Appearances, Opinions, and Expectations

By Jontae Grace

As humans, we pride ourselves on being morally and intellectually superior to animals, but in many ways we behave the same. Take the Peacock for example: they use the flashy pattern of their tails to attract mates – the more elaborate its plumage, the better chance it has to find a mate. Sound familiar? The other day I saw a guy driving a ’77 Chevy Caprice with a candy-apple green Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle paint job – on thirty-inch rims. Clownish, right? Except, riding shotgun with him, right above an airbrushed picture of Donatello on the door, was the finest banana-yellow queen I had seen in recent memory. And while I laughed at this lack of…sophistication, I had to admit it worked on somebody.

We are very visual people – sometimes to a fault. In the era of always-on-never-off technology and entertainment, eye candy has become our diet, not a dessert. At any moment you can look up “live” content of your favorite person made up, freshly cut and living life at the highest level. As a result, our expectations have become warped, and we now judge success using unrealistic benchmarks. Since a significant part of our self-esteem is tied to the approval of our social circles and the appearance of affluence, it is important that we develop an inner layer of contentment that outweighs the external pressures exerted from frienemies, media and TMNT-driving hoodfellas.

When measuring the success of our lives, we tend to categorize reality into two narrow areas: financial health and emotional happiness. However, there is a third, unofficial rubric that no one acknowledges, but we all measure: how our lives LOOK to others. Many people can only see what they can see, meaning that they judge you based on the appearance of affluence, not your inner satisfaction. And once you begin caring more about how successful you look rather than how content you are, the more you begin to do things just because you want it to be witnessed by others. And that is very dangerous territory.

It’s pure vanity, plain and simple; but it is so damn FUN to impress people without saying a word, and have them admire the way you glide through the minefield of life. Sometimes I just love giving women that twinge in their spines as they catch me in a moment of glory, doing well and loving life. However, I have learned that it takes a lot of work to make something look easy. The real joy is during the process, the practice, the preparation. And by the time you find hard-earned success, it doesn’t matter whether it goes noticed by outsiders.

Other times, we let our friends make us feel behind, lacking, and we make unwise decisions hoping it looks good to our social circles. You won’t admit it, but some of you are in a secret competition with your homies for the best job, flyest ride, finest mate, etc – and it’s causing you to measure your progress by what looks good to them rather than what feels right to you.

So you buy things you can’t afford, do things you normally wouldn’t, and worst of all: become involved with somebody that was only meant to be temporary. And your circle, happily married (you think) or in long-term relationships, pressure you into making that part time flame into your campfire. Someone you know is not for you. Many of you need the tacit approval of your closest friends before you can even allow yourself to fall for someone.

And this all comes from shiny appearances, uninformed opinions, and warped expectations.

And who knows better about the judgments and opinions of others than Mr. Grace? At one point, my entire circle wrote me off as a narcoticized, burned-out cautionary tale (which I was, at that point). A Bachelor’s degree-holder from a top-tier university, working two retail jobs half-assed, on bad terms with my baby mama and disrespecting my main chick. I was a real piece of work, sleeping in my car and popping pills to numb the pain of my unproductive existence. But I knew that I was capable of much more, and with the help of God and my closest loved ones I escaped the abyss. Everyone gets knocked down; but the real ones don’t stay there.

Our lesson here is to reclaim our self-worth from those whose opinions don’t matter. Learn how to manage your expectations on where you are and where you are headed in life, so that you can develop an inner peace with your current state, as well as a positive determination to strive for better. Some people will form expectations of what they think you should accomplish in life in love. And whether you’re up or down, everyone is gonna have an opinion about what decisions they think you should make. But the people who are respected in this life are the ones who listen to the voice within them, than the ones around them.

Now THAT’S a good look.


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