Because it’s what you believe about yourself that matters

Over the years—and it seems like even more so lately—I’ve learned that what I think about myself and believe about myself has much more value than other people’s opinions of me.

Especially guys’ opinions of me.

I talk quite a bit about how I have struggled in the past with my confidence when it comes to the fellas. It’s easy for me to be assured of myself in essentially every other area of life, but it’s another beast entirely when it comes to how I’ve tended to see myself in terms of being attractive to guys. There’s more than one reason for this, but the big one is because all of the previous rejections (and the indirect rejections) I’ve faced made me believe that I simply wasn’t enough for anyone.

It’s a complete lie, but some lies have a tendency to engrain themselves in our minds in painful ways.

Not too long ago, one of my friends gave me the number of a guy she thought would be a good match for me. While I would have preferred for him to have my number, instead, he apparently knew that his friend was giving me his number and that I’d be reaching out.

I thought about not texting him, but then I remembered that dignity is overrated, and I honestly had nothing to lose by sending a text to some guy I had never met. What ensued was one of the most boring conversations known to man. When I reached out, he replied and then sent a selfie so that I could “put a face with a name.” I thought that was a little interesting, but maybe it’s normal or something, so I sent him a picture of me with my nieces (and clarified that they were my nieces). After that, there was not much said at all. I get that it was kind of a weird situation, but he did know about me from his friend, and he easily could have kept the conversation going. He chose not to, though.

I then had a choice to make: I could get upset at the realization that he had seen my picture and decided that he wasn’t interested, or I could say “meh, oh well” and get on with my life.

Thankfully, I chose the latter. If this had been years ago, I probably would have gotten upset about homeboy not thinking that I’m pretty and started to feel uglier than I already believed myself to be. Sadly, it’s fairly easy to fall into that trap. But I’ve spent too much time trying to figure out why I’ve been single this long, and I don’t want to do that anymore. I’d rather continue to trust that this ever-long season (or lifetime—whatever) of singleness is with purpose and that I’ll meet the man I’m supposed to love and be loved by forever when I’m supposed to meet him.

This just seemed like a good spot for a photo.

The past heartaches don’t have to have a grip on me if I don’t let them. What people think of you or don’t think of you can’t influence the way you think of yourself if you don’t let it. As the remarkably feisty Detective Rosa Diaz (if you’re not a Brooklyn Nine-Nine fan, please rethink your life decisions) once said, “you can’t let other people’s opinions get in the way of what you want, especially because other people suck.” While the second half of that quote might be a bit harsh, she makes a valid point about not allowing what other people think dictate the way you live.

I’ve mentioned before a guy who shattered my heart and made me feel more emotions than I knew I had and how he made me feel like I wasn’t enough in a lot of ways. And I let him. I let what he thought of me (or what I thought he thought of me) and his words and actions heavily influence the things I believed about myself.

I’ll never forget the conversation I had with my cousin Rachel (whom I’ve mentioned I admire and respect in so many ways) at Thanksgiving almost two years ago. The broken heart was still very fresh, and I stood in front of her on the verge of tears in my aunt’s and uncle’s driveway and uttered four words that no woman should ever ask herself or anyone because of how some guy made her feel: “What’s wrong with me?” And I’ll never forget how, before wrapping her arms around me, Rachel made me look her in the eyes as she reminded me that nothing is wrong with me, and I should never let anyone else make me feel like there is.

I think of that moment often because I know that she’s right. It’s not what someone else thinks of me that’s important—it’s what I think and believe about myself that truly matters. If I don’t believe I’m worthy of love, that’s a much bigger issue than some guy thinking I’m not attractive enough to be his type.

Don’t let other people control your own view of yourself. You were made uniquely and purposely to be the person you are, and you don’t have to be ashamed of or defend yourself for being who you’re meant to be. I can tell you firsthand that it’s so freeing to be able to be comfortable with who you are rather than constantly trying to figure out what you need to change about yourself to be more acceptable. It’s a waste of your time and energy, and you’ll enjoy life so much more if you simply embrace who you are and invest that time and energy into pursuing your passions and loving others as they are.

The same way that you should be loved.

Cartwheels in the Target maternity section

Your life can be impacted by anyone at any moment and anywhere.

Even by a little girl on a Thursday evening in the maternity section at Target.

I met my cousin and her kids and my aunt and uncle for dinner last Thursday, and my trusty Google Maps told me it would take anywhere from one to two hours to get there after work, so I left two hours before we were meeting just to be safe. It ended up only taking a little more than an hour, so I had some time to kill.

Naturally, I went to the nearest Target.

I was looking around and seeing a bunch of things I probably don’t need, and then I saw a precious little girl dancing around and talking nonstop as her pregnant mom looked for some new maternity clothes. (To be clear, I was not shopping in the maternity section. The clearance rack was mixed in the same area. I’ll be honest, though: I have accidentally purchased maternity clothes in the past when they were on the same clearance rack as the nonpreggo clothes. Oopsies.)

The little girl pranced over my way and asked me my name and told me hers is Avery. After our introductions, she informed me that my hair is red—kid knows her colors. Then she told me she can do a cartwheel and asked me if I wanted to see it.

I mean, is that even a question?

She raised both hands in the air, and right before she showed off her gymnastics skills, she looked at me and said, “Make sure you’re watching. I’m really good.”

It was one of the worst cartwheels I’ve ever seen.

But it was also one of the best. Even though I didn’t think it looked so great (I’m no gymnast, but this looked more like putting your hands on the ground and attempting a roundhouse kick with both feet), Avery truly believes in herself, and that confidence made that cartwheel so much more respectable.

Then she instructed me that it was my turn. At this point, her mom intervened and told me I certainly didn’t need to listen to her daughter, but I felt a cartwheel was necessary in that moment. I’m pretty sure I’ve never completed a straight cartwheel in my life (plus, there is not a lot of space in the clothing section for a cartwheel, so the challenge was magnified), but when I finished, sweet little Avery exclaimed, “Wow! That was so good!”

Bless her heart.

Even though I don’t know that Avery’s judge of talent is very accurate, I appreciated her innocent affirmation. I think we need that every once in a while—people telling us that we’re doing well. Life can kick our tails sometimes, and I think people like Avery step into our lives at just the right moments to remind us that we can do the things we don’t always believe we can do.

I might not be a rock star, but maybe one day I’ll take over the stage.

We (hopefully) all have goals and dreams we’re chasing, but sometimes it takes others believing in us to help us more fully believe in ourselves. I remember years ago when I was growing up, I wanted to be so much like my older brother, and I wanted him to be proud of me. I was bragging to him about how high I could jump, and he gave me a challenge: He taped a dollar bill way up out of my reach and told me to jump up and grab it. I jumped and came up short. I tried again and failed again. I can’t remember exactly how long I kept jumping for that thing, but I do remember I legitimately started sweating. I also remember reaching a point when I was so tired and frustrated that I wanted to quit. The whole ordeal was beginning to seem impossible. But I thought about my brother and the fact that I thought he really believed I could get it. I told myself that he believed in me—he believed I could reach that dollar. And that helped me believe it, too.

I got the dollar—and I framed it.

Avery reminded me of the importance of believing in others and believing in ourselves. I’ve been a little discouraged lately because of all of my kidney troubles and not being able to run as far or as fast, and I often worry that I’ll never race again like I used to. But I have to believe it’s possible.

I think we all have strengths within us that we don’t always know we have. Sometimes we have to find those strengths on our own, and other times we need people to remind us that those strengths are there.

Either way, you might discover you’re capable of a lot more than you thought you are.