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How We Allow Others to Define Our Identity

Everyone handles criticism differently, but many people absorb negative comments and allow them to chip away at their self-confidence, or in worse cases, define who they are. By giving people this power, we are relinquishing control of our future, our self-worth, and even our wellbeing.

Getting fired is one of the crummiest experiences we can go through in life, yet it happens to many of us. Yes, me too, when the manager at the Woolworth counter didn't care for my opinions on their housekeeping practices--even at 15 years old, I was opinionated! During the last few years of our turbulent economy I have seen a few of my friends let go from their jobs. One in particular took it very hard and allowed the negativity to creep into her feeling of self-worth. Despite all the successes this person has had throughout her life, this one instance of rejection threatened to redefine how she looked at herself. It took getting a new job (a better job) and several conversations to make her see that this prior company had no right defining who she was.

Ever set out to do something and have one of your friends or family cheering you on? They believe in you, and even with a set back or disappointment, they are your biggest cheerleader assuring you of success. When we take that same situation and reverse it, the hill to success becomes a mountain. People tell us we will never do it, it's too hard, we're not talented enough, blah, blah, blah. Personally, I love when someone tells me it can't be done. It is the starting gate of a race I won't quit until I succeed.

Years ago when our company was very young, I met a colleague on a plane. I told him of my ambitions to grow our lines and to move to a place where we could have our business on our property in a unique farm-like setting. A few years later, I met him again. Things were tough. Instead of adding lines, we had lost a few. We were still in our office building with little hope of buying anything with our business stalled. He knew this, yet with a gleam in his eye, he still asked, "So, how's your plans coming? Find your farm yet?" I felt 2 feet tall. Humiliated. Frustrated. Dejected. A failure. At that very moment, I could have let him define me. But instead, I used those feelings to push me on and achieve my goals. I still think of that conversation so many years ago, and it still motivates me to do more. To do better. Not to let the nay-sayers win.

There are people out there that will see the best of you. Keep those people close. There are others who will, for whatever reasons, find ways to put you down. Use the negativity the world sends your way and turn it into the determination to succeed. Do not let others define you--there is only one person who controls your destiny and that person is waiting for you in the mirror.

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