We spend so much time worrying about what other people think of us that we forget to consider what we think of ourselves. Self-worth is tied up in so many facets of life that it can easily get muddled and lost. I've never had a high level of self-worth because I allowed myself to believe that how people saw me mattered and that the mistakes of my past had to be weighed in my judgment. As they say we are our own harshest critic. I know I have beaten myself up more than anyone else ever has and the gap between my own criticism and anything that has come from the outside is vast. I have been called crazy and a freak mostly because my thoughts, opinions, and beliefs are generally of the not-widely-accepted variety. Because I refused to change, I was only accepted by small groups of people.
Recently I found redemption. Not in the eyes of others but in my own mind. I think this is where the essence of redemption truly lies. After all, how could you be honest to anyone else if you lie to yourself? I'm not talking about making amends, there is a huge difference between redemption and absolution. For a while I thought they were one in the same, but I realize that absolution is much easier than redemption. Being forgiven only demands that you ask for forgiveness. In truth, you don't even have to mean it, just go through the motions and you may be forgiven. Ask yourself, for whom are you seeking forgiveness? Is it to make things right with someone you have wronged, or is it to assuage your own guilt?
Redemption has a higher price. It's personal, something that cannot be achieved without being honest with yourself. I decided to stop deceiving myself and drop all the half truths and interpretations of events from my memory. I would only accept the truth and I would only give the truth. I found out that contrary to my belief, people respond well to blunt honesty. Maybe it is because it is so rare, or because the shock of truth is powerful enough to strip the inhibitions of others. Your redemption can be on a small scale, something as simple as committing to change, but that small thing needs to be done for yourself. Otherwise your efforts are simply pandering to the perception of others. Everything we were exposed to growing up made us believe we're better than we are, as though the world owes us respect for nothing. We believed that we were all destined for greatness and then we became adults and we saw the ugly truth. We've been lying to ourselves our entire lives.
When I was a teenager I thought the world would be handed to me. Even after dropping out of college in my first year, I expected everything for nothing in return. I felt animosity towards the world for leaving me behind. My delusion was of my own design and I could not see through it. I blamed everyone but myself, I made excuses for my lack of success, and I made myself believe that it was only temporary. That one day my luck would turn around. Nothing ever changed unless for the worse. Slowly I began to realize that it was my fault. I wasn't left behind, I failed to keep up.
Mine is a generation of apathy and selfishness. Now is the time for redemption. Reevaluate everything you have ever thought or learned, understanding that “why?” isn't an unreasonable question to ask. Start with you and push others to do the same. Change starts with the individual. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Without personal meaning our words and actions ring hollow. Define yourself by what you see within you, not by how you think others should see you. Like looking through a dirty window, your view of the world is obscured and the reflection of yourself is distorted.
Reckless and unduly proud, we have become a culture of self-indulgent egomaniacs that believe a pill can cure anything that ails us and we have no one to blame but ourselves. We keep letting people make excuses for each other and we hide behind them because it's easier than trying to fix the real problem. My hope is that we will stop telling our kids that they are special. That we will no longer reward mediocrity. I want to give the next generation a true sense of accomplishment by making them actually earn it. These things are not something that can be learned from books, it takes experience. We need to show them, to lead by example.
People can do amazing things when they believe in themselves. I was always a pessimist and kept my eyes closed to possibility. For me it took a few life changing blows to my ego before I opened my eyes and saw the truth: the world is full of opportunity but it isn't going to come to you. When you want something, go for it and never give up. Progress is a byproduct of change, be the catalyst.