The moment that it happened is vivid in my mind.
I was in a dark place, a recently divorced man with two kids. I had sold the home I built at 24 and was now renting a place until I got back to normal. Realistically, I had no idea what normal was. My kids were with me half-time, and when they were gone, I was alone. Not wanting to drown my sorrows and loneliness on a barstool, I worked. In the middle of this all, I was in year two of launching a brand and creative agency from zero – there was plenty to do. Worst of all, when I would show up places alone, people would either look at me with pity or blame.
Their glances were piercing, and I felt every one of them.
Having two middle schoolers, I know we’re somehow trained to care what other people think of us at a young age. Maybe that starts in kindergarten, maybe younger, but at some point, the system trains us that status and position matter. We’re defined by definitions that others apply to us, and the lens they see us through becomes the lens we see ourselves through. Once we start down this path, it’s hard to go back.
Even as adults, we live with labels and seek the approval of others. As an entrepreneur and working professional, I’ve battled my concern over people thinking I was smart enough, cool enough, or creative enough. I sought their approval and wanted to feel worthy of their time and attention. Their assessment of me mattered because I let it and I valued it. Every day, I was placing my self-worth in the hands of others.
Add to that being recently divorced, and feeling like a failure in my first marriage, and I was screwed.
In the midst of my post-divorce turmoil, a client invited me to Panama for a business trip. Specifically, we journeyed to a secluded spot 55 miles off the coast of Panama, in the Pearl Islands. This particular island was beautiful – uninhabited with a single resort, a multitude of stunning beaches, dense jungles, rugged cliffs, and best of all, no one that I knew. The remote location provided me with a safe place to regroup. We stayed for five days… enough time to check in with myself, reset, and relax.
Much too soon, it was time to return home.
As we boarded our small plane and took off on the grass runway, flying from the island back to Panama City, it sunk in that I was about to return to a life that was currently very challenging. Walking onto the tarmac the next day for our flight from Panama City to Miami, I was apprehensive about coming “home.” Frankly, I had no idea what “home” really was at the moment. And when I got there, however it would be defined, I knew I would find myself right back under the microscope.
Then came the moment when everything changed…
As I wandered through Miami International, navigating the terminal toward the final leg of my journey back to Minneapolis, a powerful realization hit me. It’s something I would love to teach every adult I know and care about, and a reality that I am working to help my teen children understand. It was the most freeing thought I’ve ever had, and a truth that I carry with me everywhere I go.
The ripple effect of knowing, “I’m enough” was staggering.
“I’m enough” led me to, “I don’t care what anyone else thinks of me.” This was even more powerful. Once I could let go of my need for the approval of others, I was free.
Read that again. Once I could let go of my need for the approval of others, I was free. Soak that up a bit. I was no longer burdened by the need to get people to like me, or to care what they thought of me, or to worry if they were smarter than me.
“I’m enough, and I don’t care what anyone else thinks of me.”
With that in my head, I landed in Minnesota and never looked back. Since that moment in Miami, I’ve become very comfortable in my own skin. I’m confident in who I am, and I naturally attract others into my circle. I’m not chasing their approval anymore; I’m no longer desperate for them to like me. Desperation is a repellant. In business, we know that desperate salespeople are easy to spot and hard to buy from. Confidence is magnetic, and it’s attractive.
I want to be clear about one thing. This message, around not caring what other people think, is not a free pass to be a jerk. There are plenty of people out there that don’t care what anyone else thinks, and they use that as a license not to care, to mistreat others, and bring negativity to the world. Instead, I would argue that developing this mindset of not caring requires caring even more – making a commitment to your vision, values, and doing things the right way, not just your way.
I don’t have a secret for how you get to the point where you can say, “I’m enough, and I don’t care what anyone else thinks of me.” It can be a challenging mindset to attain. Letting go of other’s opinions can be tough – it feels like habit. What I do know is this… Once you do get to the point of letting go, you’ll never look back. You’ll be free. That’s what I want for you if you’re reading this.
You are enough. Now go live like that.
If this hit home, you’re not alone! Even though each of our journeys are unique, we can all use an encouraging word and some motivation along the way. If this sounds like something you could use, click here and I’ll send you one blog post like this one each week. Enjoy!