Don’t let what other people think decide who you are. — Dennis Rodman
At parties, when meeting people for the first time, like most, I’m often asked, “What do you do?” It is an interesting exercise to observe people’s reaction to this question, the sense of how they feel about your answer registers immediately on their face. In my experience, I’ve received three different reactions depending on how I choose to introduce myself, whether it is mother, writer, or lawyer.
This conversation played itself out two weeks ago, when I attended a pool party with several people I didn’t know. When it came time for that popular question, I chose to introduce myself as a writer. The mutual friend that hosted the party interjected and said, “No, no. Don’t listen to her. She is a lawyer.” I was a little surprised that she would, one, speak for me, and two, felt that it was important that her friends knew that I was a lawyer. Did the label of lawyer make me a more legitimate person than a writer? I corrected her and said, “No, I am a writer. I haven’t practiced law for a number of years.” This conversation lingered in my mind for a few days. What if I didn’t write? What if my occupation was mom? Would that make me less of a person in her eyes or in their eyes? And do I care? And should I care?
The obvious answer is, no, I shouldn’t care. But it isn’t always that easy. Right or wrong, most people base their perception of people on what they do. Here’s the truth. Although I am working on my writing, I may never publish. Does that make me a failure in people’s eyes? I don’t know.
What do I do? Do I return to law because I generate outcomes and revenue? So that I can say, yes, I practice law and win or lose cases. It’s the answer people can wrap their ego around. It’s a tangible response and something that people can understand. And because it generates revenue, it seems more valid, than something that doesn’t. I am writing, but I’m not generating revenue. I don’t have a series of books lining the shelves of the local bookstore.
For a moment I thought about what others may think and I’ve come to the conclusion, that on a very superficial level I might for a mere second worry some about what people think. But then that thought leaves me. Because ultimately, you can’t let what others think decide the life you want to lead. It’s futile because you won’t achieve happiness by fulfilling someone elses expectations of who you want to be. The people I really care about, my husband,mom,sister and daughter are my personal cheerleaders in my career change. My mom, every few days will read a post and comment that she really loved a line or sentence. My sister will text me about post that really touched her. My daughter, these days, tells my husband that she is going to be a writer when she grows up. I smile every time I hear her as I’m working on my memoir.
The people that I care about the most value my decision, revenue or not. And I think that is the important lesson. You can live your life for yourself and the people that care about you. Or you can live it for the masses. And really, ultimately, does it truly matter what they think? I think Dennis Rodman says it best and it is worth repeating, “Don’t let what other people think decide who you are.”
Do you care what others think? Why or why not? Have you made an important decision based on what other people think?
Image by jjpacres