“So long as you are still worried about what others think of you, you are owned by them. Only when you require no approval from outside yourself can you own yourself.”- Neal Donald Walsch
“Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.”- Laozi
Phrase it however you want, but when you give into the power of image, you give up your power.
It is eighth grade, and you walk into the lunchroom. This is the first day of school and you feel like an entire lifetime has passed since you talked with these people. You are carrying your tray and about to turn a corner when someone comes around it at full speed and knocks your tray into you spilling all of your food onto your brand-new school clothes. You look up from the mess that is all over you to see everyone staring at you. Some of them are pointing and laughing and others just stare. Your face begins to burn red with embarrassment and you know you will never live this moment down; this is the worst thing that has ever happened to you and no one will see you as anything other than the kid they see before them.
Does any of this sound familiar? Maybe certain aspects of it only happened to a few of us, but the feeling of being completely embarrassed Infront of our peers is a feeling all too familiar I am sure. We wanted so bad to make a good impression on that first day of school, or to make sure our presentation at work went exactly as planned or better yet, that our social media post got the most likes. So many of us are consumed with this never ending need to please those around us but at the end of the day, are we happy with who we really are?
One of the most important things, No, THE MOST IMPORTANT thing we can do with our life is live it to our own satisfaction. When we stop worrying about what people are going to think about us and start living out our own version of who we are, we will be set free.
I was consumed by a fanatic need to be loved by everyone around me. I never wanted to step on anyone’s toes or seem confrontational by any means. It was fine most of the time, but after years and years of doing this I started living a life that was not entirely my own.
At a young age I began drinking and taking drugs, I can blame it on my alcoholic biker father or the fact that everyone else was doing it, but the real reason I did it was to be liked and impress those around me. I didn’t want to be the only kid not doing it because then all the other kids would think I was a snitch and wouldn’t want me around, so, I partook. After a while I was drinking and doing drugs even when no one was around because my constant need to be liked changed who I was when there wasn’t even anyone around to impress.
After a few years I met someone who didn’t like that lifestyle, someone I was completely enchanted by, someone I wanted to like me. I kicked the booze, dropped the drugs and changed who I was once again. The one I was changing for had a very strict rule, they could not date anyone who was not in church. To me, this was a no brainer. I had already spent years in sin and here is someone that was opening their heart to me if I just sacrificed an hour once a week to listen to someone tell me how to live a better life. The change was made, and all though it was far better than the life I was living before, I was still only doing this to make someone else happy, I was simply doing what I thought would make them like me.
After two years we were married and deeper in the church than I ever thought I would be. Before long we were teaching Sunday-school and having home bible studies sometimes four times a week, at one point I was teaching eleven different bible studies a week PLUS going to church three times a week. On the outside things were looking great! We had three beautiful kids, I had a great job, and my spouse was working on a degree in healthcare, not to mention all the great things I was doing for the church. I was our outreach director; I was preaching in the local prison and was quickly becoming a well-known preacher around our district. Every day I would come home from my great sales job (that I started to hate), I would smile and play with my kids, love those around me and then go into my bedroom and stare at myself in the mirror wondering who this person was. I had to keep my hair short because I was a preacher, I couldn’t have a beard because it was against our church standards, I couldn’t go to the movies, I couldn’t, I couldn’t, I HAD TO MAKE THEM HAPPY! One day while going through all of this in my head something broke, I no longer cared to keep living my life. I started thinking how much easier it would be if I just ended things, I mean, if I am failing at making everyone happy because I am preaching the love of God but yet I feel no love for myself, I want to die.
It was at that moment that I realized something, why shouldn’t I kill myself? I don’t mean my physical body because there was beauty I was not finished with, my family, watching my kids grow up, napping with my dogs. I wasn’t ready to give up all of that but why not kill this person I am? Why not release myself from the prison of being exactly what I thought everyone else wanted me to be? So, I did. I wasted no time starting with the things I felt the most pressure from and working from there. I left the church (hopefully on a good note because I understand a lot of people need the church and love the comfort, they get from it, just not me anymore), I left my job (only after having a very serious family meeting and laying things out with what will work best for all of us) and I stopped cutting my hair and shaving. The last part may not seem that big of a deal to some people, but it was a symbol to me. All of my life I have done what I thought others wanted me to do, I never got to know who I am…I didn’t even know what I looked like!
Now when I look in the mirror, I see the person I decided to become. I made this choice with the support of those around me, not the ones pointing their fingers and laughing at me in the school cafeteria, but the ones who got up from the table and helped me clean up.
I now have my dream job, one I never thought in a million years I would do, I am a stand-up comedian and full-time writer. I wake up with a smile everyday knowing that hard times may come but I will deal with them in my OWN WAY. I will take care of my own life and not worry what others may think of me. I have long hair, a long beard, I tell jokes to strangers for money and now live on an 11-acre farm raising my own food. I am sure people talk; I just don’t listen anymore.
Once I got to the place where I realized my every thought was of suicide, I gave in. I killed myself, whoever that person was. Mentally, they are dead and gone and because of that I was freed from the prison of acceptance and able to live my true life. Suicide is never the answer, laying down your physical body because of the mental pain at times seems like the right way to go, BUT IT NEVER IS. There is a better way of going through life, it just takes the courage to change things, and at times…everything!
Written exclusively for our company by Jacob Ruble
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