“If you’re skinny, you need to gain weight…. If you’re fat, you need to lose weight. If you smoke weed you’re a druggie. If you drink, you’re an alcoholic. If you get dressed up, you are vain, If you dress down you’ve let yourself go. If you speak your mind, you are rude. If you don’t say anything, you’re snobbish. If you are sociable, you’re a party animal. If you keep yourself to yourself, you’re detached. If you are young, you are immature, if you’re old you’re dispensable.
I saw this copied on a student’s wall with her picture on Facebook. Here is the advice that I gave her:
This type of criticism exists in every culture and during every epoch and in every country. Nothing to worry about. Do what is right. Right and wrong comes not from people’s comments or self centered-ness but from universal principles. Read Covey’s Principles Centered Leadership. You need to have a pivot, a reference or a “center” of your life that will help you decide whether the criticism is right or wrong or irrelevant or a distraction. Our self-worth should not depend upon what people say or do to us. Our self-worth is independent of the people’s likes or dislikes if we are principle centered. Problem is we often choose other “centers” of life that make us dependent upon people’s opinions, likes and dislikes, and this exacerbates the problem as we are forever trying to please them. Following are some of the popular “centers” that people use to decide what is right and what is wrong for you:
- Some people design their lives around their parents as center (but they grow old and eventually leave this world). Right and wrong is determined by parental likes or dislikes.
- Some people design their lives around things as center; the latest fashion, the latest smart phone, the latest food/restaurant, the latest car model…. (the latest is always superceded by another better model/fashion). Here our self-identity becomes associated with the “thing”. However, the moment we see someone having a better car, or mobile phone, or a house than others, we become depressed. Even if we get the best around, it becomes obsolete the moment it gets completed, because there is always another newer, better version about to be released.
- Some people design their lives around friend(s) as center (but soon their interests diverge, they move away, settle in another country). The friends determine what is right or wrong.
- Some people design their lives around their children as center (but soon they grow up, become independent, get married and move elsewhere). Children’s adulations are transitory. They change with their independence.
- Some people design their life around their own self (self adoration, self beauty, self centeredness, aka narcissism, but, alas, we all grow old and wither away).
The secret of happiness is to design your life around “principles”__ universal principles, which never grow old or lose their value or importance. They are here since humans came on this planet. They transcend time, place, countries, people, race, religions, and of course our life! These are superior to all other potential contenders for centers. They will remain whether you shift your interests, move away, migrate, grow old, or die.