Everyone knows that growing up is hard. I still remember my awkward and confusing teenage years so vividly. While a lot of kids shut down and stop talking to their parents when they're teens, I still always made sure to talk to — and more importantly listen to — mine. And of all the advice my mother has given me over the years (and there has been a LOT), one thing has always stuck out in my mind as being the most important.
"What other people think about you is none of your business."
So simple, and so true.
As I've grown up, I've realized just how difficult this particular concept is for people, and still sometimes, myself. Worrying about what other people think keeps us from experiencing our own happiness, and when you think about it that way, how dare you let that happen to your own life?
My mom first told me this when I was a young teen, and it actually brought me a lot of comfort. During a time when it seems like other people's opinions are all that matter in life, it was a wonderful thing to cling to. Anytime I wanted to do things like try out for a team or club, wear a unique outfit, or stand up for myself or someone else, I would think of this simple sentence, and find courage. Flipping through my senior yearbook and seeing a few people's comments about times I stood in their corner is still something I feel proud of.
Funnily enough, once you work on yourself as a person and focus inward, all those outside noises, opinions, and thoughts fade away naturally.
While I definitely didn't master this back then, and still work at it now, liberating myself from other people's opinions over the years has freed me to try new things, make new friends, and become the kind of person who speaks their mind in a thoughtful yet honest way. And in a world where everyone is a celebrity with their own brand through social media, it was fantastic practice to figure out the difference between doing things for myself and doing things purely for validation from others.
Perhaps one of the most important times in my life I've applied this idea to was when I decided to graduate college early, move to Los Angeles, and audition through an agent. How many eye-rolls or whispers there were behind my back for pursuing such a lofty goal, I don't know, but I'm positive there were plenty. But I had the time of my life going out there and trying something, no matter how impossible it seemed, because I loved acting and singing. I felt brave and empowered by my own will, and I didn't have enough time to care what other people thought because I needed to put my desires first. And you know what? I don't regret a single thing. I never have to wonder "what if?" for the rest of my life, and that alone feels like an accomplishment.
No, it didn't work out. But I went out there and I had some pretty incredible experiences and opportunities. And because of it, I'm more comfortable than ever in interviews, meeting new people, and trying new things (nothing is as awkward as auditioning). The experience helped shape who I am.
It's a part of the human condition to wonder what other people think and how we come across. The idea of a reputation can be very fragile indeed. However, it's how we feel about ourselves that's the most important. Funnily enough, once you work on yourself as a person and focus inward, all those outside noises, opinions, and thoughts fade away naturally. People can sense that positive confidence.
My mom's words have helped navigate me through my teens, 20s, and now my 30s, allowing me to make decisions that are right for me. People just are who they are. Sometimes you gel well with others, sometimes you don't. Sometimes you agree with people, sometimes you don't. Sometimes you appreciate their style, attitude, or brand of humor, and sometimes you don't. That's life. To restrict your authentic self based on fear of what someone might say about you behind your back is a huge waste of time.
After all, mom always knows best.