From a young age, many people are told that they will not amount to anything. In school, some children are given the “advice” that they not attempt to pursue anything great, because they are simply destined to fail. These students, whose academic or athletic careers might already have been difficult, are thus given yet another obstacle to succeed: the negative opinions of others. If we can learn not to internalize these thoughts and opinions, however, then we have another option: to let our light shine bright at all costs.
In the Harry Potter novel and film series, the wise old wizard Albus Dumbledore says, “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” Whether it’s happiness or success or something else, these lights can only be turned on from within. This is exactly what we must do when faced with the negative opinions of others.
When people make snide comments or ridicule us, in truth we have only a few options in response. We can turn those opinions around and give the person a taste of their own medicine, which only serves to fuel the fire on both ends. Alternatively, we can keep quiet, internalizing their insults as a part of our own self-image, the brand that we create for and of ourselves each day. Neither one of these choices encourages us, strengthens us, or makes us better in the long run. In other words, neither one is helpful.
There is another choice, though. This final option is to be the source of our own identity. Regardless of the truth of their claims, we can choose to ignore the meaning and use the power of motivation instead. Importantly, this does not mean that we can’t let others’ words affect us. We are allowed to feel whatever emotions or thoughts come our way. The important part is that we choose not to internalize those emotions or thoughts.
People that are emotionally and mentally tough have strong feelings like anybody else. The difference is that they don’t let those feelings define who they are. In order to succeed, we have to learn the hard lesson of self-identity. The question is this: Who gets to define who you are? The answer is this: You.
In essence, that’s all there is to it. The lesson is no more intellectually difficult than that. Putting that knowledge to work each day is a much harder challenge, one that takes considerable practice.
With all that in mind, remember this: nobody defines you but you. Say it to yourself, “Nobody defines me but me.” When someone mocks you or criticizes you unfairly, say, “I define myself.” When you make this your truth and realize that other people’s opinions don’t matter, you will truly be free to let your light shine. And let’s be honest — the world needs as much light as it can get. Don’t let the world define you. Be the light. Shine on.
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