It was a sweltering New York City day and my cab driver had all of the windows down.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
I shouted my office address over the jackhammer outside and his blaring radio, and looked down at my phone. We weren’t moving.
I looked back up. He was watching me in the mirror.
“Madam, I am afraid to ask you again where you are going, because I don’t want you to think I am stupid.”
I looked at him stunned. Stupid? I gently repeated the address and joked with him that a previous cab driver didn’t know where Grand Central Station was, New York’s busiest train station.
He laughed, relieved, and proceeded to tell me that he poured all of his savings into driving his first cab and four years ago, on his third day of work, a passenger told him he was the worst driver ever—to give up now. He said he pulled over and cried for thirty minutes and wondered if he had made a huge mistake moving his family from India for this profession.
Today, he has two cabs and a driver working for him.
It is amazing how much power those negative voices have in propelling us forward or popping our balloon.
Someone’s opinion can literally change the course of our destiny, if we let it.
In medicine there is even a condition called “the nocebo” effect, where the simple suggestion of a side effect can cause a negative reaction. A patient can be informed of a potential response and actually manifest this condition. This goes for the length of an illness, and a person’s lifespan. So if medicine can actually quantify cases where negative expectations create negative results, why would this nocebo effect be relegated to health alone?
After hearing the driver’s heartfelt story, I began to reflect upon my own journey. About four years ago I attempted to create my own line of baked goods. It was challenging, at best, and I eventually threw off my apron, not because I “failed,” but because I realized the process was the success story.
As a result, I decided to create retreats and workshops based around some of my own previous imbalance and life’s lessons. But this venture was not an instant success, and on a visit to Florida my dad decided to “gently” remind me of this.
“Nicole at what point do you ask yourself if all of this work is worth it? When are the numbers not enough? Many business owners would give up at this point.”
Give up? I couldn’t fathom this idea, and in actuality this comment brought my claws out. I could climb higher and prove my dad wrong. This is my dream, a part of my vision, and maybe some would give up, but so what? I am not “some.”
My dad’s comment stung, and although it didn’t stop me, it did cause me to reflect. What if his words had pushed me down? What if I had trusted his words and retreated? Where would I be today? My retreats are my heart, a piece of my journey and my soul. Why would his word have been correct and my vision a farce?
As a business owner, we don’t always receive positive validation, yet we grow up inundated with feedback.
As children, we may have been rewarded with food or gifts or stickers as a reflection of “good behavior.” As adolescents, we receive grades to support the work done in school. As adults working for an employer, we are constantly evaluated and scrutinized through reviews and raises.
But, as an adult, you are your own cheerleading squad. There is no one to reward you with stickers, no one to grade and evaluate your work, and no one to say “well done.” You have to sort through your own self-esteem issues, create and refine your boundaries and use your own emotional barometer to evaluate and assess your work and your life.
You have to root for you and your vision, and find your own mute button for the negativity.
Part of growing is finding a way to stay rooted when the tornado of discouragement is swirling around you.
You may be a parent who is constantly receiving unsolicited advice about parenting. You may be a sibling who feels dejected by another sibling’s criticism. You may be in a relationship where you never feel good enough. You may be the business owner I described above that feels rejected by your own customer.
The common thread is outside negativity and the fact that you are not alone. We all experience it. It is how we absorb this and what we do with it that matters.
Today I urge you to find a quiet space and ask yourself who you are relying on to measure your life? Is it a romantic partner? Is it your parents? Is it a friend? A boss?
How do you feel about your dreams? Your job? Your relationships? How does your life feel? When was the last time you pat yourself on the back? When was the last time you felt proud of yourself?
Now give yourself a sticker.
You just took a step towards evaluating your life for you.
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Editor: Emily Bartran