Let’s face it. We have all tried to define others with our thoughts, judgments, and opinions about them. To some degree, it’s human nature.
It can also be pretty damaging to one’s self-esteem, particularly when one lives with a difference that sets him apart.
Next week I’ll be rolling out the first personal development training video for people with disabilities, How to Define Yourself: Why It’s So Important When You Have a Disability.
I actually learned to define myself by going to the grocery store. No, it wasn’t the produce or frozen foods that helped define me. Although, if you look at my cart most weeks, you’ll see I generally eat pretty healthy, but have a wicked sweet tooth.
What helped defined me was realizing all the perceptions people had of me as I grocery shopped – “That poor woman…” (pity), “Oh, I really admire her for trying to grocery shop” (misproportioned admiration), and “Someone should really be helping her” (assumption of lack of ability). To defend the general public of Central New York, there were also naturally people who saw me as just a woman with cerebral palsy, doing her grocery shopping.
Every time I encountered these perceptions and definitions of me, I had to say to myself, “Uh, that’s interesting, but it’s not me.” I would highly recommend trying on this phrase when you experience someone trying to define you. It’s a good way of developing a filter for others’ opinions of you, while taking on the role of merely observing how others react to you.
Naturally, it also helps to have a strong definition of yourself to return to as you’re filtering out the misperceptions and false judgements. Here are three very basic, but important ways to do so:
1. What you can do? What are your abilities? These don’t have to be things you necessarily do, but your strengths as a person.
2. What you enjoy? What helps you live and enjoy life?
3. What interests you? What makes you uniquely you?
I would encourage you to begin to make a list from answering these three questions, either on paper, on screen, or in your head. To get you started, answer one of them below in the comment area. You’ll see my answer to #1 down there.
Return often to this list of yours. Let it strengthen YOUR definition of YOURSELF. And remember, no one knows the magic of who you are like yourself!