Growing up, it took me a long time to become comfortable in my skin. I grew up with people calling me abnormal because I didn’t exactly conform to our society’s definition of normal. I used to write in my diaries because nobody was there to listen and even if there was somebody, they probably didn’t make the effort to understand. Sometimes people don’t have to say a word for you to know that they are judging. Silent looks can tell a lot if you learn to read them. So people judged. A lot. And talked. A lot.
The silver lining in that dark cloud was that it taught me the skill of turning “people’s talk” into white noise. It is actually like vapor; if you come across it, it will just go around you, disperse and disappear, without affecting you much.
It’s sad when you see people’s judgments and talks start to change someone in ways that they wouldn’t have if it weren’t for this “peer pressure.” People find themselves in careers they don’t like, with spouses they can’t stand, and leading lifestyles chained in debt, only because they need to satisfy this ever-hungry need to “fit in.”
But in the end of the day, do we ask ourselves, “Why are we trying to fit in? Would those people who talk about us today help us tomorrow if we fall? For example, would they pay off those debts we got into to impress them?”
Besides one thing I figured out, especially with non-friend acquaintances is how much they like you is directly proportional to how much you can benefit them. You want someone to like you? Benefit them with something and they’ll start paying attention to you. Also, it’s very easy to keep people under control when #1 you make them owe you, and #2 you know their deepest secrets. Doesn’t mean you should blackmail them or anything. But just in case, they are out to destroy you, you always have to be ready for betrayal. In Swahili I think it’s called “akiba ya maneno.”
The more time one takes to understand their self-worth, the more they’ll realize that it’s not measured by the BMW they may drive, the size of clothes they wear, or the mansion at the top of the hill, and the millions of fake friends who smile at them at all the ‘right’ parties. Instead, it’s about the good deeds you’re preparing to meet your Creator with, your love for your family and closest friends, your ethics and integrity at work, your ability to give to the needy even when you barely have enough to survive. And if people are still busy blabbering about you, close your ears, and focus on your achievements. You might not be able to stop them, but you can stop listening to them and taking their words to heart. There’s another Swahili saying that goes like, “ watasema mchana na usiku watalala.” (They’ll speak in the morning, and at night they’ll sleep)
Also remember, Robert Frost wrote in “The Road Not Taken”,
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”