In 1995, my family lived in a sleepy suburb of the MN twin cities where the lawns were Technicolor green and the trees were so young they needed to be propped up by plywood teepees. Through this neighborhood I walked with my Girl Scout cookie order forms in hand. I was on a roll. House after house, my smile was readily returned, and I bounded down each driveway with more orders and increasingly bouncy skips.
At the end of my cookie hawking loop, I arrived at my next-door neighbor’s house. The couple that lived there were older than the other adults on our street, and childless. Brimming with confidence, I rang their doorbell and was answered by an enormous man whose shadow threw a cold darkness over the front step. He folded forearms across his enormous chest as he glared down and let me chatter through my spiel.
“Not today,” he said, and firmly shut the door.
Stunned, I swayed on my high-tops and stared at the doorknob. The brass blurred with my tears, and I ran home as fast as I could.
My bewildered mother could not understand my despair. She shook my order forms at me and pointed out that I had sold almost a hundred boxes of cookies. I still could not stop crying. I was so focused on the mean, scary neighbor that I no longer cared about all the neighbors who had been kind and receptive.
“Not everyone is going to be nice to you Mandy; that’s just the way it is,” my mother said. “Not everyone is going to like your face.”
Today, I sometimes catch myself reacting to life and people in the same way I did as a ten-year-old girl. I am sensitive, and I want people to like me and say yes to me. Even in a roomful of people who think I am great, I am apt to focus on the one person who doesn’t like my face.
Depending on the approval and kindness of others cripples our confidence. Confidence is not the deep belief that others will like us, but the knowledge that even if they don’t, we will be okay. We cannot control the behavior and reactions of other people, and hinging our self-worth on the way others treat us is a good way to be constantly insecure and disappointed.
We cannot fulfill our life’s purpose or potential if we are on an exhaustive quest for approval from everyone. It is a waste of our valuable time and energy to sell cookies to people with no appetite. I sometimes have to remind myself not to be the inconsolable child I once was, but instead to turn my focus toward the people who like me and the approval of the most important person in my life: myself.