Galway hurling maestro, Joe Canning, is unquestionably on the short list for greatest hurler of all time. No man ever earned his All-Ireland medal more; and in addition Joe has two National League medals, four club All-Irelands, five All-Stars and a barrowful of other medals and awards. I could waffle on about Canning’s hurling exploits – but this column is not intended to be about hurling.

I highlight the above in the context of a very honest interview that Joe Canning gave a year or two back. It may surprise you to read that Joe said he doesn’t want hurling to define him. Isn’t that something?

This comment got me thinking as to how easily we can all be defined in some way that isn’t accurate or fair – or for which we don’t wish to be defined. People define people … we all do it – and more often than not, we get it wrong. It is the people in our surrounding who define us – even though very often they don’t have a clue as to ‘what makes us tick.’ But we can often define ourselves by some random thought that lodged in our brain even a long time ago. I’ll come back to that one in a moment.

The circles I move in are 360 degrees of wonderful people. The circle of friends you move in, dear reader, is almost certainly the same. Friends, acquaintances and casual connections will often compliment you and say nice things about you. However, as life was never meant to be fair or balanced, the truth and the nice things we do will not make it to the defining melting pot.

Instead, the snide remarks from those on the side-lines, whose primary objective is to take you down a peg, will carry a disproportionate clout. Unfortunately these sort of folks seem to have a greater influence in defining somebody other than themselves.

One of the advantages of reaching a certain age is that it becomes easier to deflect what others might say about you. We are what we are, and with nothing further to prove. In other words, guys like me don’t give flying flake how others define me.

Young people can suffer on account of how their peers define them. They are unable to process the mean words said about them and this can play on the mind. It takes time and maturity to realise that it is truly up to each individual to deny others the power to define any of us into a person we know we are not.

Humans make mistakes and do some wrong things at their worst, but there is an old saying – I think it is a Chinese proverb; which states, ‘No man should be judged on his worst deed.’ But equally, no person should be defined solely on his or hers best deed either. No one thing should define any of us. Everything we do in life is just another label. We carry all the labels with us and they should all be taken into account when we are being defined.

Another way we can be defined is by our looks. This is probably the most unfair judgement of all. Handsome men and beautiful women are more often defined as successful and generally good people. You can control how you dress – and this does count enormously, but unless you are into Botox or plastic surgery, your face and my face is what it is. Those who do not have ‘a nice face’ will be defined more severely than the beautiful people – until they get to know you.

An article in the ‘New York Times’ told of a number of studies showing how a candidate’s appearance can swing votes in the political arena. ‘Appearance can generate s significant vote swing.’ Come to think of it, I got 889 votes in the 2009 local elections – and now I don’t know if that was down to my looks or potential! But I digress …

The last influence we should allow define any of us is that megaphone inside our own head. A judgement, mistake, rejection, bitter words or hurt from the past can hinder your assessment of who you are today. You have to ‘shed that s##t’ as the Americans succinctly put it – and redefine yourself today. Equally misleading would be the ego elf in the head who tells you that because you pulled off one useful achievement in years gone past, that on its own should define you. Just think of Joe Canning!

Don’t Forget

An inferiority complex would be a mighty fine thing if only the right people had it.


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