Section 3: LIVING WITH GOODNESS
JUST BE YOURSELF
You Are Unique for a Reason
We live under a lot of pressure to be like others. We feel this pressure because we want to be accepted and “thought well of” by many of those around us. But, inside of you is a unique individual with likes, loves, skills, and interests like no other. For those qualities to fully develop, you have to manage your life and make the choices that allow you to be yourself and to become the individual you were intended to be.
To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else
is the greatest accomplishment.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
The World Is Trying to Change You
Given the influence of social media, the push for us to conform and think like the group thinks has never been greater. There is almost constant pressure on all of us to live our lives like others—to wear the “right” clothes, go to the “right” places, and to think the “right” things. Because we want the approval of others, we frequently adjust our lives in response to these influences in an effort to gain acceptance. We switch where we shop so that we can have clothes from the same place as others. We form an opinion about protests in the city because someone “explained” their view to us. We decide who we are going to vote for not because we researched their background but because one of our friends or family members is for them. Yes, we “borrow” a lot of our thinking from others.
However, if we constantly yield to what others think, we can completely miss the chance to discover the individual we were meant to be. Raymond Hull, author of How to Get What You Want, warned us of the problem of trying to be like others with these words:
He who trims himself to suit everyone
will soon whittle himself away.
We Don’t See It Happening
Because we don’t see or feel outside factors changing us, we don’t often stop to think how these outside influences are shaping our lives. But identifying opinions that can sway our thoughts or beliefs is some of the more important recognition work and thinking we can do. If we are ever going to develop the ability to make good choices—choices that are right for us—we have to maintain a certain amount of individuality and develop the ability to think for ourselves.
No one can wave a magic wand and make us totally independent, but the ability to “stand on our own two feet” is exactly what we should be working to achieve. Readily accepting
the opinions of others will almost always take us in the wrong direction. Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, again urged us to “do our own thing” with this instruction:
Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.
Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.
Some Points to Consider
We place such a high value on the opinions of others that it is very difficult to free ourselves from the pull of wanting to be accepted. The following three points will help you to stop and think about the amount of influence others have on your life and how you can become more independent in your day-to-day thinking.
People don’t always know what they’re talking about.
It’s amazing how we will accept a friend’s or business associate’s opinion, while disregarding our own thoughts. The truth is, other people don’t know what’s going on inside of you, what your life is all about, or what you want to achieve with it. It’s a mistake to “follow” people who don’t really know you and let them influence you in the wrong way. No, don’t stop listening to caring advice of parents, knowledgeable friends, and concerned professionals. But do weigh the advice from others against what you know to be true about yourself. Make the choice: Should this bit of outside advice be heeded or tossed aside?
As long as you are being good, kind, and productive, it doesn’t matter what others think.
No question, you have to be a good person, be kind to others, and work to achieve your purpose in life. But beyond these basics, it really doesn’t matter what other people think. It’s hard to hear people judge you or to tell you that you’re wrong. It’s even harder to see a close friend make a poor choice and tell you that you should too because “everyone else is doing this.” But stand strong in your belief that you know what’s best for you. Cultivate the habit of gauging yourself by these three qualities—being good, being kind and being productive—not by the opinions or ideas of others.
You’ve got your own drummer inside, and others have no way to hear the beat.
You have personal interests, unique abilities, and certain feelings about the needs of others that are leading you to your intended purpose in life. Other people can’t hear the “drumbeat” that you can hear from these things. Others have almost no way to factor your uniqueness into any suggestions they are trying to make. Just keep this in mind as you evaluate the suggestion or recommendation being offered to you.
Granted, there are people in our lives who want to help us—moms, dads, brothers, sisters, teachers, trusted business associates, and close friends. These people care about us and want the best for us. But again, as long as we are good, kind, and productive—those three important things—how we live our lives is ultimately up to us and the choices we make. We welcome the love and counsel those close to us can provide, but at some point, you and I have to pilot our own lives.
Don’t try to make your life look like others.
You are unique and special.
Believe it and live that way.
A Commencement Speaker
Partnering with the Spirit of Goodness
As we have stated in many of the lessons in this library, each of us—regardless of whether we are currently being good, bad, or indifferent—has the Spirit of Goodness residing within us. That Spirit is with us each and every day…no matter what.
In addition, you are unique for a reason. The Spirit of Goodness will help you determine what that reason is if you will make the choice to look inside as you work to determine what your interests, abilities, and feelings are saying to you. Yes, it’s a more complicated process than these few words imply. But you are a special person, destined to be even more so as you work to partner with the Spirit of Goodness and follow where it is leading you.