What Defines You? How to Check Preconceptions at the Door
Illustration: Joey Guidone
“You’re always so ______ [silly, aggressive, angry, etc.]” someone cracks offhandedly, and the word ricochets inside your head for weeks. As a criticism, that makes you feel bad about yourself. But what if you could tweak those critical classifications and, in the process, your self-image? Our brains can change in response to our thoughts through a process called neuroplasticity, which researchers have even used to help treat patients with obsessive compulsive disorder. I’m no neuroscientist, but I have my own method, called mental redecorating, a simple way to refresh how I interpret day-to-day life: Just as you might move armchairs away from the TV and around a coffee table to create a more inviting atmosphere, you can make your brain a more inviting, benevolent place. All it takes is a change in perspective.
Picky to Discerning
If friends accuse you of being picky when you reject their lunch-spot suggestions, that’s not necessarily a bad thing—especially if you’re saving them from being squished into too-small booths in a too-loud dining room. You’re discerning, and that’s good for everyone.
Stubborn to Steadfast
Like a cast-iron garden gnome, you’re hard to move—stubborn—and maybe a little annoying to mow around. But you also won’t blow away in a storm. When the going gets tough, your friends and family are lucky to have someone as steadfast as you on their lawn—er, in their corner.
Selfish to Self-Aware
People say you’re selfish because you don’t volunteer for as many school activities as other moms. But that allows you to spend more time with your family instead of on planning committees. You’re not selfish; you know what you need to be the best you—and that’s better for everyone.
Pushy to Passionate
Taking the helm of the charity bake sale—yet again—makes you feel pushy, but you did go to culinary school and dream of opening your own business. You’re legitimately passionate about selling red velvet cake, and that’s pretty sweet.
Brash to Confident
Like a cherry red rug in an all-white room, you announce your presence in no uncertain terms. Some call you brash (they’re intimidated by your ability to command a space just by being in it), but you’re so confident, you don’t care what they think.
Knight is the author of The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck and the recent book You Do You.