You Are Not What Others Say About You
AND YOU ARE SO MUCH MORE THAN THE VOICE IN YOUR HEAD
I remember sitting at the kitchen counter one morning eating my typical breakfast of Malt-O-Meal® and scrambled eggs before school. Out of the blue, my mom said, “If people don’t like you for who you are, that’s their problem.” For a brief moment, I felt championed. “That’s right,” I thought. Then she followed up with an unsolicited jab to my ego. “But sometimes you act like an idiot.” My mom could throw a punch.
My mother didn’t confront my bad behavior often. When she did, her demeanor was soft but poignant. Like the time I was leaving for school and she caught me off guard with a gentle left hook, “You know, smoking isn’t a cardinal sin.” Crap! She knows. “Of course not, mom. People shouldn’t smoke.” That blow rang my bell but didn’t quite knock me down. I just found a new place to hide my cigarettes.
As a kid, I gave my parents unending grief. They gave me unconditional love—a gift many people never experience. Despite their example of grace, unconditional love for myself didn’t come easily. I struggled to measure up in my own mind, and I battled feelings of not being enough. While the terms are not unfamiliar to us, let’s break down the differences between conditional and unconditional love.
Conditional love doesn’t feel good. In fact, it doesn’t feel like love at all. When someone loves us conditionally, it means that they put terms, restrictions, or rules on the giving of their love. One the other hand, unconditional love comes without conditions, limits, or barriers. In unconditional love, there is no sense of “I will love you if…” or “I will only love you when you behave differently.1”
Many people understand the distinctions between conditional and unconditional love because they have experienced both. While we agree that unconditional wins, we gravitate toward the opposite. This is evident in how we see ourselves in the darkest and scariest parts of our hearts—where we don’t like to visit. How do we shift to begin loving ourselves unconditionally? The battle begins in the mind.
Listen, Learn, and Let Go
The narrator in our heads is speaking to us all day, every day. For far too many people, that voice isn’t constructive. The narration we hear is hurtful, reminding us of our past. Pointing out our flaws. Robbing us of our self-love and self-acceptance. Sadly, we choose to believe the lies. In turn, we put on costumes to compensate for our lack of confidence, and we place conditions on loving ourselves completely.
Many people struggle to shout over the voice of self-deprecation and self-defeat. Those few and far in-between moments of unconditional love for ourselves are overshadowed. We believe the negative thoughts when we should let them go. But it’s important to pause here to realize that you are not your thoughts. Neither the encouraging voice nor the incriminating voice represents your authentic self 2.
Listening to the positive voice that believes the best about you is much more pleasant. This is easier when you have unconditional love for yourself. At the same time, having unconditional love for yourself is how you listen, learn, and let go of your negative thoughts. Otherwise, you believe and become them. Unfortunately, the same is typically true of the way we tend to view and treat others.
Your Words Have Power
Negative self-talk speaks from a place of conditional love. So you must counter the attack using the power of your words to win the battle in your mind. Every day, I review the desires for my life. Whether I achieve these goals doesn’t matter (that’s not a condition of my self-love). I also carry a list of affirmations I read to create a positive mindset. And I try to maintain a spirit of gratitude at all times.
Those have not always been my habits, but as I wrote last week, I control my life. Each of those practices are scheduled events on my calendar. My mental, emotional, spiritual health depend on them, so I’m sharing them with you. To quote the late "Golden Rule" Jones of Toledo, "What I want for myself, I want for everybody." But only when we cultivate unconditional love for ourselves can we offer it to others.
My mom was right. “If people don’t like you for who you are, that’s their problem.” You are not what others say about you. And you are so much more than the voice in your head.
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Take a look in the mirror. What did you notice? It could be internal or external. It’s not unusual for some self-judgments to arise. Listen to your thoughts just long enough to know which ones affect you most in a negative way. Write down the judgment that evokes the strongest emotional response in you. Now, consider the source of this judgement and how it has impacted you in the past. Do you still want to give this judgment control of your life? No? Good. The judgement is not part of you. It’s only a piece of paper. Wad it up and throw it away. Beliefs only exist in your mind as long as you choose to believe them.
Timothy Eldred is a writer, speaker, and friendly disruptor of the status quo with a mission to end aloneness. He gives leadership and provides strategic support to profit and not-for-profit organizations to develop a sustainable culture of authenticity. Tim is also a member of the CompleMentor training team. Follow him @timothyeldred.
The authentic self is an ongoing topic we will investigate in-depth in the future.