As I get older, I tend to think back to my biggest regrets when I’m in the shower or trying to sleep. It just seems to come with age, along with weird bodily aches and pains.
Some of those regrets are the things I said to people back in high school with completely good intentions, but they came off worse than intended, and I lacked the social skills at the time to understand the consequences of my words and how they pierced people. It was as if someone had swapped “self-awareness” with “arrogance” in my personality trait basket.
For example, I often think back to a time in high school when someone in my lunch circle, who got average grades, decided she wanted to apply to college at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). It was as if I was channeling my mother, a super no-nonsense woman, when I told her, “I don’t think you have the grades.” In my mind, I was protecting her from harm, and I didn’t understand the look on her face after I had said those words. She looked as if she’d been robbed (of her self-esteem).
Every time I look back at that moment, I keep telling myself I should have encouraged her to try instead of letting my gremlin (my “not good enough” message) bring out hers. At the same time, I thought I knew better than she did, like a pompous professor.
“Arrogance” became my label throughout college, at least as I remember it. In my torturous Event Planning class, I remember hearing one classmate whisper to another, “Oh my god, she’s so arrogant” when I updated the room on our publicity committee whereabouts. I felt like a celebrity reading tabloids about myself. Hurt.
Instead of letting that define me, though, I could have rewired my mindset to say “I’m smart and capable.” I could have said the same about my high school friend.
At this point, I want to pause to ask you how much this resonates. How often do you label yourself based on your past? How much have you let others label you, shaping your identity and affecting your behavior? I’m guessing this resonates with you tremendously, given that you’re as human as I am.
We’re all imperfect, and once in a while we need to check in with ourselves about how much judgment we’re throwing around like confetti when we could be giving hugs instead. In other words, in our relationships, we can’t expect perfection from our partners any more than they can expect it from us.
Much like my younger self needed to do, we need to take ourselves off a pedestal and act on a level playing field. Much like I’m learning to do today, we also need to practice forgiveness—forgive our past and present selves and our partners.
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