“You shouldn’t read the comments (or maybe you should).”-Benj
I’ve had a handful of life-changing moments over the past few years. Some I’ve shared with you. Some are very personal. But one, there is one, that really gave me my voice. That completely changed my life. That, combined with these other moments, caused me truly not to care anymore.
Not care? Before we go nuts here, let me be the first to tell you that I likely care more about everyone’s overall health and happiness than most. What I do NOT care about are these things that have no effect on anything. They may be minor. They may even be major. You’ve heard me refer to them as riff raff and noise. Gossip? Negativity? (I will literally get up and walk out of a room.) These things that we have absolutely no control over and that just don’t matter. Not just to me. To anyone or anything.
…like hundreds of complete strangers’ comments.
On July 13, 2017, I wrote an article (of which I am very proud) for an online publication in Charlotte, NC called Charlotte Agenda. It was about the importance of self-expression and individuality, illustrated by my observation that everyone in downtown Charlotte dressed exactly alike.
30,000 people read my article that week which, shall I say, is a few more than usually read my stuff. Everything was going fine until a couple of hours after it was published, I started getting texts and phone calls, “Dude, these comments are wild!”
Comments? What comments? Who in the f**k would take time to comment about such an important and serious and controversial topic as khaki pants and blue shirts? I must have hit a nerve. Comments? Seriously? Are you kidding me?
Turns out, hundreds of them, and since I was not used to this, I started reading them, and, embarrassingly, I got rattled. They questioned my name, “Benj, really?”. They questioned my sexuality. They questioned my level of style knowledge, and some even claimed that my perfectly tailored pants were too tight 🤷🏽♂️. (Alright, I’m giggling now.)
It leaked into Facebook, Instagram, and even LinkedIn, and so I finally just turned my phone off. For the rest of the week. I was visibly shaken, which didn’t and doesn’t happen to me very often.
It got me thinking. “What were people thinking about me? Were they serious? Were they offended? Was something going to happen to me? Was I going to get fired?” On and on.
Once it blew over later that week and literally NO ONE cared any more (did they ever?), I allowed myself to regroup and think about what all of this meant.
1. I prided myself on having thick skin. This proved I had a long way to go.
2. I prided myself on not caring what other people thought. This proved I had a long way to go.
3. Shame on me for letting other people’s opinions affect me in any way. This will never happen again.
“I only try and please myself.”-Ricky Gervais
Authenticity. Vision. Lack of compromise, regardless of external response. It’s been a game changer. In the short-term, I am well aware that I have missed out on followers, likes, money, and whatever so that I can be 100% me. I was absolutely dying at 40% me. I was better, but still treading water at 70% me. I am not quite 100% yet, but I’m closer than I’ve ever been, and thus more fulfilled than I’ve ever been.
I honestly believe that each person was put on this earth to be a unique individual, and then the people in our lives (love partners, friends, business partners, etc.) are just that. PARTNERS. Additive.
As individuals, we have these weird talents, ideas, and quirks that are to be used and displayed. But we often don’t use them. Because we are scared they make us look silly to “the commenters”.
We may think being the real us is silly, but AUTHENTICITY actually attracts. When I started doing ME as close to 100% as possible, I became a better person, all-around partner, father and miraculously, I now have miles more actual human friends and I have helped more actual people than I ever have.
All by being “selfish”.
All because of this little article I wrote.
All because some people who I’ve never met and likely never will got a little feisty.
Strange world, ain’t it?
Have a great week.- Benj
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4 thoughts on “The Week I Found My Voice”
Yet another thought-provoking piece. I don’t take time to do honest self-evaluation much, if any. But I am going to try and work on that for my well-being. Thanks for sharing with us, Benj.
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I’ve really focused on it the last few years and it has changed my life. Thx for all the notes Jan!!
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I needed this today, Benj! I’ve been settling for 40%.
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Going from 40 to close to 100 has taken time and effort, but has been so worth it! Thx for the note, Crystal!