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"LIFE IN A WORD"

Updated: Apr 23

The Word: BELIEFS


Definition: Merriam-Webster Dictionary: “something that is accepted, considered to be true, or held as an opinion: something believed"


Posted 4/20/22
This blue and yellow image, is posted in support of the Ukrainian people and their undaunted belief in their country.

Beliefs can help to build us up and they can just as easily be instrumental in knocking us down. I chose this important word to reflect on today because the weight "beliefs" carry has an enormous impact on how we live our lives.

My Story on Beliefs

When I was twelve years old, a so-called “friend” started making fun of my physical appearance, specifically my hair. She said I had “dog hair”. I had no idea what that meant, but I knew it wasn’t meant to make me feel good about myself. Quite the contrary, it was meant to hurt and embarrass me. For my part, it mostly confused me because, ironically, all my life people had complimented me on my hair. The thought that there was anything wrong with it didn’t compute.


My earliest memory, was when I was four years old. Every Saturday afternoon, I would get in the car with my mom and go with her to the “beauty parlor” (that’s what they called hair salons back in the sixties). Inevitably, people would come up to us and say what beautiful hair I had. It happened all the time. For a while, being a young and impressionable kid, I believed I was the only person in the whole world who had thick, auburn hair. Why else would people be making such a fuss, I thought. Remember, I was four!


I inherited my hair from my dad, who also received a lot of compliments. It was not something I controlled or asked for, but the compliments allowed me to believe that I had something I could feel good about. I had nice hair. Did it empower me, like in the story of Samson and Delilah? No, of course not. But did compliments boost my confidence in my appearance? I think they probably did. Had I believed I had “dog hair” I might have been more self-conscious about my appearance and less confident.


Let’s go back to the mean girl scenario for a minute. From everything I’d been told over my vast twelve years on this planet, having dog hair was not one of them. Ironically, I remember laughing once the hurt subsided, because I had realized my hair was fine, but there was actually something about her hair that wasn’t quite right. Suffice it to say, if I were a “mean girl” I could probably have called her out and embarrassed her about the way her hair looked. I didn’t because my mom had always taught me if you don’t have something nice to say about someone, then don’t say anything at all. I also realized that I wouldn’t want to say something that would upset a friend and cause her to believe something was wrong with her. This “friend” had given me a sense of how it felt when someone did that and it didn’t feel good.

Mean boys and girls exist, and some of them grow up to be mean men and women.

Beliefs, real or falsely instilled in us by others, are powerful and they can stay with us, sometimes for a lifetime. Think about this, what if a friend said you were a terrible tennis player. Do you stop playing tennis because you believe she’s right or do you take more lessons and possibly end up being another Serena Williams? Or what if someone said you were stupid because you had a different academic aptitude than they did? It is well documented that Albert Einstein, a theoretical physicist and Nobel Prize winner, failed the entrance exams, to the polytechnic school in Zurich, in the language, zoology, and botany sections. Oh, and by the way, it is also said that this patent clerk, was so busy trying to support his family that he stopped combing his hair and visiting the barber. I wonder what would have happened if the great Albert Einstein had become distraught and distracted from his life's work because people had made fun of his hair.

There is so much to be learned about a person by understanding what their beliefs are and more importantly where those beliefs came from in the first place. What you believe about yourself matters. Believe in yourself, understand your strengths and your weaknesses and use your words carefully when criticizing others. Misguided beliefs about a person might deprive the rest of us of the contributions of a genius.


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