The Courage to be Free: Success vs. Other People’s Opinion

If you have been following me for any of 2021, you will know that I have been on this path of JUST DOING IT, meaning stepping out on faith.  In doing so, I have gotten involved in several projects, including 3 anthologies.  One of the anthologies was entitled THE COURAGE TO BE FREE.  This was an anthology of women sharing their stories of how they were freed by something that kept them in bondage. This inspired me to write about the fear of success, and the things I am learning I need to free myself of in order to have the courage to succeed.

Although I am not going to give everything I discussed in my chapter on this post (you would have to purchase the book to get the whole story), I am going to share one thing that is important to free yourself of, and that is the opinions and concerns of others.  Believe it or not, this was something that frightened me about becoming successful.  I was afraid that others wouldn’t approve of my success! Isn’t that crazy, y’all? As I was sitting here thinking of how crazy and unhealthy that was, I decided to blog about it. 

I have hindered myself and my growth out of fear of what somebody was gon’ say…lawd! However, how many of us do that?  Have you ever slowed down your progress out of fear of leaving someone behind? Or fear that you weren’t deserving because someone else didn’t get what you got?  Let me tell you a story.  A few years ago, I was a drug and alcohol counselor.  Leadership was encouraging us all to go for a certain credential because it would assist with funding and billing purposes.  So, if we were eligible, we were told if we took the test and passed, we would receive a raise. 

There were quite a few of us who were eligible to take the test.  Now, I hate standardize tests.  I freak out and try to fill my head with all kinds of knowledge because you just never know what is going to be asked, right?  So, I made sure I studied as best I could because I hate failure. I mean who doesn’t?  I knew I would feel humiliated if I didn’t pass that test.  Mainly because at the time, I had the highest degree (as a counselor) at my job.  Granted there were others who were pursuing higher degrees, but I was the only one with a master’s at that time, so ain’t no way I was going to let my degree be in vain, you feel me?

Anywho, I went to take the test and passed it! I was excited. During a meeting, the program manager at the time shared with the others that I had passed and mentioned that another co-worker had taken the test as well and was awaiting their results.  Time passed (maybe a few days), and I remember walking by this coworker and was given an eye roll. Now if you don’t know me, let me share that I am a person who will not purposely hurt a soul.  Because of this, I can be oblivious to some things like someone showing animosity towards me.  So, you can imagine me being like, “hey girl!” not realizing that eye roll was aimed at me.  As the day went by, the aura the coworker was giving off was just off, kind of one of bitterness.  Then it clicked, she had not passed the test to receive the credential. Now, what that had to do with me? I don’t know but because she made it about me, I made it about me. I started to feel bad and didn’t want to talk about the achievement and slowly started to dim my light.  I was feeling like I didn’t want to “outshine” anyone or make anyone feel bad for not achieving their goal. (Mind you, several other counselors had taken and passed the test so I don’t know if they were getting the same eye roll and vibe I was getting, but I know I was feeling it heavy). 

As I sat in my office, I started thinking, I hate feeling this way.  I can’t even feel happy for myself. I should feel proud of myself, and I am over here feeling guilty. Guilty for what?  I began to give myself a pep talk and reminded myself that I should not allow anyone to make me feel bad for achieving a goal I set out for myself.  Their disappointment isn’t my burden.  I told myself that I had to stop feeling bad for doing well in areas where others may not.  THAT IS NOT MY ISSUE! That pep talk made me feel better and took a weight off of me that I didn’t realize I had taken on which was someone else’s disappointment.

Here I am, years later, and I find myself occasionally fighting the same battle.  In the Courage to be Free anthology, I share how I still struggle with shrinking myself and not truly celebrating my achievements out of fear that someone will have a negative opinion about it.  Do you know how dangerous that is?  It is not just the idea of shrinking because of other’s opinions, but the idea that someone else’s opinion matters more than God’s.  I can imagine how disappointed He is when we do not take His word for truth.  Let’s just reflect on Jeremiah 29:11,  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (NIV) I love this scripture because it tells me I am in good hands.  If He has plans for my future, doesn’t that mean there will be some successes along my path?  And if there are successes along my path, shouldn’t I be thanking Him for keeping His promises instead of allowing someone to make me feel undeserving?  The late great, Maya Angelou says in her poem, Hater, what you have is by divine prerogative and not human manipulation.  Look, at the end of the day, I am trying to bask in all of His glory and blessings. I want to live a life of abundance and favor, and I no longer want to jeopardize that by not acknowledging my blessings and walking around trying to make myself small so someone else can feel big. Nope, no ma’am!!  That was why it was vital for me to free myself of the notion that I was responsible for someone’s else feelings and opinions.  I had to free myself from stunting my growth just to make someone else feel adequate.  First of all, that ain’t my job, and second of all, who do I think I am anyway?  I ain’t got no control over nobody (excuse my ebonics).  They are responsible for themselves!!  As much as I understand this, it is still a process, and I still have to watch myself and remind myself that someone’s opinion of me is not my business.  

So, I say this to you.  Anytime someone is feeling some type of way about your success or just plain “hating” on you, thank God! Why? Because it means you are doing something right, and He is keeping His promise. Just keep working and keep praying.  And although there will be some who may be uncomfortable with your successes, there will be plenty more who will be in your corner; inspired, proud, and rooting for you!! Those are the people who matter. Be blessed, y’all!!    

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