Of all the people in the stands

The world is a stage, and we are the main character in our own story. The people in our lives are watching us from the stands; staring at us, cheering for us, and seeing our life unfold. Friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, the clerk at the supermarket, our high school math teacher, and the person that you sat next to on the bus once are all there. Some of them will only be watching for a few acts, while some will see your entire story played out from start to end.

Many of us, as main characters, spend a lot of time wondering what the audience think of us. Do they think I’m cool enough? Smart enough? Do they think I’m a good friend? A good family member? Did they think the choices I made were dumb? Do they think I’m enough? We may make decisions based on what the onlookers think. The truth is, though, we’ll never know for sure what they think, and if we spend too much time trying to figure it out, we may lose touch with our own feelings and needs entirely. And when you live your life in accordance to other people’s values, one question remains: are you living your own life or theirs?

For all the hundreds and hundreds of people in your audience, know that there are only three people whose opinions of you actually matter. They’re sitting front and center, staring at you as you stand in the spotlight. You don’t have to guess what they think; you know. You know plenty about one another. You know because they are you.

The younger, child version of you sits in the front row, feet dangling off the chair. Their hair is a bit disheveled and their shoe is untied. They don’t really know how the world works, and they have a lot of big dreams for the future. They probably want to be an astronaut or a president or a firefighter. They may have faced hard times and coped the best way they knew how. They want to be seen and heard.

Nearby, still on the front row, sits the future, older version of you. The one that looks back on life with gratitude. The one that has seen it all and lived to tell the tale. The one that reminisces over adventures and accomplishments and lessons learned. They may have wanted to leave a mark on the world. (Did they?) They may have regrets.

The younger you looks on in amazement and curiosity. The older you looks on with a warm grin of understanding. And nestled in between the two, there’s you as you are now. With a mile-long list of flaws and strengths. Worthy of love and respect just as you are.

Of all the hundreds and hundreds of people in the stands, the only person’s opinion about you that matters is your own.

Your friends have their own stories to star in, and they haven’t seen all of the highs and lows you’ve lived through. Their thoughts are shaped by their own life experiences. Plus, great friends will want you to live your life in accordance to your own values.

You family may have your back, but all people have their own priorities and different measurements of success. Pleasing them may sometimes mean not pleasing yourself. Which is more important?

The person that broke your heart has an entire inner monologue you’ve never heard. They makes choices based largely on past experiences and their own needs, not yours. Their actions are a reflection of themselves.

The only person that knows all that you’ve experienced in life is you. Learning how to write your name, having your first crush, being accepted, being rejected — you’ve seen it all. You are the only audience member guaranteed to always be on the front row. Make sure you’re the biggest fan of yourself that you can be.

Explore hobbies that you think are cool and wear shoes that you like. Do things you enjoy, and don’t take the stage so seriously. Advocate for yourself, and don’t accept less than you deserve. Be your own best friend. Surround yourself with things that make you feel whole and happy.

As your life story plays out, the older you — always watching from the front row — will look on compassionately when you don’t get your dream job or you lose someone you love. They know your pain, and they’ll be your shoulder to cry on. The younger you will laugh playfully every time you stub your toe or have something stuck in your teeth. They’ll remind you of how to have fun and look at things with a sense of wonder. By caring only about your own thoughts, you, the present you, will feel more whole and authentic.

The world is a stage, and we are the main character in our own story. Be your own standing ovation. Come to opening night with a bouquet of flowers. Be proud of yourself, love yourself, and know that you — the only person with thoughts about yourself that matter — think you’re pretty dang cool.

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Operations leader, mindfulness fan, and a big creative.

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