The Most Important Lesson I’ve Learned from My Son
Twenty years ago today, my son was born. And while I could share what I consider a pretty interesting birth-story with you, I’m not going to. Instead, I’m going to share with you a critical lesson that my son, Jacob, has taught me in the years that I have been blessed to bear witness to his growth.
I’m sure there are things that I’ve taught him over the years as well (at least I hope so!), but the lesson that he’s taught me is one that I have struggled to learn all my life. Truth be told, I still have to be very conscious of the concept in question to ensure that I keep myself grounded. Want to know the lesson? Here it is: stop worrying about what others think of you.
Jacob has always been a model of self-trust and personal conviction. Don’t get me wrong; the boy has his moments of self-doubt like anyone. That’s part of the growing process, right? Even with that inevitable questioning, however, he’s always had this grounded sense of knowing who he is and how he wants to show up in the world.
As I’ve grown myself, I’ve come to understand in theory the wisdom of letting go of the opinions of those around me. My intellectual brain totally gets it; I need to know what I believe and stand true to that. I need to dress the way I like, say what I mean, make choices that feel true and aligned. I wouldn’t be an effective coach if I didn’t get that.
That being said, there are times when the opinions and actions of others impact me greatly. I get hurt when I’m not included in an invitation; I never want to be dressed inappropriately. When I fail, I tend to turn inward and hide, imagining a myriad of judgments. If I don’t participate in an activity that all those around me are engaged in, I make myself wrong. Do any of these sound familiar?
Jacob, on the other hand, is perfectly fine with not being included in an invitation; while he might be initially bothered, he doesn’t allow it to deflate him. Nor does he engage in some game of “well, I guess I’m not inviting you to my event then.”
Jacob dresses the way he wants, and while he has an understanding of the latest trends, he’s also really comfortable in his own style, with no desire to buy whatever’s trendy.
He doesn’t love to fail; he’s athletically-inclined and very sports-minded so failure is rarely is objective. At the same time he’ll absolutely push the parameters of his comfort zone, knowing that failure is a potential outcome.
Let me be clear; Jacob’s as human as anyone. He doesn’t want to be mocked and he’d rather be accepted by those around him than not. That being said, he will never, ever make a choice that doesn’t align with who he is, in order to avoid being mocked or to be accepted. He’s so sure of who he is that he’ll make his choice and then deal with the consequences whatever they may be, knowing that he didn’t sell out. To me this is a remarkably admirable quality in anyone, and particularly in a young man on the brink of adulthood.
There are a couple of “bonus” lessons I have learned, and continue to learn, from Jacob. In no particular order, here they are:
You are stronger than you think. Even when you feel like you have nothing else to give, you’ve got what it takes inside you. Just dig deep.
Loyalty does not mean selling out. Loyalty means standing alongside someone through good and bad AND when someone does something that goes against your values, being loyal means telling them that, truthfully.
No matter how busy you are, when your family needs you, you show up. Period.
It is absolutely possible to do that thing you don’t love (e.g., sing or dance in public) for the sake of expanding your life experience, without it being a copout or “giving in”.
Bottom-line: my son has been a source of incredible joy, learning and growth for me (my daughter has too, but this article is about Jacob J). While I have gleaned (and continue to glean) numerous lessons from observing his growth, the quality I admire the most -- and the lesson that resonates the most is this: don’t worry about what others think of you. Know who you are, stay true to that, and the world will adjust.