Don't deflate yourself because of someone else's self-doubt

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As you develop personally, creatively and professionally, many will be inspired by your growth, but beware of how you react to those who are not.

On a recent trip from Berlin to Lisbon I was sitting in a non-descript airport cafe while passing time before my flight. I propped up on a stool, as it was the only seating available, and was forcing myself not to slump.

Though good posture has its benefits, such as a positive effect on self-esteem, I was really just trying to avoid contributing to future back aches. These are the things I now think about in my mid-30s.

But apparently the display of confidence, though secondary in my mind, attracted the attention of a large group of about twenty men on a guys' trip. Five of them decided to come over and share their opinion that "sitting upright like that makes you look too proud" and wanted to know if I was someone important because I was "acting" important.

I was both annoyed and amused at this awkward attempt to publicly shame me for having and displaying pride. I kindly stated that yes, I was too important to have my personal space invaded and that they should head back to their friends and have a great trip.

Now, unexpectedly gaining the attention of a large group of rambunctious men (who looked like they were traveling to a body builder competition) is probably disconcerting for any woman, especially if she is alone. It's particularly interesting given the global conversation going on right now about gender equality. 

But that's not even the focus of this particular story. The point I want to draw out, no matter if you are male, female or undefined, is to be careful not to deflate yourself because someone else is intimidated by your work, your success or simply your love for yourself.

You can own your personal power without purposely undermining or belittling others. However, this does not mean you should pander to pitiful attempts to keep you low and stop your progress.

As you develop personally, creatively and professionally, many will be inspired by your growth and see you as an example of what's possible. But there will be some who feel upset by the fact that you are thriving.

Their misplaced emotions are not (and should never be) your problem as they are merely projecting their insecurities onto you.

Don't risk a setback just because someone doesn't like where you are now or where you are going. Don't become undone or undermine all of the work you've put into designing your life.

Because the only thing worse than a superiority complex is an inferiority complex —  unrealistic feelings of low worth and esteem that lead to self-deprecating behavior. Protect against this by practicing the following:

  • Assertiveness — stand up for yourself and guard your energy and esteem by clearly communicating your standards and boundaries

  • Independence — lessen your dependence on external validation and flattery, and know your worth with or without it

  • Discernment — distinguish between constructive feedback and useless opinion, and disregard the latter

I found myself starting to hunch over when those men drew attention to me at the airport. I wanted to make myself small so all the staring would cease.

But there was a voice in my head that said don't you dare. You will not risk having middle-age back pains because of this foolishness. Keep that spine straight, neck elevated and head lifted.

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