Whose Bootstraps are Those?

Image result for bootstraps

We have a strong cultural identity as Americans to each have the intrinsic ability to be our own best advocates. If something is a challenge, it is to be conquered. If adversity rears its head, it’s only a matter of self determination to persevere. When life knocks you down, you just pull yourself up by your bootstraps.

In a world where perception and judgment are completely absent, the above scenarios can be successful. However, ours is not a world where we are allowed to go about our days in the absence of making perceptions and/or judgment of our own or being the direct object of others’ perceptions and/or judgments. As social animals, we are both blessed and cursed with living within a society; we equally need and reject all the trappings of biological and constructed togetherness.

What got me thinking about this duality was this quote:

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” ~Maya Angelou

Ex. When Sally shows you she is generous (in her offering half of her PB&J), Bill should believe that Sally is–by way of personality–a generous person.

Ms. Angelou’s words do not encapsulate the colloquialism of “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Why not? That pithy axiom of our culture comes to us through the lens of the one trying to be believed, rather than from the perspective of the one making the observation.

Ex. Sally does not know Bill. Sally wants to be regarded as generous by Bill. When given a chance to be regarded as generous, Sally hands over half of her PB&J to him. The first impression Sally has made had been successful as Bill now regards Sally as generous.

See the difference? Of course, Angelou’s advice is based on the underlying assumption that Sally wasn’t faking her generosity in order to trick Bill into thinking she was generous but rather that Sally “shows” who she is,  and who Sally is is generous.

But what about the flip of Angelou’s idea?

“When someone tells you who you are, disbelieve them every time.” ~ Jenna Brownson

(Side note: I feel confident in attributing that quote to me as a Google search for that quote yielded “No results found for “When someone tells you who you are, disbelieve them every time.”)

One of the most challenging parts of becoming who you truly are is to put aside the perspectives and valuations of you made by others. You must reject the labels and the assignments of descriptors attached to you by others–no matter how complimented or insulted their words make you feel.

You are the expert of you, no one else. So the next time someone gives your ego a positive stroke or a near-fatal blow, remember:

“When someone tells you who you are, disbelieve them every time.” ~ Jenna Brownson

3 thoughts on “Whose Bootstraps are Those?

  1. Awww. The Pollyanna in me wants to comment about your new quote: I think the neural responses of the brain are much more fickle than your new quote suggests. Given our human responses are influenced by past experiences …… we aren’t raised in controlled environments, therefore others opinions may be valid and useful to ego growth. While growing, children try on different personas to become who they “are”. Maybe one should question to prove/disprove others opinions but not flatly disbelieve.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When I wrote “one of the most challenging parts of becoming who you are,” I was thinking about myself and other fully-actualized adults, not of children.

      I would hope that if a child/teenager is told “you’re such a ______” that said child/teenager would explore whether there was an evidentiary basis for the observer’s valuation.

      For adults who are still curious about the evolution of one’s self, I think my quote is fully applicable.

      No one can tell me who I am as no one is an expert on “me” other than myself–and truth be told, there are times I wonder what that even means and if making that self-aware statement I have in some way truncated any further development in those particular arenas where I have announced to myself (and the world): “This is who I am.”

      The optimist in me would like to always believe that there is more depth in all things. If a pronouncement is made of “being,” i.e., “I am,” then that indicates an end, an end I’d like to think doesn’t exist/is humanly unattainable.


  2. Brilliant!
    I think this is why it’s so hard to become yourself and embrace who you are, because as humans we always boxed in by people. People will always label us and we have to resist the “pressure” to please them and just allow ourselves to be us.


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