Never, Never Let Others Define You

By , SparkPeople Blogger
"We must not allow other people's limited perceptions to define us" Virginia Satir

"Never, never let others define you"--this short, yet powerful phrase was echoed by former Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith during his acceptance speech following his induction into the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio just a few short months ago. They were such powerful and motivating words that when I heard them I could not help but recall the many times I allowed others to define me even when I knew they were wrong.

A few years ago I wrote a blog about how my 6th grade P.E. teacher nonchalantly mentioned to me, an influential kid, that I would never be a runner because I could not finish running the 600 yard run required to pass the Presidential Fitness Test. Somehow I took these words to heart and I allowed them to define me for the next 30 plus years.

Every time I attempted to become a ‘runner’ and fell short, I recalled those words that were etched in my memory and I began to believe them. I believed that I would never be a runner--that was until I decided I would no longer allow anyone to define me.

The process did not happen overnight. It took days, weeks, months, and yes, even years to let go of a stigma I had carried with me for far too long. It was almost easier to fall back on those words than it was to go through the training and perseverance it took, not only to become a runner, but to actually call myself a runner.

It wasn’t easy. Running is tough. I can still recall my first 30 second run I ever did on the treadmill at my gym over four and a half years later. My first run, I was left gasping for air with burning legs and a pounding heart that I must confess I did consider giving up. After all giving up was something that I had grown accustomed to doing when anything that I considered tough stood in my way.

But this journey was going to be different. I was no longer going to allow my fear to stand in my way of meeting a life-long goal to be a runner. I did a nice recovery walk until I was ready to pick it back up for a 30 second run yet again. I repeated this scenario over the next several months until I was able to run 2 miles without stopping.

Funny how after all these years I still remember where I was in the gym, which treadmill I was on and even what I was wearing the day I decided to never let anyone define me. It's hard not to let go, but it is far easier when you have others believe in you and share in your dream. This journey is not about being the best--it's about being the BEST me I can be and not allowing others to tell me otherwise.

Have you or do you allow others to define you? What has been your biggest obstacle of letting go of the stigma others define you as?

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Today I enjoy what I am and how I treat other people willing to help expecting nothing in return. Report
DEE107 1/6/2021
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PATRICIAAK 10/29/2020
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I try my very best NOT to allow others to define me!!!!! Report
I try my very best to NOT allow others to define me!!!!! Report
I try my very best to NOT allow others to define me!!!!! Report
um. sure. ok Report
Be your best you! Report

Not a lot of criticism has been said DIRECTLY to me. But Ive had to deal with who I am when rejected, trashed, deceived, and despised by 'friends.' Report
Very important advice. Report
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
I have allowed others to define me in the past but not any more. Report
Others have defined me for most of my life. I hope to change that now Report
Nancy, thank you for your blog. It truly touched me... deeply. I have allowed others to define who I am. Like you, it started at the age of 13. At the age of 21, I married a man who I thought was wonderful and encouraging, only to find out he is not. I have allowed him to define who I was. I am now 60 and several things have changed over the past year for me. Yes, we are still married and he's still being himself... after the death of my brother (last year), it has been me who has changed. Now when he says harsh things to put me down, I have a come back "you know, I really don't care what you think, God knows I am a good person and I am doing my best, if that's not good enough for you... that is your circus and your monkey's not mine... I don't want to hear your negative thoughts anymore." Thank you again for your blog... it only reinforces the changes in me and believing, I can do anything I set my mind to do. Report
I really enjoyed your blog. It is an important message to remember, both in not taking things other people say to seriously, and also as a cautionary tale, that we need to be very careful about what we say to other people. Report
Thanks for your blog! I am a runner too and I agree: running is hard. Each run is different and you can never tell how it will go. Yet, running is the one sport that makes me feel powerfull. Like I am conquering the world. It has been my life story to define myself by other people's standards. Today, I still need to work at it but I have gotten stronger and more confident. I love and accept myself exactly as I am. I repeat this anytime I feel that I am letting someone else dictate me who I should be. I truly appreciate the opportunity to share this with you. Report
This is super for me today as yet another reminder of how " your opinion of me is none of MY business!". I was so UNathletic growing up in the 50's that I'd be the last picked for the softball game, put out in right field, unless a "lefty" was at bat and shifted to left field! I was consistent-- could be counted on to miss any ball hit to me and ineffectively striking out regularly striking out. My 9th grade English teacher suggested I take "general" English since college English might be too rough. Got A+s in college English. After honors grad undergrad and dental school I began going to a Y in Indpls while in grad school. Began playing handball with 3 classmates, went on to racquetball and became rather proficient. At my 25th high school reunion, played with two of the "jocks" and had to play left-handed to make a game of it. Seven years ago, a neck infection paralyzed me from the neck down for a day and emergency surgery, 8 wks of hospital/rehab and 6 mos of outpat therapy and determination has me back at work 20 hrs/wk in dental practice and working out 3days/wk at the gym where I do 20 mins elliptical trainer and weights etc and am told I look 15-20 Yrs younger than my 68 Yrs of age.

Weight creeping up was an issue. Now am 23 lbs lighter so far Thanx to spark and life is good. I love the idea of our XS weight being the box filled with the "shoulda" "coulda" "shouldn't" etc. Just never give up and go through the heart to discover that each of us are created in the image and likeness of God. Get out there, turn it over to the Big Guy/Gal/Spirit saying " it's all yours. Don't embarrass yourself!

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Powerful. Over the past several years, I have (out of necessity) began to take a deep look inward and was surprised to find out that others perception of me strongly affected my actions and feelings. The image I put forth, or at least thought I was, was that of someone cool confidant and unaffected by what others thought of me. Truth be told, inside I was insecure, anxious and VERY concerned with what people thought. I still struggle with "perception" vs.truth and intention, however I refuse to let those perceptions define me, my values and my life. This was a powerful reminder as to how something so miniscule as a comment made to us as a young child may have completely affected our thoughts and actions even many years later. I still have a long way to go on this subject, but my adversities or "bottoms" in life have given me the opportunity to see the "tops" in which i aspire to. Only I Define me now. Report
We are all so poor, broken and deceived in our innermost being. Report
"But you've got such a pretty face."
"I guess you were meant to be big-boned."
"It looks like diets just aren't going to work for you."
"I wouldn't have picked you out in a crowd."
YES...things are said that we don't easily forget, IF EVER. And especially as young people, they cut us, form and shape us...because we allow them to do so. We often times haven't been through enough to discover that people all have opinions but those opinions ARE NOT set in stone prophesies of who we must be or will be.
As adults, these comments still sting, but our amigdula is fully formed and we can make decisions on our own to be who we will, without allowing other's opinions to shape us.
YES! I have a pretty face, but my bones are like everyone else's. No, diets don't work for me... life plans do, but not because YOU say so. And I wouldn't have picked you out in a crowd either. So what?
Live your life. LIVE your life. Live YOUR life. Report
This said so much to me. I remember times when I was young that something hurtful was said which stayed with me for years and affected what I did or tried to do. At the same time, I remember words of praise or encouragement from childhood that still push me onward and upward. We need to remember this when dealing with the young ones. Report
Very insightful.
Words in which so many of us can relate!
Thanks for sharing - you've given me alot to think about today....

This is so true. 42 years ago my Mother said to me (in a fit of frustration I guess), "You're not that little and you're not that cute". This was in response to my complaint that my sister was stretching my size 3 dresses on her size 5 body! Now, I probably just did not want to share but I can tell you I NEVER forgot that statement because I really never thought I was cute and little but this confirmed it so in my adolescent mind I heard those words and translated them to cute and little can be used against you so that's not good. This brought about a whole new way of looking at the world that I won't go in to here but I find myself, as I am losing weight, having to unravel all those tenets that I unknowingly held so dear for nearly 2/3 of my life. How simple life would have been if I had just tossed those words aside like so many other things people say in passing. To this day I am certain my Mother did not mean them the way I took them but after all those years I will decide how I define myself and "cute and little" or "bold and beautiful" don't have anything to do with the real me....the strong, healthy and intelligent me. The one I am finally releasing for all the world to see. Report
This is SOOOO very true! And it reminds me of words my mother once said to me as a child that I 'bought' into - she said "You are so smart - there doesn't seem to be anything you can't do if you try." Can you just imagine where buying into those words took me? So if you have children you might want to consider saying them!! By now you have figured out I was very blessed in my parents - and believe me, I know it! Report
This a such a valuable belief to embrace! What a great post. I remember my very first excrutiating run on the treadmill vividly as well - never thought I would end loving running so much. We have so much untapped potential, we are capable of just about anything! Thanks for reminding us of that. Report
I was an overweight kid, teenager and young adult with recurring health problems. I was assigned into a "special" gym class for kids because I couldn't do any of the regular physical activities other kids could.

When my weight had ballooned up to 200 lbs on a 5'4" frame, I was fed up. Over a year, I lost 50 lbs on Weight Watchers and have been within 10 lbs of my goal weight for 7 and a half years.

When I was feeling lighter, I decided to try running instead of using the elliptical. I fell in love with it and started training for long distances. A little over a year later I completed my first half marathon, and most of my health problems as a kid seemed to have disappeared.

When I look back at the pudgy shy kid who never thought she was athletic at all, I realize how far I've come as a person and as an athlete. I never thought I'd be able to run one mile continuously let alone 13.1!

Everyone can change their situation when they're unhappy with something. Once I finally found the motivation to lose the weight, it was the hardest thing I've ever done, but I can't begin to describe how it's changed my life for the better. Report
Thank you for sharing. It is so true that we sometimes let these negative comments define us. It is a good phrase to keep in mind when dealing with children and their self-esteem too! I have 2 daughters and it seems they let every little thing anyone says about them go straight to their heart. Thanks again! Report
How very, very true. There's a line in "Pretty Woman" that always comes back and haunts me, " . . . because the bad is so much easier to believe." (Julia Roberts' character, about herself) How true that is!!
But YAY FOR YOU!!!!! Report
This blog really speaks to me, thanks for sharing! For years, too, I let others define me, and to this day I have to remind myself that I am my own person, that I can be the best I can. It's not easy when your entire life others have tried to "control" you, because in the end, that's what they are trying to do! No, not anymore! Report
thank you for sharing; i really can relate to your store i'm still working on some thinks that was said to me as a child. Report
Thanks for sharing. Very inspirational:-) Report
Thanks for sharing. Very inspirational:-) Report
I was told growing up that I would always be overweight because I was born overweight and had always been. I honestly believed it until I got tired of doing nothing. I never believed I could be athletic, but here I am; strong, active and at a normal weight. Report
Amen! I think the challenge is that we never get beyond needing to be reminded of this. Those inaccurate ideas about myself will hit me sometimes and cause me to struggle internally before I really even realize it. Thank you for the reminder and encouragement. Report
It is amazing the effect that an adult's words (or the words of other children) can have on a child, on some children. Me, I struggled with the feeling that I've never "fit" anywhere. The words and actions of other people, starting when I was a child left me feeling either isolated or rejected and / or betrayed. I hung quite a few labels on myself, defining myself in certain negative ways. Report
fantastic attitude! thanks for sharing! Report
I love this blog! Unfortunately, the person whose criticism I need to overcome is myself...I need to overcome my own definition of me. When things don't go the way I want them to, I become discouraged and tell myself I will never be a runner...even though by putting one foot in front of the other and sticking with it for 2 years, I AM a runner. But those negative thoughts in my head are difficult. I truly am my own worst critic.

I had a boss once who told me I was fat and that I would never be able to complete a 5K (he was a runner). That kicked me into gear, and I lost weight and have since completed six 5K, HA!

Great blog, Nancy. I always look forward to your inspirational words. Report
It is so true that if we choose to ACCEPT a label given us by anyone (even ourself) that removing the label requires a new choice and new label. Thanks so much for this reminder that we are who we think we are whether it is a positive label or a negative one. Report
I let bad experiences define me. Same thing with the P.E. Couldn't climb a rope, couldn't jump hurdles, couldn't complete the 600 yard dash.... Guess I'm not athletic, I told myself.... Flash forward 40 years later (or there abouts): At age 51, I became a triathlete / runner. Three years later, at age 54, I started winning awards at these races placing in my age group. Who says you can't be any of these things? Report
I live with my friend of 15 yrs who is so afraid that I will become successful after I finish my 5 classes for my degree, or will be happy if I have a significant other that sabotage, controlling and manipulation are the only forms of communication I get, which in all reality is domestic violence. Ive had to seek out therapy after two recent breakdowns, I never knew I had so much pent up rage, not anger, but actual rage. I scared the living daylights outta myself. The human psyche can only take so much constant bombardment before it actually fights back. Report
When my principal told me not to go to college just go to a business school and learn to be a secretary, I did not take it to heart. I went to college, finished in three years and taught school for thirty years. So much for his insight into me! Report
Excellent quote and a great posting. It is too easy to get wrapped up in what other people say and think about you. Often these thoughts and statements are full of negativity, resentment, jealousy and hurtful comments. It's so important to remember to be true to yourself and to never doubt how strong you are. Thanks for the wonderful reminder! Report
I enjoyed this blog because it reminds me of me. I never wanted to get married and have children, now I am happily married for 30 years and have three adult children. I also thought I would never go to college but I have an associate degree in Liberal Arts, it took me 7 years going part-time, working part-time and raising my children. My husband kept encouraging me to go to college and I finally decided to do it and went for the tests on a weekday afternoon and that is how it began. I am leading my own path and I feel proud of myself. Report
So true!! When I was a kid, a teacher told me that I had no artistic ability, and would never be able to draw or paint! This did define me in that area, and all my life I have been unable to draw - mainly because I am sure before I begin that I won't be able to!

For that reason, when my godchildren were small, we did a lot of art work - but NEVER drawing a specific thing - I encouraged them to do all kinds of abstract art, using lots of different techniques. Result: Today both of them are adults, with a lot of artistic ability and creativity. They can draw and paint, are great at decorations and have a small business making handmade greeting cards! Report
thanks for sharing, this is sooo true. Report
My JH teacher said I'd never be a runner because I'd always stop, wheezing and unable to catch my breath at the end of 50 yards on the track. I also ran funny because I have one leg that is twisted because of childhood malnutrition. In my thirties that wheezing was diagnosed as asthma and with inhalers and understanding about exercise induced asthma, I became a jogger. A few years ago I had an accident that damaged my hip and knee, but after a couple of years of working a walking routine I now was able to walk a 5K in a respectable time. Report
Its sad how we let people, less driven, less knowledgeable, less caring than ourselves to be the "expert" on who we are. I shed that stuff a few years ago and gave myself permission to be ok with who I am. There is only one you. If you dont believe in yourself, who else will? Report
Interesting. I've sat on the sidelines watching others do things I'd like to do (but was too afraid to try) for a good deal of my life. I've listened to and believed negataive talk from myself and others. But this is a brand new day, I don't have to stay who I've been, I can become who I want to be. Report