Ask people about the best advice they’ve ever received and most of them may quote great men and women. People have no doubt benefited from their impressive, life-changing words of wisdom.
However, the best advice I ever received was simple; and it was perfect for me.
“You don’t have to prove anything to anyone,” my eldest brother advised. I was then a teenager placing a tentative foot on the doorway to the world. I was all set to leave home for college on the other side of the country. For the first time in my life, I was to be on my own.
As can be expected in such situation, advice tends to come in from all quarters. While you desperately needed tips on how to handle classmates, hostel roommates, hazing or bullies – mainly ‘what’ to do ‘when’ – you mostly got to hear ‘don’t do this’ or ‘don’t do that’. As many will attest, the don’ts tend to fly out the window of your hostel room when you’re in the company of other teenagers 24/7.
‘You don’t have to prove anything’
As a teenager, you have a LOT to prove! Or that’s what I thought. There I was, painfully shy and sorely lacking in a self-assurance that I badly needed. Surprisingly, the advice gave a lot of comfort. Whether I was perpetually broke or far from being one of the trendy (many of my outfits served me for years) or cool girls in college, it was ok. It was ok to be the way I was.
As a teenager, one often has sessions of self-doubt. There is the need to belong, to be admired. Under peer pressure, being thin or fashionable becomes important. When we fail to attain any of these superficial qualities, it can be devastating. It doesn’t have to be. What’s important is accepting oneself, of not compromising one’s ideals and beliefs while seeking the approval of peers.
Even as adults, society constantly demands that we prove ourselves, be it at work or in our personal lives. It can be hard not to give in and live a life that always seeks approval – it may seem easier. However, self-acceptance can be liberating. It’s important to remember that you do not have to prove anything to anyone but to yourself, if at all.
A simple advice has the capacity to instill courage or even turn a life around. The advice my brother gave me has always helped me in keeping perspective. Even when I’m at my lowest, I’m still me and I don’t have to prove anything.
So if you hear a simple suggestion, do not discount its strength. If it fits, make it yours. It may turn out to be the best advice you’ve ever received.