Article by Wendy McCance
Recently I had a discussion with my oldest daughter about the people who surrounded her at her high school. She was saying how she couldn’t wait to graduate and get out of a school full of people who look down on individuality. She didn’t understand why so many people were happy to be follower’s and do things that might not be smart, safe or good for them in any way.
My daughter is unique for her age in that she has a strong sense of self and isn’t afraid to show her true self to others. She is into extreme healthy eating, crossfit and honoring the planet with a green lifestyle. She has gotten our family to recycle and has gone so far as to make bookbags, jewelry and whatnot out of recycled items such as pop can tabs and plastic grocery bags.
My daughter experienced the divorce of her father and me when she was in 3rd grade. She has seen her father remarry twice more with stepkids in tow. She has an incredibly large extended family and quite a few of the relatives live close by. I got remarried as well. Bottom line, she has been around an incredible amount of very different personalities. Although she has faced some toxic people, she has stood tall, kept a strong sense of confidence and really understands that some people are just not good people. How she was able to realize that it wasn’t her but them and keep herself in tact is beyond me (but I am grateful beyond words).
So, my daughter for all of her personal strength and dedication to being the best person she can be knows how to honor herself when it is about herself or her version of the less fortunate. She doesn’t have an ounce of tolerance for the kids at her school that she views as having a comfortable life, but are insecure and follow someone else’s lead instead of their own.
This is where our conversation began. I have seen my daughter full of empathy want to protect, guide and generally befriend those kids that come from a bad home or are picked on by others. She has a big heart and a loving spirit. The problem she faces is her strong sense of judgment. Without knowing what is going on behind closed doors, she sees some kids who appear just fine (nice clothes, popular, good social life) and judges them if they follow the pack instead of being true to themselves.
What I had to open up her eyes to was that she has no idea what is going on in their personal lives. She was one of the fortunate ones who took some bad experiences and was able to create a stronger individual out of herself. Many people really buy into others opinions when they put they are put down and are blamed a problem, even if they had nothing to do with the situation. She didn’t understand that people have different coping mechanisms and that maybe some of these kids have so much low self-esteem that they just want to feel like they belong no matter how good or bad the people and the situation surrounding those people are.
When you ask yourself if you are a leader or a follower, it’s not the answer that is bad. Sometimes it’s good to feel confident and want to be in charge. Other times you can learn so much by putting your own ego aside and follow the lead of others. This isn’t what’s important. What’s important is WHY? Why are you leading others or why do you tend to follow?
It’s great to be a leader. Leader’s are strong, confident, take charge types that want things to get done in a particular way. Leader’s also can be control freaks who must have their way and don’t give up much room for other’s thoughts, ideas and opinions.
It can be valuable to be a follower. Follower’s can learn new things by watching and participating in a lesser role. Follower’s can have an open mind to other people’s ideas and are more than happy to hear other opinions. Follower’s can also have low self-esteem and fear of standing out in the spotlight. They can fear judgment and lack personal strength. They would much rather blend in than take a charge of their own ideas.
The bottom line in my conversation with my daughter was about tolerance and trying to see the bigger picture. I asked her to really try to get to know a person as an individual before casting doubt on their personalities. People can be good at hiding the parts of themselves that they feel bad about. How can you form an opinion of what a person is about and look down on that opinion if you don’t really know who they are or why they react the way they do? Even more importantly, why should your own thoughts be more superior than another. Sure have an opinion. It’s great to know who you are and what you stand for. It’s not so great to feel as though your opinion is so much more important and correct than an other persons point of view.
My daughter said she hadn’t looked at it like that and would try not to be so harsh in her opinions of others.
Judgment can be a toxic emotion. It gets in the way of having a loving, happy existence. When you free yourself of judgment you open your life to a more satisfying, peaceful way of seeing things around you. Who wants to live their life carrying around the bitter bad feeling that comes with looking down on others. Free yourself from the burden of looking after others and deciding how they measure up. Be a loving person who sees the good in people and would rather lift them up than tear them down. Watch as your own life starts to feel more fulfilled and full of peace.
This is the advice I gave to my daughter. I hope that she is able to release herself from some of the bad feelings she was carrying around by having such strong opinions of her peers.
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