You know yourself better than any other human.
Sounds simple, right? Why is it then that I find this so hard to remember? I look to others to tell me what I do well, how I look (or how I should look), and who I should become. When I need approval, I don’t even try to rely on myself. Instead, a friend or family member is sure to boost my self-esteem.
Or at least, that is how it has worked most of my life. A time arrives, however, when people around you belittle instead of charm, critique instead of comfort, and ignore instead of notice. Suddenly, you are forced to look at yourself in the mirror in confusion, wondering who you are without the words of others. Or perhaps, wondering if the bitter, nastier labels they stuck on you are the reality of your character.
Listening to others can be very helpful. An outside perspective, taken with some self-love and time to process, can be useful. A stranger telling you his first impression can be painful but eye-opening. “So that’s how people really see me. Interesting.” From that point, you can decide if you want that impression to be different with the next person you meet: smile more, dress for the occasion better, talk less and listen more, etc.
Having a coworker, classmate, or other acquaintance give his or her thoughts on you can be interesting as well. Maybe you didn’t notice how you monopolize time in group discussions, make snarky comments directed at others when stressed, or look bored whenever someone talks to you about improvements you could make in your work. Hearing these things can be hard but very enlightening and helpful.
When a friend, significant other, or family member says something about you, listening with discernment is even more important. Maybe your cranky mood before eating is hurting someone or you need to stop complaining about work and start applying to new places. These people who know you well might have great insights to offer, both positive and negative.
However, almost all of these scenarios mentioned people pointing out specific things that you are doing which were causing damaged relationships, unhealthy environments, and negative impressions. Unfortunately, many people do not talk to you about your actions; they talk to you about your character. “You are lazy. You are snarky. You are selfish.”
Hearing these words, telling you who you are so succinctly and harshly, might jar you into action. Perhaps you have been acting lazy, snarky, or selfish and want to change. That’s great!
Still, you probably aren’t selfish only. There is more to you than that one word. Perhaps that word doesn’t even describe you but does describe some of your behaviors. Even better. This is when you work to eradicate those actions and grow into who you truly are and want to be.
Another scenario is that this word does not describe you at all. Yes, we all have moments that are less than stellar. Surely everyone has been lazy, snarky, and selfish at some point in time. Still, you might rarely exhibit those traits. Sometimes the words of others say more about themselves than about you. That is when you need to take a step back and evaluate how to relate to someone who is having a negative, possibly toxic, effect on you.
Even if these words are true, you need to eventually figure out how to heighten your confidence and figure out who you are without the words of others. My constant reliance on those around me has led to confusion ultimately as different people define me in different ways. Stupid or smart, nonjudgmental or close-minded, whiny or positive, nothing special or perfect – all of the words ringing in my ears are making me forget myself at the core.
I am Anna Rose. Who that person is remains a bit of a mystery. I work hard but give up easily sometimes because I want perfection. Yes, I am naive but certainly not stupid or judgmental. Yet, I am very hard on myself despite caring for others. I long to grow but am fearful of the future. Being near people frightens me, but being alone makes me feel rejected. I am an enigma even to myself.
But I still know myself better than anyone else. I want to listen to others but not take their words as the ultimate truth; some comments are rubbish while others are extremely helpful. Sorting through can be hard. However, I would rather listen and discern how to respond to that person and in my person growth than ignore each person or take each word to heart.
I am me. That’s all there is to it. I might feel lost in who that is, but many people do. I will eventually figure out more about myself. That is the process of growth.