Before I began this blog, I spent over a decade writing about professional wrestling. It was a childhood love that eventually lead itself into an exciting career. In many ways, it was a dream come true and I couldn’t have been prouder.
By 2011, I had accomplished pretty much all I had wanted to do within the wrestling world. I had contributed to all the magazines I read as a kid, written two books, and interviewed many stars. The only thing that really remained was to write for a wrestling company in some capacity. That’s what I set out to do.
I began emailing back and forth with the head of a televised promotion about possibly joining their website. I was beyond excited and told someone whose opinion should be important to me. I was beaming when I saw him.
It looks like I might start writing for a wrestling company soon. I’d be putting over their TV storylines and reviewing the shows for their website.
I had a huge smile until he backhand-complimented it to the floor.
Wow. Good. Looks like you might finally be taking a step in the right direction.
All the excitement rushed from my face and I suddenly felt like I was a clueless kid again. I was that same pint-sized failure, still struggling to reach a brass ring that never was close enough to touch; a let-down who still was searching for his place in the world.
The only problem? I wasn’t. I knew I wasn’t. The feeling of inadequacy was there, but it didn’t match the reality of my life as I knew it. I wasn’t trying to write for this company out of desperation but because I had literally run out of professional goals to reach. I had succeeded at the things I set out to do. I knew this in my heart. Professionally and personally, I was content…until one statement knocked me down from my cloud.
A comment like that wasn’t new. In fact, it was tame compared to some of the others I had encountered in my life. The only difference was that, all these years later, I was now at a high point. This wasn’t a time when I had no self-esteem and felt that I deserved sharp criticism. Even if I did, a moment where I reveal an exciting possibility in my life didn’t seem like the right moment for it. This was a time that I should be proud, yet I was made to feel otherwise.
This time, I saw things for what they truly were. His stinging statement wasn’t true. It was said just for the sting. Harsh words years earlier felt deserved because of my struggles to succeed. Now, though, I was no longer struggling and still, I was being treated like someone who was. That’s when I realized it.
The same people who kick you when you’re down try to kick you when you’re up. And that’s how you know none of it is real.
Some people just like to kick. They kick you all the time for anything you do. In the absence of something real to criticize, they will choose whatever they see. Maybe your shirt is too green. Maybe your hair is too long. Maybe anything about you is too anything. It doesn’t matter. They’re not saying it for you. They’re saying it for them.
People deal with this every day. You sprint to a friend or family member with happy news and their first instinct is to give you a condescending stare. Then they start with their purposely pointed questions.
Yeah? How much money are they paying you?
Are you sure you’ll be able to handle that?
Good luck. Hopefully this doesn’t end up like the last time. We’ve all been talking about it.
I got all of those and more during my lowest points. At the time, I thought I deserved it. I took them as solid swipes to help me do better. Now, as someone who had worked to be a better person, I knew what they truly were.
A lot changed for me the day that I saw the true nature of these personal critiques. I remember driving home and having an angry conversation with myself the whole way.
Finally taking a step in the right direction? I’ve literally done everything I set out to do and I’m still treated me like a dope? Nothing I do will every be enough.
It was an epiphany. That day changed how I saw myself and the people I truly listen to. I realized I had been letting people who don’t even know me define me.
Don’t get me wrong. The people I have in my life today don’t constantly pat me on the back. Trust me, I have a ten-year-old daughter who is always ready to point out how lame I am. No one is giving me false compliments. I wouldn’t want that. Those aren’t real either.
The people in my life do, however, rejoice in my achievements and excitement. They don’t try to “knock me down to Earth” or “manage my expectations”. They trust in my ability and love to see me happy. Professionally, personally, and spiritually, they want to see me smile. I want the same for them. Those are the ones I want in my life and that’s the type of person I want to be for others.
Don’t let everyone’s opinion change the perception you have of yourself. Most of those opinions aren’t even about you. They’re about ghosts, memories, and other baggage that people try to make you carry for them. Once you realize that, you can focus on who you want to be. No one ever has to validate your happiness. You just have to feel it.