I recently heard a story from an aunt of one of our students. There is a lot of truth to take from the story, so I wanted to share it with you.
The story goes like this…
Many years ago there was a grandfather and his grandson that lived together outside of a small village. Every day the grandpa and his grandson would walk into the village to buy groceries or run errands.
One day after saving up enough money, they bought a mule to help make the trip to and from the village easier. The first morning after they bought the mule, the grandson looked at his grandfather and said, “Grandpa, you ride the mule into town, and I will walk in front and lead the way.” Everything was going well and the grandfather was enjoying riding the mule instead of walking until they arrived in town and started down the main street. At that point, the grandson and his grandpa could hear the townspeople pointing at them and talking to each other saying things like, “Look at that old man! He is so mean. He is riding the mule and making his poor grandson walk the whole way. How rude!”
The next day, the grandfather decided that he would let his grandson ride the mule into town. This seemed to work well until they arrived at the village and could hear the people talking again. “Look at that boy making the old man walk while he rides the mule. How lazy!”
The third day, grandpa and his grandson decided that they would both ride the mule to town. Again, this plan seemed to be just right until they started down the main street. This time they could hear the townspeople saying “Oh my! That poor mule. He is carrying two people on his back. He must be tired. Those people aren’t very considerate of that poor animal.”
On the fourth day the grandfather and his grandson had it figured out. They would both walk to the village and just use the mule to carry the groceries back to their house. Once again this seemed to be the perfect plan, and once again their plan was ruined by the townsfolk. “Look at that! Those two idiots have a perfectly good mule to ride, and they are both walking. How dumb!”
The next day, the grandson and his grandpa sold the mule and went back to their old way of doing things- they walked to the village and carried the groceries home by hand.
Now…I bet you can see the moral of this story right?
Why are we always trying to change ourselves to please others? Why do we do stupid things to impress people we don’t even know or like?
This is a challenge for most of us. I believe it was Bill Cosby who is credited with the quote, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”
It’s impossible to please everyone and you will always fail trying.
At KW Legacy Ranch, most of our students have fallen into a “negative” peer crowd prior to coming to the ranch. Many of the poor choices they were making happened because they were trying to impress their so-called friends. This is big for most adolescents.
Paradoxically during the teen years we are trying to establish our independence while striving exceptionally hard to fit in somewhere-anywhere. It’s usually when we try to fit in with the wrong people that bad things begin to happen-at least that’s the case with our students.
And it’s not just adolescents that have this issue. One study found that women spend an average of just 40 minutes getting ready to go out with their boyfriend or husband. But they will spend a staggering one hour and three minutes getting ready to go out with their girlfriends. The research also found that two thirds of women admit they try to impress their friends with their “looks” and said they always compare their appearance to their friends.
So how do you combat this?
Here are 3 keys to think about to help lessen your dependence on other people’s approval:
- Determine the right people to associate with. Our students all go through a rigorous friends assignment with their parents or guardians. During this assignment, the student along with their parents make a list of all their “friends.” They then categorize these friends into Green Light, Yellow Light, and Red Light friends. Of course Green Light friends are those that are good influences, share the same values, and that the parents know and trust. Red Light friends are those that are negative influences and that were probably part of the problem prior to coming to the ranch. Finally, Yellow Light friends are those that may be ok but that the parents don’t know yet. The final list must be unanimous by everyone-student and parents, and the student must be willing to cut all ties with Red Light friends if they want to maintain their change.
Genuine relationships can only be formed when you stop trying to impress others and can just be yourself. Think about it, if you aren’t acting like your true self, then those you are associating with are being drawn to a fake you. And a true relationship won’t last that way.
Dr. Seuss said “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” Very true words indeed!
- Know that it’s impossible for others to define you unless you allow it. How much power do you want to give other people? Another person’s words can only hurt or define you if you allow them to. You can either give them that power or not. Yes, it’s a choice.
- Perfection is a myth. There are no perfect people out there. If you know someone who seems to have a perfect life, you just don’t know them well enough. Understand that it’s ok to make mistakes. It’s ok not to have a perfect body (whatever that means). You have flaws-we all do. Work towards strengthening your weaknesses, but understand that it’s all part of life. Also understand that your past is already done, but your future is a blank slate. Don’t dwell on the negative past and mistakes. Focus on the opportunities that lie ahead.
If we could all lessen our dependence on other people’s impressions of us, then life would be much better. Think about it in your own life. The people you respect the most aren’t trying to gain your respect. More than likely they are just being themselves, and you respect them more for that.
So don’t be like the grandfather and his grandson with their mule. Be who you are without worrying about what other people think.