African-american girl student in a city park on summer day

Heather Freeman

Who Are You and Do you Like Who You Are?

What makes up a person is a combination of three things: Self-Identify, Personality, and Character. Now granted this is very simplified, but bear with me. Your self-identity encompasses your self-worth (what you believe your value to be), self-esteem (how much you like yourself), and self-image (how you see yourself). Your personality is what you’re born with. Your personality is what your natural inclinations are. When I was pregnant, I knew what my daughter’s personality would be. Crazy, right? I’m serious though. She would do somersaults in my stomach; let me chase her feet around my belly as I tickled them through the womb. She would stick her butt up way into my sternum, and when I would poke her, she would poke me back. I knew that girl was ornery before I ever laid eyes on her. She was destined to be a goofy, ornery, fun-loving, carefree little girl before she was even born. And, guess what, she turned out to be no different outside of my womb than she was in it. Now instead of chasing her around my stomach, I chase her around my house.

What is your natural personality? Are you a natural observer of others or are you the life of the group? Your personality is just what you are natural at. When you try to be something you’re not, it feels weird and awkward or just off. Now that doesn’t mean that a person who is naturally soft-hearted and shy cannot develop a sense of assertiveness, it is just not natural to them at first until they practice it and develop this as a character trait. When I ask you about who you are, I’m asking about all of you. Who you are is a combination of those natural inclinations, your personality, and your character, the values you aspire to possess and display. Being honest is a character trait that I value and aspire to have, but like all in this world, I too have lied before. I have made mistakes before and not displayed the character traits I aspire to. It is your character that others will see and learn as a result of your actions.

Thirteen Reasons to Keep Living_02A really difficult thing in life is when we have these character traits that we aspire to possess and display, and we act in ways that are opposite to our values causing dissension within us. We are doing what we know to be wrong, acting against our own values. This is when we start to feel misunderstood. In one’s heart, they are a caring person who has a soft heart, but their actions are to bully others, laugh when they cry, and go along with the crowd when they target other classmates. One’s character and their actions are going against one another, and this causes stress in their life because people cannot see their thoughts, their emotions, or their heart (the figurative one). What they do see are your actions, and it is your actions, which they use to learn what to expect from you. When your actions and your character are at odds, and people are learning to expect you to be a backstabber, a liar, and a cheat when you really want them to know you, the kind-hearted, loving person that you want to be, you feel misunderstood and hurt. This is when people start to dislike themselves. Sometimes it is those mistakes that we have made that have led to dissension in ourselves. Other times, it is the rumors that fly about what we supposedly did, which cause us to be or feel misunderstood.

Take Your Power Back: You Decide What Defines You

So I ask you, do you like yourself? Do you currently have dissension in your character because others believe the rumors or have seen you act against what you believe and know to be right? If so, what do you plan to do about it? Do you think that you are worth fighting for? Are you worthy enough to fight for yourself or are you just going to roll over and let others dictate who you are? What is your Self Esteem like, your Self Image, your Self Worth? It doesn’t matter if others have told you all your life that you are a waste of space. I’m not asking what they think you are worth, I’m asking you, and when you answer, I want your answer not based on anything they say or have said, but based on your own personal beliefs.

I will tell you this, if what others say to you bothers you or has ever bothered you, then it proves you disagree with what they say. If I genuinely believe I am a worthless pile of steaming crap, then it will not cause any type of reaction when others say “Heather, you are a worthless pile of steaming crap.” But I don’t believe this so if someone says that to me, it might just piss me off a little bit because I know it is not true. If you are bothered when they call you names, make fun of your hair, laugh at your clothes, or spread rumors and lies that are twists of a small sliver of truth, then you are proof that you believe you are better than how they are treating you! This is awesome because this proves that at one point in time in your life, you believed you had worth, you believed you were good, you liked yourself once. This means that you have the power to take your definition back and no longer allow them to decide whom you are.

Rumors: Just Because They Say it is True Does Not Mean it is True

Rumors are like weeds in the garden. What do rumors need to spread? They need basically the same thing that roses need. water, sunlight, and soil. But weeds are different because unlike roses they will take over the garden killing the beautiful and beneficial plants. Weeds need water to feed them much like rumors needs to have people to spread their message, but a person cannot spread a message to a deaf ear much like weeds cannot grow without soil. If no one is willing to listen, then no one will be willing to say it. If there is no point in saying it, it will die much as weeds will die if they are no longer fed with ears to hear their message and mouths to spread it. Now, you cannot control the words of others, or what they choose to hear, but you can decide what your actions will be. You have options no matter the situation. You have at least one adult to talk to, and though they are in the same boat that you are in, they cannot control what others say and listen to, you always have someone that is either there voluntarily or is being paid to be available to listen. Trust me, I’m a therapist, and you don’t do what I do because of the millions of dollars that come with it.

You also can control how you respond to the rumors. If someone were to come up to you and proclaim that the elephant is a lion, what would you think? If they came up to you and told you that the sun revolves around the earth what would be your response? You would think they are crazy because they are spitting lies and they believe it. Then tell me, why is it so different when you see people spitting complete fabrications all over the school? You know it is a lie, heck it’s about you, so you are the authority on what is true about you. Why is it that we laugh when someone is trying to sell an elephant for a lion, but we cry when someone tries to depict us as something we are not. You cannot control what they say or what they choose to hear, but you know who you are. As the great Dr. Seuss would say, “Today you are You, that is Truer than True. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” (Happy Birthday to You!) So just like you would laugh hysterically in the face of the goof who is trying to tell you that an elephant is a lion, laugh hysterically as the goof spreads rumors that are not true about you. Because you know, who you are and you know the truth, and in the end, when your actions prove them wrong, they will be the one who will be making a mistake and not you. They will have to learn from their choice, and you will be able to move on because you know who you are and the rest of them can figure it out for themselves.

Your Mistakes Don’t Define Anything Except to Prove You Are Human

I guess to wrap your head around this; you have to ask yourself a very simple question. Are you defined by what you do? It is a seemingly easy answer, but when you apply it, things tend to get rather complicated. If I am defined by what I do, then I am a tyrant. I am a liar. I am a bully. I am a loser. I am a screw-up. I am a killer…of spiders that are. I am a terrible friend. I am a manipulator. I am a mistake. It gets quite difficult to prove that a person is what they do because that is not who I am at all. But at different parts and times of my life, those were some of the things I did.

Labeling is a dangerous road. Not only labeling of yourself but also the labeling of others is very hazardous. It seemingly takes you, and all of your uniqueness, your capabilities, and your promise of potential and shrinks it down to this box that you can never step outside of. I am a liar, and this is permanent. Nothing I do will ever change the fact that I am a liar because I lied today. Is this a true statement? Of course not because a lie is a choice and a liar is a person who made a choice to lie. The key word is “made.” You made a choice to lie which means you can make a different choice in the next five minutes, tomorrow, or the day after that. You made the choice, which is past tense meaning, not your future. Your future actions can be different from your current or past ones.

When you look at this type of thinking, it is easy to see how ridiculous it seems. The trouble is, when we are down in the dumps, and our thoughts are ripping us apart, it is our emotions that are fueling the fire. Because I feel like a jerk, I am a jerk. This flawed sense of logic is hard to resist. Trust me; I’ve been there. I’ve made mistakes in my life like every other human being on this planet. I recognize that not only have I made mistakes, but I will make mistakes every day for the rest of my life. But those mistakes that I have made do not have to define me. No, my friends, in this I want to offer you hope. We are defined by how we respond to our mistakes. It is a basic human fact that we will all make mistakes; we can’t help ourselves. The key to mistakes is how you respond to it. When you make mistakes, do you wallow in it? Do you fixate on it over and over again, continuously beating yourself up about it? If so then you are choosing to allow one moment to define your life that will contain on average 47,304,000 completely different moments (calculator work based on 90 years).

When we make a mistake that goes against our character and values, then we often hate it. We don’t like to admit our mistakes because we don’t want others to define us by what we do. Mistakes can be made in a moment of rage, not thinking, carelessness, insecurity, a million different reasons, but the bottom-line is that you made a mistake that was not representative of the person you want to be. If it did represent who you were, then you wouldn’t be calling it a mistake or be secretly upset about it. You have to ask yourself, are you going to continue living in the mistake you made, refusing to call it what it is or are you going to make the choices to teach others that your mistake is not what you want to continue to do and then start working to make choices that show the values and character you are striving to have? Are you worth the work it will take to overcome your mistake and prove to others that you are more than you past choices are?

You Decide the Impact of Others Upon You

I can remember sitting in session talking to patients of mine who had all, over time, told me that who they were, their worth, their self-image, their self-esteem, was defined by how another individual had treated them. Their fathers didn’t want them or love them, so they were unlovable. They were beaten by their parents, the people who are supposed to love them, so they must not be worth anything if the people who have to love them don’t. They were sexually abused and told they were only worth what they could do physically to pleasure another, so they are only an object to be looked at, poked at, and used. Enough people treat you this way; you start to believe that this is all you are good for. A person calls me a slut; does that make me a slut? A person says I’m a nice piece, does that make me an object?

Let’s face it, my friends; we live in a messed up world full of messed up things. I will be the first to tell you this. I lose sleep at night over this. I hold my little girl so tight when I lay her down to sleep and my mind and heart are on her that she will be protected from the things I hear about daily because I know that I cannot physically be there every moment of her life to fight off the evil in this world.  I know there is bad that happens to good people. I see it and hear about it every day. It’s my job to help put the pieces back together after someone, or something has ripped them all to shreds. But one thing I have learned is that just as much as there is evil in this world, there is good. To the same degree that there is bad happening in this world, there are amazing things happening in this world. For every baby that gets abused and hurt there are babies loved and treasured.

I know this may not be your story, but just because you were born into evil, have been touched by it, or have been drowning in it your entire life, does not mean that you have become what you have experienced. Just as their words do not have to control you, their actions do not either. I know it is so very hard not to succumb to toxins when you are forced to swim in them all your life. I know that when someone who is supposed to love you treats you as if you are trash, it is hard to believe that you are not trash. I have this to say to you. THEY ARE NOT THE ONLY PEOPLE IN THIS WORLD! Do not let the actions of a few poison your mind to the actions and love of the good people out there. Just because they say you are worthless, does not make it true. Just because they treat you, like you are worthless does not make it true.

I am here, and I am telling you that you are not worthless. You are unique, bold, courageous, strong, amazing, and it is my hope that someday we get to meet one another so I can tell you in person. When the world tells you lies, remember the truth I speak to you now. You are here for a purpose, and there is a plan for your life that will be amazing. I promise you this, not matter what crap you are dealing with right now, it will not last forever, and the words or actions of another do not define who you are or who you will be. ONLY YOU HAVE THAT POWER.

So Where is Your Fire?

     So, I ask you this. Where is your fire? I want you lit up, on fire, a blazing torch in the night that will pierce through all of the darkness, the lies, the pain, the turmoil, the cutting words, and the searing actions of others. I want you on fire, so hot that no one can come within ten feet of you because you are finally free, believing that you have worth, value, and no matter the mistakes you have made, you know you are an amazing person, and there is no one in this world that can take your freedom to be who you are away from you. They cannot steal your freedom to be the you that you want to be with their words, nor with their actions. They can do what they want, but you are you, no matter what. They can eat the ashes as you burn up the darkness.