In October 1995, I got my first Internet connection. It was exciting. Just a week earlier, I had read a newspaper article about the ‘Information Superhighway’ and how anyone could now have access to a global treasure-trove of information right at one’s fingertips – at the click of a mouse.
The article also mentioned that the value of such access would be tempered by one’s own apetite for adventure, risk and curiosity.
The first year was heady. I went on a rampage of exploration and discovery. Found a lot of interesting places, met a lot of fun people, even made a lot of mistakes.
Those ‘roles’ defined me. I became stereotyped. It got boring. I was letting ‘other people’s opinions’ dictate what I was.
Recently, I chose to break out of the mold.
Once again, I started clicking on links just to explore what’s on the other end. And it still is just as exciting as it was 12 years ago, in many ways more so. And I’m still meeting some new people who are just as fascinating as the many from my past.
Seth Godin has been my favorite author for years. Through an interview he did, I ‘discovered’ Guy Kawasaki. Another interview on Guy’s blog led me to Chris Brogan. From a link on Chris’ blog comments, I found Michael Bailey. Michael’s blog led me to Jeff Pulver, and from there on to Connie Bensen. From Connie’s site, I found Rick Mahn.
And today, Rick blogged about something close to my heart – “How opinions of others shape our self-image”
My 8 year-old daughter will (wearily) tell you it’s one of my hobby-horses, being fair game for discussion at the dinner table, during long drives or longer walks.
The reason I feel strongly about it is I’ve let myself be a victim to this at an age when I didn’t know better. And I’m on a mission to help as many people as read my rambling notes avoid making this mistake – unintentionally.
I’m a heart surgeon. When I step into the operating room to perform surgery on a child who is the apple of his or her parents’ eye, I need to go in with a confident self-image.
I prepare for surgery feeling, thinking and BELIEVING that I can do a good job – and not taking to heart the opinions of my 7th grade science teacher, or my mom, or the sour-faced girl at the supermarket checkout counter last Friday.
That’s not to say I can’t take criticism at all (though that was once the case too). I do listen to feedack, suggestions and comments others have about me – but this time, I run it through the filter of WHY they said it.
Human psychology is one of my other passions, and I’ve studied it a lot. And have learned that, often, what we criticize in others is something we deeply dislike or are insecure about – IN OURSELVES.
Seeing it in others evokes an uncomfortable, disdainful loathing – but very rarely are we aware of the real reason for it… that we fear, are ashamed of, and cannot accept the same deficiencies inside ourselves.
For instance, I am a bit hyper-critical about my daughter’s fear of going alone into dark rooms – maybe because as a child (and to be perfectly honest, even sometimes as an adult), I too shared the same phobia. I don’t like it in me – and I don’t like it in her. Hence I criticize.
Now, that brings me to the interesting question Rick Mahn asks.
“… how the opinions of your friends or family influence the perception you have of yourself? How do your co-workers or bosses perceptions affect your belief in you?”
Knowing that those opinions are laced with an overlay of the other guy’s deep personal doubts and insecurities, I made the choice to view them through a different, impersonal frame – and keep the ones that still make sense, ruthlessly erasing from memory the rest.
As long as you let someone else’s opinions define the real YOU, you’ll be cut out to leading a life that’s never going to be your own, believing you are a caricature of someone else’s imagination, struggling to meet someone else’s expectations of an idealized version of themselves!
Is that what you want to do?
Or would you rather get out there and ‘BE Yourself’