When we sit back and think how relative just about everything is, it is the one thing that makes us tend not to form quick judgments about anything at all.
I have a book by Peter Daniels, who's old enough to clearly remember the days when "Beatle Mania" first struck the world; days when many of us were not even born yet. He describes how he saw the four young men on his television screen on that day in the 1960s and instantly thought how sloppily they wore their clothes, how rebellious and appalling their presentation seemed to be and how badly they needed haircuts. They were scruffy, uncouth and loud.
Fast forward a couple of decades to when this book was published. Daniels was watching a TV program with a sudden flashback, which he recognized as that very same clip he saw before. But this time, his initial impression was how clean-cut the four young men were and compared to what regularly bombarded his ears from all media forms, their music seemed reserved and almost classical.
His story made me realise that we do the same to ourselves too, all the time. Reminded me of a photo that was taken of me when I was about 17 or 18 years old. At that time, I'd been going through some sort of phase when I liked to dress up in old vintage sort of clothes that looked like they came from the 1920s or 1930s. I think I wanted to appear interesting and eccentric. In this particular photo I was wearing some sort of weird sailor suit and looked like a character from an Agatha Christie mystery. I'd been going through my anorexic stage too, and looked as skinny as a stick. At the time I thought it came across OK and was quite happy with the photo.
About five to seven years later, I looked at that same photo with disgust, my initial response being how stupid I looked and how mad I was at my family and friends for letting me make such a fool of myself in public. I slammed the album shut telling myself, "You were a real wally!" Then I found it again quite recently, about twenty years after it was taken, and this time I smiled with a bit of nostalgic affection for my old self, thinking how insecure I used to be and how hard I used to try to make a statement. I realised I probably just needed a smile and some encouraging feedback that I really was OK, and if I'd been around then, I would have given myself some.
So now the experience has made me think that as our opinions change all the time anyway, we might as well be generous in our attitudes toward ourselves and others at all times. By the same token, if you find yourself being harshly summed up by other people, remind yourself not to take it on board and get depressed because everyone's opinion is only relative. You have the option to never take mean, negative feedback as accurate!