The saying, Actions Speak Louder than Words has taken on new meaning for me as I've gotten older. I'm no longer as concerned with my actions speaking louder than the words coming out of my mouth, as I am with them speaking louder than the words other people say about me.
I take it I'm not the only person who feels like they are frequently bad-mouthed. Not that it's an every day occurrence, because that actually just might prove something. I mean, where there's smoke there's fire, right? No, I mean there's that one moment annually where a person you know well says something so hurtful or slanderous and it really breaks you. For me, it tends to come in cycles and is regularly communicated through the same source. I don't know why. I don't know what it is. But I have learned there are some people you will never please. I've also learned if someone is always talking negatively about others to you, then they are talking negatively about you to others.
I've always tried to be a stand up gal. Amidst my normal human error, I have tried to reconcile with people I may have wronged, cultivate relationships that were feeling in need of nurturing. When I meet someone new, I always go up and introduce myself and shake their hand. When I really want to establish a friendship, I make an effort to call the person and spend time with them, even if it is just a quick lunch. Now that my life is crazy busy and I have zero spare time to exert on social life, lest I detract from my obligatory duties as a wife and mother, those calls have turned into texts where I just let the person know I'm thinking of them. This has not come naturally to me. In fact, it may surprise those that know me now to hear that I spent the first 20 years of my life quite guarded and blunt. I didn't care to make "friends" or smile at strangers. This is in part because I'm incredibly independent. I'm happy being alone. I don't need people. And part because I lacked basic social skills. I was inept. I can be nice, but not friendly. There is a difference. Being nice is driving you a can of gas in the middle of the night because you ran out and needed assistance. The latter is offering kind words, gestures, and service before the need presents itself. These things I've learned from the great examples in my life. Family members and a few fabulous friends: Manda, if you ever read this, you are one of those unconditional people who have taught me so much about friendship. And my wifey, you know who you are, even though I don't get to see you often, your loyalty and heart resonates deep with anyone you meet. Patti, for teaching me structure and professionalism in the workforce. My mom for making it okay to laugh at yourself. My dad for charity. I could go on and on...but for the sake of anonymity I'll keep it brief.
I can distinctly remember the occasions in my life where stabbing words have been repeated about me. The wounds are still there. I'm not sure if it has been my failure as a girl, or their failure as a messenger. But these comments have made me wonder about my demeanor when seen through the eyes of others. I've reevaluated my conduct and attitude to try and improve it on a day to day basis so that my actions can speak louder than words. And not my words, but theirs.
While I may let my sensitivity weakness allow the offensive character of others to impact my mood too often, I attempt to use these small deprectiations as tools for self-discovery. Its just one more way for me to recheck myself and see if there's anything that needs fine tuning.
Just to give a quick example, during the period of time I was married (the first time) and the proceeding year and a half, I acted in a manner that was not suited for a responsible, mature woman. I threw punches. I screamed in public. I was going through a tremendous amount of pain and didn't know how to cope with it. My actions spoke louder than any expressed words, therefore, those talltales of me being considered half-crazy-woman-banshee were sorta true. As a result, I had a tattered reputation and frazzled friendships. I've mended those I could, and the rest has been left to fate. I can only improve myself from here on out and hope word can get back to anyone who watched me fall apart so gracefully (sarcasm) that I'm a changed human.
So, long story short, whenever I've encountered an untrue rumor about myself, or even a partially true rumor, I do my best to counteract it with positive and influencing actions. Of course, I will make mistakes and say something stupid every now and then. But then, every now and then I'm trying to make up for it.
It amazes me how receptive certain people are to this. Personally, I think it's the wiser generation that openly forgive and accept human error, and it's the foolish and ignorant that don't. I'm hoping to become the first, because let's be real, we have all been the second of the two and it doesn't lead anywhere productive. If you're surrounded by the foolish, those that constantly reflect negativity or gossip or bear falsehoods, I challenge you to eliminate them from your network and instead replace them with people who are going to uplift and encourage you to be a better person. Even if you don't see many commonalities, just the fact that you both are realists, with love and tolerant attributes, will be a solid basis for a relationship. Some of the best friends I've ever made were my polar opposite. But we were honest and true to each other. Those are the kinds you want to feed and water.
You want the people you are friends with to never believe a bad word said about you. Remind yourself often, if others could write your gravestone, what would it say?
The good thing is every day is a new beginning, with a clean slate, and an endless horizon.