Name-Calling vs. Reinventing Yourself

Recently, I have been making a few changes here and there get a handle on the direction of my life. It’s not that I was never way off course with partying or doing drugs or anything of that nature, but even the simplest of lives can be filled with unimportant detours and pit stops. I like to think of the process as decluttering; simply removing any unneeded distractions and losing any deadweight, in order to progress toward your goals. You don’t always have to have a specific goal even; maybe you just want to be a better person. That will take some editing. Cutting the unneeded, pasting the needed, copying the good, and deleting the bad. It’s hard enough to do with an essay, but editing a life?! It can be a hassle!

While I was thinking about the small changes that I have to make, the few habits that I have to get better with, and the few influences that I have to deal with, I thought about people who have had to make major changes. I’m talking about people who have to literally reinvent themselves. I cannot even begin to imagine the struggle that it can be. After years of negative friendships, negative relationships, negative habits and maybe even addictions, you have to stop… and become a whole new person, separated from a lifestyle that may be the only one you know. That has to be extremely difficult.

I think the most difficult part will be separating from your reputation; not the actual acts or habits, but being known by people for the acts and habits. Often those who are familiar with you will not readily accept the fact that you want to improve, and will quickly remind you of who you “really are.” You have to be able to shake the past though, looking forward to who you are becoming instead of who you were.

Growing up in the inner-city of Southwest Atlanta, I have seen quite a few people come from backgrounds that would not have provided them the lives that they lead today. However, they did not let reminders of their pasts define their futures. I grew up in a church where people came from all walks of life and changed for the better. Nonetheless, ties had to be cut, friends had to be left, and routines had to be broken in order to attain the life they wanted. I am overwhelmed at how hard that must have been now that I have to make only a few minor changes. My life can stay pretty much the same, except trimming bad habits (mainly time wasters and extracurricular nothings), and focusing more on goals.

So how can people have so much influence over your desire to get better and improve at life? I think it can be something as simple as kindergarten name-calling.

Name-calling has had to have been the most efficient tactic for discouragement throughout all of history. It is easy to lose sight of a plan, or go ahead with the crowd, or fall back into a routine, simply based on the fear of what someone might call you. It takes hard work and focus to break routine and change for the better… and if someone close to you calls you “goody two-shoes”, you may be tempted to prove you are not that and fall back into something that you said you would quit. If good two-shoes means changing your life for the better and letting go of things that will prohibit you from that, then be a goody two-shoes.

Fake, phony, funny-acting and two-faced are other names that can definitely be hurtful if said by the right person. The name calling implies that you are intentionally setting yourself apart to make others look bad. Even though you know that it’s not the case, you will sit down, and converse, and laugh, and talk, and before long be in the same routine of complacency that you set out to break from. Those names are particular toward women. Men, on the other hand, will do anything to escape the label of B.A.N. or L.A.N. In a predominate Black-American public school, this was the last thing any guy wanted to be known as. To avoid being called either, a guy, with our pride and egos, would do just about anything. But if it’s just a name, why do we fight so hard to discredit them? Maybe because the person saying it matters too much. Those who really love you and want to see you improve will always encourage and push you towards the better routes in life. Discouragement will come from people who either do not want to see you do better, or do not believe that they can do better. Decide whether you can afford to carry that type of relationship and be big enough to handle the outcome of whatever decision you make. Often we fail at things, and don’t know how or when it happened. From now on, if you fail at anything, at least be able to look back and recognize the decision you made to get there. If you continue to surround yourself by complacency, recognize it, take credit for it and live with the outcome of the situation. If you decide that name-calling and bad-talking is not going to stop you, then you probably won’t fail. If you are a newly converted Christian or one with faults, don’t let the word “hypocrite” take the place of your willingness to attempt to live as a Christian. (Sidenote: Even so, don’t be a hypocrite either… Being at fault and living at fault are two completely different things!) Continue to grow and improve toward perfection. That way you can only go up.

The only thing I want to say is that goody two-shoes, fakes, phonies, two-face, hypocrites L.A.N.s/ B.A.N.s, alcoholics, druggies, or whatever you may be called do exist. There are plenty out here to choose from… But you don’t have to be one of them. Nor do you have to prove that you are not one of them by doing something you do not want to do. Don’t live based on a label that others can put on and take off of you. Live a life based on the label that you want, and before long, that’s what and who you will be.

Be Proud of What You Do

Being proud of what you do can save you a lot of energy and stress over a lifetime. I feel as though no one should spend time doing anything they cannot do so proudly. In order to do that though, it takes more practice and determination than what it sounds like at first. When you decide that you are  going to do something and set a goal and a plan to get it accomplished, there will be more distractions that have never presented themselves to you.

Proud: Feeling pleasure or satisfaction over something regarded as highly honorable or credible to oneself

Now it would seem that being proud of what you do or what you stand for would be fairly simple; But that’s not always the case. The first thing that you have to find out is who you are. Find out what your passion is and what it is that you do! If you have to write out a list and number them in order of importance, then do that. Let your number one God. Christ should be your center and will hold the rest of the priorities in place. That is where the necessary balance will take place, because there is a very thin line between being proud and being arrogant. Humility is a must. One thing that I have always been taught, is that you can humble yourself by giving glory and honor where it is due, instead of wanting all the credit for oneself. Or instead, you can enjoy a pedestal seat until your own ego and reputation outgrows your character. When that happens, humiliation is around the corner, and it will be especially difficult to accept correction and change. Humility can be learned anytime, but the sooner the better. Learning a lesson can be an inconvenience if you’re a slow learner.

Learn to deal with being different. If you have a knack for cars, working with your hands and enjoy fixing things, you may make a great mechanic. That may sound silly, and because of that silliness, someone will deny themselves a life that they would really enjoy. Why? Because “No one wants to be known as a lackluster mechanic.” That’s an opinion that someone who is not in your shoes may have… And if someone is not in your shoes, do not let them dictate where or how you walk. Everyone is different. If your different is a bit more different than your peers, that only means you have a larger area to grow, less congestion, job security or whatever you want to call it. This could possibly be the hardest part of learning to be proud of yourself though; being different. Everyone will have an opinion on what you should do, how you should do it, where, and why you should do whatever it is you decide to do. At the end of the day, your vision will have done a complete 180 degree turn from what you had in mind when you started. If fixing cars does not work for you, let it be because you found out that it wasn’t what you thought it was. Try it. Experience it. Never let it be because you were convinced that it was not a good idea before you even attempt it. If you are convinced that it wasn’t the best choice before you try it, at least let it be because to talked to another mechanic. A dentist can’t a provide you with the proper information you need for the life you are trying to live as a mechanic— which leads me to my next point:

Surround yourself with likeminded people, doing what you are doing, and going where you are going. It’s easy to lose focus of your goals when you are surrounded by people with different goals. If becoming a mechanic is your goal, but you go to class with aspiring dentists everyday, at the end of the semester, you will be more dentist than mechanic. The bad part about that is, because you did not fully commit to neither, you will in turn be neither dentist nor mechanic. I’m using dentists and mechanics as examples, but you can apply whatever it is that you want to be to the same principles, whether it be a Christian, relationships, careers or whatever.

I’ll give you an example: I was talking to a very cool guy a while ago; older guy, but cool. While discussing family and marriage and all, he told me that the best thing he ever did for his marriage was to get a side-girl. I knew then that, I could not take any marital advice from him. I mean, really?! I think we’ll stick to the sports conversations.

Once you make up your mind what you are going to do and start on that path with likeminded people, you can stand tall against whatever fears you might have faced before. Fear and confidence do not get along together. Without confidence, you can’t be proud of what you do or who you are. You have to get past your fears and self image. If you have a failed attempt, let that failed attempt, be a lesson learned, not a reminder that you failed. Let the failure stay in the past, and bring the lesson learned forward to further your progress. Never let the past scare you into an attempt not to try again. Practice and redo and then practice and redo again.

Once you follow these steps (in whatever order you may), and put in the time, you will be able to stand and be proud of your work. If someone has something in your field better than yours, you won’t feel inadequate, but instead will set a new goal since you are already learning and growing. The feeling of inadequacy only comes when you have not done what you know you can to excel. I am convinced that if find your gift and purpose in life and wholeheartedly put in the necessary, you will accomplish what you set out to do.

Summarized List

  • Keep God first
  • Find yourself
  • Find people like yourself
  • Deny fear and failure
  • Be proud! Announce yourself as what you do, not what you are. Speak it as though it is; until it is. BE PROUD!