Growing up, I didn’t think much of adults.
I learned not to count upon them. Not to trust them.
Because I noticed that no accomplishment ever got acknowledged. But every transgression was punished.
And the worst punishments were reserved for speaking up or being “disrespectful”.
So I concluded that every mistake must be hidden and defended – never acknowledged or apologized for.
I grew up a cynic – believing every adult to be full of crap.
The only way to deal with them was to manipulate them by playing to their ego.
In short – I had no faith in adults.
I saw the world as a bleak and dark place.
But I wanted to believe that there’s more to the world.
I wanted to feel safe while speaking up for myself. I wanted to stop being afraid.
I wanted others to acknowledge me and validate me. I wanted to be heard and respected.
I wanted to feel less rotten. I wanted to feel like someone worthy of love and respect.
Someone who doesn’t need to manipulate others to get their needs fulfilled.
But fear was etched too deep in my psyche by my childhood.
I was afraid of the consequences of speaking up – even for things like my needs, wants, thoughts, and feelings.
So I continued being the passive-aggressive doormat, full of bile and caustic sarcasm.
But I knew this couldn’t go on forever.
Something had to change.
I was fed up with pleasing others and putting up a front. I wanted to be my authentic self and connect with others without pretenses.
I couldn’t continue living my life in fear and cynicism.
If this continued – I knew I will die a cynic.
I will never get to experience the beauty and kindness in the world that I have read about or heard about.
And it seems a guardian angel was looking out for me.
At this point, I was reading all kinds of books and articles on assertiveness and on being authentic.
I started trying out various exercises in the books. Keeping eye contact with strangers. Reaching out to them and saying “hi”.
I started sharing my thoughts, opinions, preferences, and more.
This gradual exposure slowly built up a different set of experiences in my life.
I now had examples to pull from – where my thoughts, wants, needs, and preferences had been respected and validated.
And slowly something dawned on me.
I realized that my entire worldview was a lie.
I realized I had come to a conclusion about the entire human race from my experiences from childhood.
Yeah, it sucked for me. But it was not fair to the world.
I realized that the world is actually a kinder and brighter place than I had believed.
I realized that kind people do exist. People who are willing to listen and respect me if I speak up.
And slowly, my fear and my cynicism started to dissolve.
I developed a framework for acknowledging my fear and facing it head-on.
I also learned to communicate my thoughts and feelings clearly and assertively.
And soon I started seeing results.
I gained the respect of my peers and colleagues. My career graph started taking a steep upturn.
I built enough confidence to take up coaching people.
I started attracting powerful, kind, and empathetic people into my life and built meaningful relationships with them.
My wife also integrated some of these frameworks. She saw immediate results in her personal life and professional life.
She started showing up more authentically with her close friends and family.
At work, she started pursuing leadership roles and saw a similar uptick in her career.
I added these frameworks of gradual exposure to fear in my coaching program as well.
And my clients benefited from it.
They started standing up to their family co-workers – earning their respect and in turn building more satisfying and fulfilling relationships with them.
That one change in my worldview started changing the perspective of people around me.
Today, I believe I am worthy of love and respect.
And when I show up in that frame of mind – I find that it’s reciprocated most of the time.
And even when it’s not reciprocated – I know it’s not a reflection on myself.
I have also stopped thinking in terms of black and white.
I know no one is perfect.
But I also know now that everyone is capable of doing good.
I have started appreciating the nuances in the shades of grey.
I have realized that people are in different phases of growth in their journey.
If I don’t vibe with someone I can always count on the other person
Today I no longer view the world as a dark place.
I can see it as the kind, bright, and beautiful place it really is.
That was all about me. What about you?
Does childhood experience stop you from speaking up as well? Do you feel that it has turned you into a cynic?
You don’t have to take my word for it, but I urge you to keep your mind open.
Hold space and allow the goodness of others to make an impact on you.
Do not let what you experienced in your childhood be the only truth.
Because it’s not.
And soon, like me, you will build a collection of experiences that goes completely against what you learned while growing up.
And your eyes will open to the light and beauty in the world.
Here’s to your journey to a brighter world.