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Live out your own purpose, not others

I was reminded of something recently that I felt was worth sharing and it was simply to be mindful of the value I assign to other people’s opinions and perceptions of me — positive or critical.

What does that mean? Well, I see it is a nugget of wisdom that teaches me that if my relationship to myself is such that I become reliant on the positive feedback from others who say I’m awesome at what I do, intelligent, and can do great things in life, then I will also have to believe the criticism when they say I’m mediocre, a feather weight in my field, and not of the right stuff to succeed. If I become lifted up by the positive things folks say without a “know for myself” sense of positive regard, then surely they will be able to bring me down with the unfavorable things they say. So, I continue to learn how to appreciate the opinions, feedback, and perceptions of others, whether positive or critical, with a clear eyed understanding that these are not the measure of who I am.

All of us need a little support at times. This may consist of family and a few friends who encourage, validate, and cheer us on in our lives. Many times this kind of support gives us the courage to accomplish our goals or to make important changes in our lives. And, most of us have had times when we needed to hear “you’re awesome, talented, smart, capable, beautiful, and creative” to help get us moving again after we’ve experienced some blow to our confidence. I know I have. I think, though, that what can become problematic for us is when we lack a sense of connection to who we are and go searching for who we are through the lenses of others.

Without being connected to our own ideas about who we are and who we aren’t, without being aware of our own inner competencies and resources and without realizing our own value and worth, we run the risk of embodying the shape and definition others give to us. When we assign significant value to what others think or say about us, it can lead toward a tendency to people-please. We might find a false sense of comfort in doing so because when we are saying, doing, being what others want, they are likely to respond favorably and we might think that we are successfully “managing” their perceptions of us. What people think about us changes with the wind so, imagine how exhausting of an existence it has to be to try and keep up. That energy could be put to better use.

Knowing yourself for yourself allows you to be freed up from the obsessive concern about what others have to say about who you are. I am grateful for reminders like these because while I enjoy praises and compliments, I realize that such feedback, like the criticisms, are ultimately more of a reflection of the “sender” and not me, the “recipient.” From this kind of systemic understanding, I am able to accept both with grace appreciating them from a safe distance so that I can use my energy living out my purpose.

Be encouraged.

Contact columnist LaTonya Dunn at ln_dunn@yahoo.com.