“Our past may shape us, but it doesn’t define us.”– Alyson Noel, Night Star
It is the nature of people as a whole to try to sort our world into simple, logical boxes. This process allows all of the crazy aspects of the world to be simplified and quickly processed and understood, and it is the reason for our tendency to make snap-judgments. These judgments are used to sift through what has already been painstakingly learned through an individual’s collective experiences to help ease the way into the future. It means that each new person met or experience encountered is automatically categorized to be “like” the most similar person or experience dealt with previously, creating morphed little caricatures of the actuality. This is incredibly unfair to those who you meet and judge while knowing nearly nothing about them, but it is also unfair to YOU, since even YOU are being shoved into little category boxes by every person you encounter. How you are superficially perceived by the world has almost nothing to do with your own actions. The concept is very odd and unsettling.
Not until there is a great deal of time invested on learning about a specific person are you able to lift the veil of these snap judgements and misinterpretations to meet the actual person on their own accord. Even after you know someone very well and have devoted endless hours on this learning quest, you may not be able to grasp the reason for decisions they make. It is a wonder that professional therapists and counselors can gain workable insights, and assign life-changing labels, in an hours’ time spent in sporadic sessions once per month or less. Certainly, these professionals are able to follow guidelines and make practical suggestions that may fit an appropriate criterion, but to really get to the heart of an issue, one must KNOW the participants intimately, not superficially. This is where the disconnect begins, because who can possibly know you intimately enough to truly define you?
It seems to be that the only people who can define you are those that you allow close enough. Even then, they will still have a disconnect. Having not grown up AS you, they cannot possibly have every bit of seemingly unimportant facts needed to understand you. That leaves only ONE person who is capable of defining you, and that, of course, is YOU yourself. Having passed through this short thought experiment, it seems like you should probably take the job of defining yourself very seriously. Your opinion of yourself is truly the only one that matters. Others will come and go in your life, bringing and taking away with them their judgments. Leaving out all of those other people’s verdicts, you can grasp the task of self-definition with your full attention! What a better place to start than with this amount of self-proclaimed power!
Decide who you want to be and make it happen. With each decision, you are making that meaning of your life clearer. Many people make bad decisions without realizing that life is a result of stringing together decisions. If you string together too many bad ones, you create a bad life. If you string together all good choices, you have naturally created a good life. Even if the world throws the inevitable curve-ball at your creation, a well-practiced decision-making muscle can guide you past the obstacles while keeping your identity as a good person intact.
This concept begs another question. If you are the only person who can truly define your life, and life is a combination of the choices that you have decided to make, then perhaps there are no “good” or “bad” people in this world, but instead only people who have made good or bad decisions. Bad decisions are made when someone does not realize that they have the power to define themselves. Knowledge is truly power when this realization is internalized. Move forward through life and, when a decision must be made, consider that it is a chance for you to flex the power you have; a chance to define and solidify who you truly are to the only person who actually matters.