Don’t let someone else define you

Kara have you ever thought about starting a podcast?

I took my hands off my Mac to glance at my phone. It was Monday morning, and my attention was split between my inbox and an ongoing thread with Tara and Molly—two college teammates who became lifelong friends.

Yea, I typed back. But my voice kinda sucks. I’m like, a thousand times better at writing than speaking. I turned my phone facedown on my planner and continued typing a thousand, “Sorry for the delayed response!” emails.

My phone buzzed. Someone told you your voice sucks? Who is that person?

Lord help me. 

Kara, I think you have a great voice and that you should do it!

Ok. For what it’s worth, I have zero desire to start a podcast. But now that I’d dropped a self-deprecating comment, there was no way out of this conversation. Nothing had changed since college—Tara was still demanding an explanation and Molly was still in hot pursuit, ready and willing to reassure me with her relentless optimism.

Ten years ago, Tara would be demanding to know why I hadn’t broken up with my boyfriend yet and Molly would be telling me all would work out. Same old.

MMmmm I dunno. Some asshole I worked with when I was 22. Lies. All lies.

Yeaaaa, Tara typed back, So some shithead that doesn’t matter.

Well then.

We believe what others tell us. 

It was comical, really, how quickly Tara poked holes in a statement I considered facts just thirty seconds earlier.

Each of us perceives ourselves in certain ways. We believe we are smart, risk-takers, have killer eyebrows, sing like Beyoncé, dance like Beyoncé, have a great memory, et cetera. Typically, we can’t remember where these thoughts came from. I, for one, can’t tell you when I started believing I was great at history but horrible at Math, had speed but lacked coordination, or held myself to be an authentic, but certainly not patient, individual.

Somewhere along the line, someone must have used these words or phrases to describe me. And I believed those words to be true.

I can tell you the exact moment I became painfully insecure with my speech—and the part about me being twenty-two is a load of crap.

I was twenty-seven. As in, last year. As in, although I believed I had EXCELLENT communication skills—both oral and written—my entire life, somehow, someone managed to convince me otherwise.

Here’s how it went down.

At a former employer, a supervisor told me I was [quote] confusing, unpersuasive in my speech, inarticulate, and—for these reasons—was unfit to represent the company externally.

Whoosh. Try swallowing that one.

In my twenty-seven years on this planet, no one gave me the slightest inclination that any of those words were true. Yet I made the grave mistake of believing them. I will never be able to explain why. All I know is that one individual made a series of comments directed at me, and those comments changed my perception of myself.

And you know what happened? I proved that person right.

In the months that followed, I developed a stutter that never existed before, and that I’ve never been able to 100 percent shake since.

I know it sounds ridiculous. I became so nervous about how I spoke and how I presented myself, I overcompensated and lost control of my own vocal cords.

It was embarrassing AF.

My friends knew nothing of that little backstory. All they knew was that I said something negative about myself, and therefore someone must have planted that idea in my head.

And they were right. They were SO right.

Never believe a remark made about yourself, or allow those remarks to shape you.

I should have known better.

I should have looked at all the evidence stacked in my favor. I should have thought back to every speech I’ve ever given and every argument I’ve ever been a part of (of which there are many) and known that the way I spoke was just fine, thank you very much.

Hell, I could have turned to people like Tara and Molly. Like hellloooooo, do you have any idea how many shots I convinced those two to take freshman year? Not persuasive my ASS.

Instead, I allowed ONE individual to change my perception of myself. I held on to it, analyzed it, thought about it when I went to bed, remembered it weeks later, and breathed into fruition. That’s on me. I, and I alone, MADE it true.

Think back to every personal trait that’s ever made you feel insecure. Who planted those insecurities?

Translation: What shithead made you think that way?

Think about it: I was an ADULT when this happened. I had a lifetime of experience, an army of friends, and a backbone to say otherwise and I STILL believed it. Just what horrible things were said to me when I was five, that I grew up believing to be true?

You are the person who has the right to define you. You are the person who gets to say, “I’m awesome. I’m a badass. I’m dedicated,” and to hell with whoever says otherwise.


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For All the F Words
You have flaws. You f-up on a daily basis. And that should be ok.