Opinions . . .
The effect of an opinion on our lives, how we feel about ourselves and even each other is amazing. I have to ask myself, why does an opinion of someone I truly don’t know have such a profound effect on me. You know the opinion you often get through the rumor mill. Then when we hear it, it bothers us, so much we have to talk about it and then maybe talk bad about the person who was said to spread it, and we have to continue talking about it to others.
An example of how we let opinions bother us, I will use me as an example. Most often, when I am in a store, a mall where there is a lot of people, one might yell out: “Hey stupid . . .”, and for some reason I will turn around and see if they are talking to me! Why!!?? Now, if someone is in the mall and yells out: “hey good looking handsome man with a great smile . . .”, I am almost positive they are not talking about me.
I was glancing through the TV channels one day and landed on this elderly lady speaking to a group of, I believe it was just woman, and she was speaking about how her husband had absorbed an opinion from the neighbors. She questioned, when did our neighbors get onto our board of directors for running our household. That statement just caught me, it made sense, it helped me understand that I have been placing opinions of people that really don’t know me, but even if they did, on a higher level than my own.
So, where does this come from, this automatic upscale of someones opinion higher than our own. I truly believe it starts in our home, as it should. We have parents who tell us their opinion about everything we do as we grow up. We have siblings, most often older ones that chime in on those opinions too. Then we go to school and we get opinions from other adults and now from our class mates. What makes things worse, is when different people say the same thing, then reinforces that opinion, makes it more right and we begin to sink from the weight of opinions, especially the negative ones. Funny, the negative ones seem to be the most often given. I don’t hear around the store or families: “hey, come here, I need your help, you are so smart at these things.” Not a lot of constant positive reinforcement in the house – usually.
Again, my own experience. I was at home doing a chore, and typically I was probably getting some negative feedback. I stopped and asked my parent, why is it at work, the bosses and people there are always telling me what a good job I am doing, but when I come home, I never hear the same opinion? This parent was dumbfounded and thought he should drop it on the other parents lap. The topic was never brought up again, even though there was some very heavy hitting on the negative side during my growing up.
So, we are vulnerable to others opinions for a couple reasons. We grow up believing the opinion of our parents of us is the correct opinion. We don’t hear enough of a counter opinion, a positive reinforcement, to form another opinion of ourselves. So, we carry around this opinion of ourselves and sometimes, we carry it on the front of our shirt announcing how we feel about ourselves. Bullies, mean people, seem to pick up that quickly and are the ones to fire at the target. They find something which makes you flinch, then it puts them into the driver seat of your feelings, they can manipulate you by finding those bulls eye and keep hitting them.
Bullying is a big issue in schools, or it was. There was this emphasis on the kids not to bully and I can see that, however; where do kids learn their behavior. For the most part, they are not born with all of it, some is instinctive. Wildly, many, many, many parents use bullying as a way of manipulating their kids. So, the older child bullies the younger child and so on right. Then it gets taken to school, the playground and friendships. I heard as I grew up, a child beaten growing up becomes a child beater themselves. It did not make sense to me, but it does now. Why, well let’s say you are beaten every time your guardian thinks you made a mistake, even though you hate it, you have only been taught one way to react to the same situation. Without being taught an alternative way, what is the way the child will react when his child makes a mistake, the default.
We use child beating as the line of wow, but it’s in all behaviors. If a child grows up in a family where hugs, love, respect and positive feedback are given, there is a higher chance they will also teach this to their offspring.
Back to opinions, we are weakened by how we are raised. We develop opinions about ourselves with how we are treated both physically and verbally. So, how do you take a young child just entering school and put them into the pits of vipers and tell them, what they said is not for you, is not meant for you, don’t take it personally?
If I went up to Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, Mark Spitz, Michael Phelps and told them they were not any good at their sport? They’d laugh right, why. Because there is substantial evidence to the contrary. No different if I told Wilt Chamberlain he was short, evidence undeniable to the contrary. So, how does this fit in with helping our children enter the pits of the sharks and survive. Give them enough evidence about themselves that they know, when bully are being bullies, they have enough evidence within themselves to squelch the attack.
Secondly, I believe we have to teach them an opinion is only an opinion, it is not a truth – and even if it is – so what, be strong with who we are. Example from me. I have been extremely overweight for the last 10 years or more. If someone came up to me and called me fat, should I be offended, or tell them good observation what clued you in that I was? In other words, both ideas are working to strengthen the self-esteem and the self-confidence of the child of the person.
Two examples of my life: I was in shop and we were building these copper bracelets or something with copper. I took mine up to the instructor and asked him if it was ok. He turned and looked at me and said: “It’s almost perfect Lee” he hesitated then said: “Leland, think about this, you came up and asked me is something that was almost perfect, was ok, let that sink in.” What’s funny, I told a good friend of mine what the instructor said, you know what he said, he said “He also tells the kids that are doing crappy the very same thing. . .” It never sunk in, never got reinforcement like that until:
In High School, we were doing the side lateral test, you know where you stand straddling one line and you need to move left to right to cross the other lines, to get an idea of your side to side speed. The football coach was doing the counting/judging. I did my test and when I was done, I looked at him and said, “I know, that was pretty bad . . .”, he said: “You tied the school record!” The next year or later that year, I was playing basketball and the coach and a couple guys came over to play 2/2. In the game, I used my ability to stop and pivot well. The football coach reiterated to me that I was in truth able to put the moves on them. From this, he invited me to come play football for him the next season – I got recruited by the football coach.
One more, I never thought I was smart. From the time I can remember, I could not figure school out. I was pretty good up till we got real grades in the third grade. My mom went to a teacher/parent conference and when I got home, she had the shotgun ready. She pulled out a 3×5 index card with subjects and letters next to them and asked me: “Did I think these were good?”, I knew from her anger and sound of her voice, I should shake my head no, I did. But, even though my parents knew I struggled with school, I never got help on my homework, never a tutor, never tested for a learning disability, it was this or that and guess what, I also did not have any self-confidence or self-esteem – because if I could not succeed in school, I was a failure.
In college, there was this Biology teacher, one of the smartest and best teachers I have ever met. Respected him with everything. He was not just smart but a good student too, he graduated from college with straight A’s and he did not have a photographic memory, like his wife does. He studied and was organized. One day we were talking about something and he looked at me and said: “Leland, you are different, you are smart!”, never heard those words from an adult before, especially in my family.
My points on these are not to rag on family, although it does some, but it to show you that I grew up in an environment where the positive was never emphasized, the good things I could do and did do were not celebrated. Thus, when I heard statements that seemed to mimics the opinion I had of myself, it just made me feel worse and enforced that opinion of me even more – almost unshakable.
I have a friend, his home life was the opposite, I was told that his dad would often compliment him to the point where he was embarrassed. But, this also helped him succeed. Through this life, he has done much better at the elements of life than I have. He proceeds, and I see it with a base of confidence I have only dreamed about. What’s funny, it’s not his talent. I am more talented and smarter, I can see that, but he does not let those opinions of others bring him down, because he knows has a base of success, that make those accusations and opinions not register on his richter scale.
So, I finish. For some reason, I think it is hard for parents to raise kids with higher self-esteem than them, why. Because they were not taught too. Parents suffer from the same insecurities they did when they entered into the shark pit, they survived maybe by bringing others down, but being the bully, but not meaning to be. Some of us find our way out because someone else recognizes our talent, ambition, ability and feeds us the good stuff that helps us grow into strong, stable individuals with a roots of confidence?
Think of a child like a precious plant. We give plants in our garden, sunlight, water, , extra organic food, we spay to keep of the bugs and other things that kill them or damage them, we put coats over them when it’s too hot or cold, we do a lot of pampering to our garden so it will grow wonderful, strong tasty fruits and vegetables, why don’t we put the same effort into those kids?