It’s Not Them. It’s You.

The importance of finding your North Star

Image by Jack Fusco

Social media is a wonderful tool. In an instant, Facebook, Twitter, Medium, Instagram, and a host of other social media platforms can put you in touch with dozens, hundreds, or in some cases thousands of people you’d otherwise never encounter. The magic of discovering communities of like-minded individuals with whom you can exchange ideas is the validation that gives social media its enthralling glow.

As in life off-line, if you hang around social media long enough, you’ll encounter more than your fair share of snaggle-toothed, pointy-eared creatures who’ll gleefully roar refrains of your perceived ineptitude and the worthlessness of your works.

The sticks and stones adage is a bald-faced lie

Anyone who’s lived on this big blue marble for more than five trips around the sun knows that people will criticize them for reasons that rival the number of stars in the sky. And as much as we’d like to think we’re impervious to these critiques, they can sometimes sting with the impact of a brick to the face. Who hasn’t had any of the following leveled at them?

You’re too old.
You’re too young.
You’re too tall.
You’re too short.
You have too much experience.
You don’t have enough experience.
You don’t have the right experience.
You don’t work hard enough.
You don’t work fast enough.
You work too fast.
You have no passion.
You’re too reactionary.
You’re black.
You’re not black enough.
You’re not white enough.
You’re white.
You’re too poor.
You’re mixed/biracial.
You’re not smart enough.
You think you know everything.
You’re not from this country.
You’re too country.
You’re __________ [insert your least favorite religion].
You’re not __________ [insert your favorite religion].

They’re absolutely right

You’ll never fit their preconceptions. No one will. You’ll never have all the answers to set all things right in their world. You’ll never be enough. When we approach relationships with unrealistic goals and ill-conceived misconceptions and myopic expectations, we set ourselves up for disappointment. I’m not inferring that anyone adopt an open door mentality that acquiescences to all behaviors good and bad. Not in the least. When we interact with people with a sense of self that is subject to others’ opinions, we lose our identity, our sense of purpose, our direction.

So how do we avoid falling subject to others’ expectations? The answer’s in the stars. And I’m not talking about astrology.

Course correction

Navigators of old used the North Star to help them find their way. Polaris, the current north star, is situated in a relatively fixed position above the north celestial pole (the Earth’s axis) and the entire northern hemisphere’s sky rotates around that one star. Once navigators found the North Star, it was easy for them to determine not only north, but south, east, and west, and the their latitudinal position as well.

In a similar way, being self-aware — understanding your core beliefs, strengths, weaknesses, motivations, et cetera — helps you set a course for your life. Actively deciding what you value most in yourself and others clarifies the direction you want for your life. By the simple process of elimination, when you choose what’s important, you eliminate what’s irrelevant.

Let’s say you like baking apple pies, and prefer baking with Granny Smith apples for their bake-ability. When you know what a Granny Smith apple looks like, you’re less likely to mistake any other type of apple for it, so you in turn are more likely to find the Granny Smith apples you seek.

It’s not them. It’s you.

But how do you avoid others’ expectations? You can’t.

What do you do with others’ expectations? Nothing.

You can only control yourself. By knowing who you are, you take ownership of your self-image. You shape your own self-esteem based on your own goals and standards. You become the keeper of your self-esteem. And you set the course for your life. You become immune to the fickle whims of others’ opinions.

Know yourself, your strengths, and your weaknesses. Have a realistic opinion of yourself and your abilities that’s grounded in facts and not other’s opinions. Your self image is your responsibility and as an adult no one has more influence on it than you. Cultivate it, nurture it. Know what you stand for and as well as what you don’t. Have a small circle of friends you can trust to be honest with you.

When you’re secure in the knowledge of who you are, you free yourself from being subject to the naysayers’ mad ramblings about your worth. Your validation will come from within.

But keep in mind, being self-aware is not the same thing as being closed-minded. Self-awareness leaves room for others to be who they are. This does not mean that you endure whatever bad behavior people throw you way. On the contrary, when you’ve set boundaries for what’s acceptable behavior, it’s easy to walk away from unsavory situations and people. Doing so also liberates you from being subject to their opinion, and frees them of any responsibility of determining your worth.

Embrace all that you are and strive to become all that God created you to be.

The take-away

If you want to move through life without being weighed down by the opinions of others, remember their opinion doesn’t matter. Yours does. It’s not them. It’s you.

Love one another.

Originally published at