When you truly stop caring what the critic has to say, you free yourself.
I look at this picture of me as a kid.
A huge steel bar protruding from my leg.
Open wounds where the screws pierce into my skin and continue on, into my femur.
I went to school like this.
Wearing lift shoes.
With my pants cut open so the incisions could breath. Imagine going shopping for school clothes, only to come home and take scissors to all the pants you just purchased.
Doctors told me to be careful. “If you get bumped, it will cause severe pain and it could really set our progress back.” The worst fact, “If you don’t clean the wounds three times a day with peroxide, you could get gang green and we will have to amputate your leg.”
I was a child.
A child that learned very quickly how to roll with life’s uncertainty.
Thank the Lord, I attended a small elementary school in Ohio where I’m confident most parents gently briefed their children about “the girl who was run over by a drunk driver as a toddler.”
And thank Heavens I also had an older brother who was my buffer, making sure other kids were kind to me.
Sometimes I wonder what he heard in those hallways. But I have never asked…
Mainly because it wouldn’t change the past.
But primarily because my heart breaks, thinking about that little boy having to defend me.
He too was just a child.
My memory is not superb …. perhaps a blessing, but more than likely, just because I was put under so many times. But here is what I do remember.
I remember the stares when I would try to get out of my mom’s station wagon during carpool.
I remember the whispers when I would have to sit out during gym class.
I remember the wide eyes when kids would get too close to me in class.
But more than anything, I remember facing all of that head on.
When I realized kids were uncomfortable, I would talk to them. I would tell them they could see or touch my legs if they wanted to. I didn’t hide behind the medical devices. I would smile and continue with my studies.
And it worked.
Did some kids make fun of me behind my back? Probably. Did some boys not ask me out on a date because they thought my legs were ugly? Perhaps. I have no idea if my wounds grossed other students out or if they felt sorry for me.
But here is the thing – none of that was my business anyway.
If you are reading this and you have a critic or critics in your life …. I want you to ask yourself this today. Why are you paying attention to them? WHY? Do not make their thoughts your business. Do not make their opinion your bible. Do not allow their words to set your mood.
Instead, pay attention to following your dreams. Pay attention to becoming a stronger person. Pay attention to the opportunity around you.
When you stop caring about what other people think or don’t think of you, you become free.
My entire life people have called me a loose cannon. What they THINK they see is unpredictability. A carefree spirit. A girl who speaks her mind. And a woman who doesn’t care if people approve or disapprove of me. Yet what they are REALLY seeing, but can’t describe, is freedom. If they want to believe that makes me a loose cannon, so be it. I’ll take it.
Now, as an adult, every time I go to the beach, I still get stares. Every time I put on a bathing suit, I still see the eyes travel down to my scarred legs. It’s o.k. I assume people – like my old classmates – are just being curious, not mean. And when you can give other humans the benefit of the doubt, you win again.
That’s double freedom!