2 August 2013

21 – Who Cares What Anyone Thinks of You

One of my best friends, The WaterDragon Potter, has a son who's just turned seventeen. It reminded me of how I felt and acted when I was seventeen. And that seemed a good opener for this essay.

I tried really hard to fit in during my last couple of years of high school. I wasn’t particularly popular. But I wasn't a mocked loner either. I fit somewhere in the middle. It was a comfortable existence. But I wanted more. 

I wanted to fit in. I ran for student council. I started going to parties and hangouts in the woods where us teenagers could drink beer and smoke away from the prying eyes of parents. I tried dressing and gelling my hair the same way as the hockey players who hung out by the hallway lockers. Figuring out the template wasn’t hard. It looked like they shared the same closet.

It didn’t work. I didn’t become more popular. I didn’t get more dates. I didn’t get more signatures in my yearbook. I've actually always suspected that I did start getting mocked. 

What I did get was a lesson in why it's pointless to worry about what others think about you.

First, trying to be safely inoffensive can be highly offensive. We often change the way we look, act, or speak for fear of offending others. Sometimes it's necessary. But oftentimes it's a meek admission that we’re willing to compromise our own integrity and authenticity for no good reason. We often assume that people will disapprove before we present our authentic selves to them. And that’s wrong, because when you assume you make an ‘ass’ of ‘u’ and ‘me.’ And besides, treating ourselves and others like asses is shitty.

Second, self-conscious comparisons to other people are impossible. While we’re similar in many ways, we’re different in many others. The diversity of the uniqueness we exhibit is one of our most striking features. Trying to compare ourselves to one another is like trying to find two identical snowflakes during a winter’s snowfall. Snowflakes are virtually never alike, and nor are any two people. Each of us is a snowflake that can never be duplicated. 


It's kinda nice to think about these in the middle of a hot summer anyway. 


Third, allowing others to dictate where we fit into the world's puzzle leaves us in bad shape. When we try being everything to everyone, we end up being nothing to no one. If all we’re doing is thinking about what other people think of us, then we’re not thinking about what we need to do.  Obsessing over these things means we're taking ourselves too seriously, and people who take themselves too seriously are nothing but a joke. Hiding our authentic selves leaves us feeling like we're nothing and actually gives people reason to think less of us. And nobody likes being taunted while hiding behind a stage curtain.

We all want to stand out in our own ways. It's only natural. We weren't built to be the same as everybody else. We were designed to be different. I was designed to be me. And you were designed to be you.  

So show who you are to the world. Be yourself and be better. And who gives a fuck what anybody else thinks.


2 comments:

  1. I worried a lot about being popular in high school too. By the time I hit about 22, I'd completely given up. And you know what - people like me better than they did when I was trying too hard.

    ReplyDelete
  2. That sounds very similar to my experience, Christy. I definitely tried way too hard for awhile, and probably realized this around the same age that you've mentioned. A valuable lesson in growing up!

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