There are so many people that we encounter over the years who we know in a general sense. From these moments, we decide who we think they are. But, there is so much we don’t know about them. And, there is so much that they don’t know about us.
Which made me reflect on the things that used to define me. I am not the labels I once wore. I am not the insecurities that used to haunt me. I am not the smile people saw as they passed me in the halls.
And, it used to matter so much to me what people perceived of me. I wanted to be known, to be liked, to be filtered. I wanted to be admired, but not for who I truly was. I wanted people to see the best versions of me.
But, as I got older, I realized something. It’s exhausting to live your life for someone else. To twist and contort. To dull and minimize. To bend, and bend, and bend on the verge of breaking just to fit what you think someone else wants you to be, only to have to start all over again when the next set of eyes decide they don’t like what they see.
There are going to be so many people that will feel that they know you from very general interactions with you. For better or worse, they have branded you from those encounters. But, there’s something really liberating about knowing that those brief moments can’t define who you are at your core. You get to do that, no one else.
And there will be so many people that love you for the genuine person that you are. They will love every flaw, every quirk, and every trait that encompasses you.
So, as I’ve gotten older, I have started to filter my life a little bit less. I’ve started to speak my mind a little bit more. I’ve decided to let people see me for who I am, and that they can take it or leave it. I’ve started to let myself make decisions for my life that aren’t bogged down by wondering what other people might think about it.
And, I’m still that girl that cares about the opinions of others. But, I care a little differently. I care about how I’m treating others and the problems that I can solve. I care about if I’m trying to live my life with authenticity and compassion.
I am flawed, but I am trying. I make mistakes, but I do my best to grow from them. I know that there is so much more to me than what others perceive of me, and that there is so much more underneath the surface of the people I know. And this realization serves as a beautiful reminder. It reminds us to be kind to others, while also being kind to ourselves. It reminds us to accept critique but to consider the source. It reminds us that ultimately, no one else knows enough of our heart to decide who we are. We get to do that by living our best and most passionate lives.