Lessons In Growing Up: You Can’t Change The Way People See You, So Change The Way You View Yourself

Abigail Kennan
Abigail Kennan

People will tell you endless stories about finding yourself in your late teens to early twenties. You find room to grow through experiences with peers, school, sexual experimentation, friendship, failures, and sometimes-huge successes. However, I feel like we aren’t talking about the personal battles we all face. The small things we hold onto for dear life, and end up driving ourselves crazy with for no particular reason. These “small things” are what make us who we are, for better or for worse.

For as long as I can remember, my small things have been change and perception. Change, because I have forever wanted to update who I was. Being able to change who you are is a form of control. (I’m a control freak if you couldn’t tell.) And perception, because I used to live my life based on how I thought people viewed me, how I wanted them to see me. Rather than how I viewed myself.

It was exhausting. I felt like an iPhone that was always overdue for an upgrade. It took me 19 years to finally be able to look at myself and say, “Love it or hate it, this is who you are. Get over it.” Gosh, am I glad I did.

You can’t change how people see you, but you can change how you view yourself. There they are again! My two things. In that sentence though, they seemed a lot more accepting than threatening.

I don’t remember the first time somebody told me something that made me feel like I needed to change who I was, but I remember the first time I stopped caring. I was not the most popular person in middle school or high school. In all honesty I had a grand total of two friends that weren’t related to me by blood. I was picked on a lot and I turned the harsh realities of what was being said about me into my own personal gospel.

“Change this, do that, be your best self—and by your best self, I mean a new self.” I had more personalities than there are iPhone models, and somehow, I didn’t see anything wrong with that.

The day that the switch flipped for me was actually about a few weeks ago. I had gotten into a disagreement with a close friend of mine. She was worried about something that, in my eyes, didn’t matter. In all honesty, it felt like she didn’t trust me. When I confronted the situation, her response shed light on an even bigger truth. The way she saw me, a person who I thought was supposed to understand me better than most, didn’t align with the way I viewed myself.

In years passed I would have taken that realization to heart. “What did I do wrong?” “Why doesn’t she understand me?” “How can I change? Should we stop being friends?” All things I would have thought and seriously meditated on as recently as two years ago. This time though, I did ask myself the first question. Nothing was the answer. I did nothing wrong. Her reasons for not trusting me all stemmed from personal beliefs, or “trust issues” as she called them. So, what would I do? Is it time for another upgrade? Do I recharge and reset? Do I cancel the phone plan that we know as friendship and find a new carrier? No, of course not.

When you run up your phone bill and use all of the data you thought you had budgeted correctly, what do you do? You reflect, you rewrite the budget, and you take responsibility. That’s exactly what I did. After talking to a few close counterparts I came to a new conclusion. While it is true that I can’t make my friend see me the way I see myself, it would be up to nobody but myself to learn to take comfort in the things that made me, me.

You can’t change how people see you. But eventually who you really are comes out. So, trust the process and if anybody misunderstands you then fine, let them. I truly believe that who we are depends on whom we’re asking. In the way that people will tell you, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” the same can be said for a person’s attractiveness. Be it your charm, sense of humor, or style, there will always be someone who dislikes, misunderstands, or just simply doesn’t get you. Likeability is not all it’s cracked up to be. Being cool or funny are truly dependent on who you are trying to entertain; and I would much rather be respected than accepted. TC mark

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