Who am I? Am I kind to everyone I meet? Am I supportive? Am I easily approachable? Am I who I want to be?

Over a million different perceptions of who we are as people exist in the world, but there is only one of us. How so? The people who we surround ourselves with create an image of who we are as a person in their head based on their interactions with us. Common advice is that we should not care what other people think of us, because we know who we are. We live with who we are and the decisions we make twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. But on the contrary, we should absolutely care what other people think of us. I'm not saying keep those who talk down on you in your life, but the opinions of others do matter, just not the opinions that are based on hatred.

Those people who you look to for approval, the ones who support you when you don't know how to support yourself, the ones who always have your back and aren't afraid to tell you when you're wrong. Those people can be your family, your friends, teachers, coworkers, anyone, but the common denominator is that they're rooting for you at the end of the day regardless of any circumstances. They're in your life because they love who you are as a person. They love your good qualities and tolerate the not so good qualities. Often we find ourselves comparing who we are to those who are closest to us, creating a competitive and toxic behavior. We don't do this on purpose, but it's not fair to them or yourself.

"Don't break character for those who aren't even in the play."

I gave this advice to my mom when talking through personal problems that I was having at work. Too often we forget that we lived a life before we met certain individuals, and we were happy. When we react to the actions of others, we are breaking character of the one person we want to be known as. Nobody wants to be known as the person who explodes when their feelings are overlooked or the bitter one who can't be happy for others. We all would like to be known as loving and supportive, but we don't always come off that way. It is true that not every person we cross paths with is going to like who we are, but it is important to realize that there is nothing wrong with being who you are. We shouldn't change ourselves to please anyone who isn't meant to be in our story. We are all characters in a play who have different experiences, morals, and values.

I found myself in a feud with a coworker once after they had received a promotion that I was working hard to earn, and I would go out of my way to find a reason why she didn't deserve this promotion instead of congratulating her on her successes. Just because I didn't reach a goal that I had been working toward does not mean I had the right to take that away from someone who had reached theirs. Sometimes that is all it takes to remind myself that while my feelings are valid, so are theirs.

If we want to be known for our love and support, it comes with giving up our pride to support those around us even when we don't want to. Even if we don't voice our toxic behavior, it exists and it matters. If you want to be known as the person who brightens the room, you can't do that with hatred and destruction. Ask yourself, "Who am I? Am I always putting my best qualities forward?" If the answer is no, think about who you want to be and in what ways you do reflect this and areas that can use some work. We forget that growing up doesn't just change the body, it changes your mind. If you aren't growing as an individual, you aren't growing at all.