‘The devil whispered in my ear, “You’re not strong enough to withstand the storm.” Today I whispered in the devil’s ear, “I am the storm.”‘ I read these words recently and found a lot of comfort in them. There’s been a life lesson trying to wiggle itself to the front of my mind lately and it really wasn’t until I read these words it all finally clicked into place for me. Each and every person we encounter in our lives is there for a reason, some to love and support us, others to test and strengthen us. The trick is to find love and appreciation for all of them, no matter what.

Over the past few weeks and months, I’ve become slowly more aware of little instances of negativity creeping their way into my life. A put-down disguised as a casual, joking remark. Being dismissed, overlooked, undervalued and underrated. Comments and actions from men, both unwelcome and wildly inappropriate. Snide remarks and strange actions from women, mostly passive-aggressive.  A broad spectrum of bad behaviour and yucky stuff popping up in my life. Now, look, this is nothing new. We encounter this stuff all the time. But, for some reason, it seems to have been building a bit of momentum, dragging itself into the spotlight of mind and begging me to pay attention to it.

I’m a people-pleaser and a perfectionist. I love to strive for the impossible, willing myself to be absolutely perfect and do, say and be the right thing in every moment. This ridiculous set of self-standards always sets me up to fail and means my brain tells me the negativity I mentioned above is my fault and, somehow, if I could have been ‘better’ it all could be avoided. A few years or even just a few months ago, that’s exactly what I would’ve done. Curled up in a self-critical ball and scolded myself for not doing better and avoiding the yucky stuff.

The secret advantage to being underestimated

Like I said, this negativity has been gaining momentum and I recently found myself in a situation where it was overwhelmingly present. The old me would have crumbled beneath it, letting it crush me and dictate my self-worth. It would have told me I was small and not good enough. But, thanks to all the negativity that has come before and lessons I’ve learned from how it has made me feel, I realised this time just how much I am in control of it. Rather than curl up and feel sad, I fixed my body language and told myself to sit up straight and hold my chin up. I smiled, inside and out, feeling genuinely happy, content and proud, knowing I have so much to offer, even if others discount me.

You see, we can’t control what people think of us. We can’t control what people do and don’t hear, no matter how loud we say it and, honestly, it isn’t our job to yell louder and louder until they do, it’s their job to learn to listen. People will always dismiss us, they will forever be rude, jealous and underestimate us. Let them. Their ability to do those things speaks volumes about them and the lesson they’re yet to learn, while it says absolutely nothing about us and who we are.

I’d much prefer to be treated with kindness and respect, seen as an equal with so much to offer. But if someone wants to look at me and see a person to be dismissed or underestimated I won’t try to stop them, because it makes them weak and it makes me immeasurably strong. In the end, it doesn’t matter how people treat you, it only matters how you treat them.

When you’re in a hard situation like that it can be so easy to see yourself in the reflection being projected. If a person underestimates you, it’s all too easy to latch onto that and assume they must be right, because they see you from the outside and maybe, just maybe, you don’t come across how you want to or aren’t as great as you think you are. The truth is, the reflection they’re projecting isn’t of you at all, it’s really of them.

It’s so important to remember this. Nobody can ever force you to feel something you don’t want to feel. People can put you down or dismiss you if they choose, but you don’t have to feel rejected, dismissed or dejected in any way. In fact, realising that you don’t like the way someone is treating you is an incredibly good feeling, because it confirms you are nothing like that person and, therefore, nothing like what they are trying to make you feel. You are strong and perfect and immeasurably wonderful.

Difficult situations come up in our lives to test and teach us. In those moments it’s so important to take a breath and remember you are in total and complete control of every aspect of your life. To look around and think about what’s making you feel uncomfortable and why it’s in your life at this exact moment. For me, my most recent interaction was there to remind me how different I am and how those unique parts of my life outlook are what make me strong, successful and connected to amazing people like you.

The secret advantage to being underestimated

I could buy a megaphone and stand on top of a mountain, shouting out to the world that I’m happy, have a lot to offer the world and should never be underestimated. I could walk the streets, trying to find anybody with a negative opinion of me and try to repair it, convincing them I’m really great. I don’t need to do any of that because I am all of those things without anybody else’s approval or appreciation of it. With or without the world behind me, I’ll succeed, because I trust and love myself. I know what I’m capable of and who I am and that’s truly all that matters.

There’s no strength to be gained by matching the poor actions of someone who is making you feel bad. Instead, treat them with love, kindness and respect, because that’s clearly what they need. Remember, you don’t need to survive the storms that pop up in your life because you are the storm. You are an immovable force to be reckoned with. You are immeasurable power, love and strength and those things make you infinitely wonderful.

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Phoebe is a travel writer and photographer with a love for storytelling and making people laugh. Matt is a videographer and photographer with a passion for the great outdoors and big adventures. Together we inspire big adventures through our guides, videos, vlogs and photographs. Find out more about us here.

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