Rollercoaster of Perception
I used to live my life trying to control people’s opinions of me. I believed that if I was kind, if I said the right things, followed all the rules, and did my very best in all aspects of life then I could control how other people perceived me.
When I was 12-years-old, our church youth group took a two-hour road trip to Six Flags Theme Park in Vallejo, California. I was so excited to spend the weekend with all my closest friends. I had just moved from California to Nevada two years prior and I was just beginning to feel grounded in my friend group. I felt care-free on this trip and felt like I could be myself with these trusted friends. We laughed, ate junk food, and spent way too much money just to be thrown around on rollercoasters all day. I came home filled up.
The mother of one of my friends was the one who drove and spent the day with us. Her perception of that weekend and, more specifically, my actions, was very different than what I had perceived. She called my mom upon our arrival home overflowing with frustration and annoyance about the way I acted that weekend and demanded an apology for ruining the trip for everyone.
When my mom sat me down to talk about this, I remember feeling so confused and devastated. I couldn’t figure out for the life of me what I did “wrong.” I cried, feeling like I had been a burden. This was the first time I remember being aware of the opinions of others.
Even more, I realized for the first time that how I perceived myself was not the same as how other people perceived me.
Being just on the cusp of those vulnerable teenage years, I wanted acceptance more than anything. I chose to believe that people didn’t like me for who I really am. I chose to try to control their opinions of me by showing up how they wanted me to show up. I honestly still struggle with this sometimes.
I learned in this process that, however hard I tried, I couldn’t control other people’s opinions of me. They choose their opinions of me based on what their brain tells them. I could be the most amazing, kind, awesome person and there will always be someone who has a negative opinion of me. This is all the truer today now that I’ve stepped out of the constraints of other’s opinions to embrace who I really am. There are some people who dislike my authentic person even more than my fake persona. But, it doesn’t really have anything to do with me. It has everything to do with their perception of me.
Instead of conforming to opinions, hold tight to your integrity. You don’t have to prove that you are what you aren’t. You get to choose to be who you are.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. By doing this, they just might change their mind about you. Ten years later, this mother and I reconnected and became friends. When we did, I was grounded in who I am so I could love and accept who she is too. That’s true pleasure I think. We all need the grace and space to grow in this.
Written By: Tori Hein