. So when you’re setting all those New Year’s resolutions, go beyond the wishful thoughts of things you want to happen in your life. Take a moment to consider what you are willing to give up to achieve said goal. The more you are willing to “bleed” for your desires, the better your chances. The path of least resistance is littered with mediocracy. You’ll find the harder path far more satisfying in the end.
This Christmas give yourself a gift beyond measure. Forgive those who have wronged you. Not just for the day, but forever. Let it go, the anger, the hurt you’ve been lugging around. It’s expending far too much of your focus and energy. The “let it go” part is the most crucial. Burying it only until “next time” isn’t forgiveness at all. And you won’t experience the freeing power that comes from truly moving on. If what I ask seems too unfair for what has happened to you, remember you are not perfect. We all have hurt others, whether by omission or on purpose, being forgiven is the only way to ease the guilt of our actions. But we can’t control others, only ourselves. So start from within, and I promise the power will spread throughout.
Being a young adult is a glorious time that fades far too quickly, a time when most experience some of their greatest joys and sorrows. Some choices made during that time will affect you not just for tomorrow, but for years to come. For me the best thing I ever did was surround myself with friends stronger than myself. These kids knew who they were, what they wanted out of life, and weren’t willing to sacrifice those desires for anything or anybody. Their strength and motivation not only cocooned me from the turmoil of poor decisions made by other youth, it drove me to want more from my own life.
Be careful of the friends you chose. They are far more powerful than you might realize.