I want to share a concept and a technique that when fully embraced and implemented can significantly change the direction of your life and help you build the self-confidence and immunity to the criticism that you need to accomplish more for yourself and your family.
This is a good time for me to reveal this concept and technique to you because we are about to begin a new year which usually causes most people to pause and reflect on the previous year and to consider what they need to do to improve themselves and their relationships with others.
At the end of every year, we read and hear a lot about the best ways to come up with and accomplish our New Year’s resolutions. We know from experience that the resolutions we ordinarily establish for ourselves are usually abandoned or forgotten within a matter of weeks. Our resolutions for 2021 need to be different because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which severely disrupted our lives and has continued to haunt our nation.
Because of the draconian restrictions that have repeatedly been imposed upon us by our government, there has been a significant increase in anxiety, conflict, mental illness, suicides, and drug overdoses. For many people, it’s as though their worlds came crashing down on them and they have not been able to adequately cope with the chaos and uncertainty that has followed. Even with the introduction of two promising vaccines that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, there is still doubt that our lives will ever return to normal.
Before I introduce the concept and technique that I referred to above, I need to tell you about something that happened to me while I was in high school.
I graduated from St. Mark Catholic Grade School in May 1971. Most of my classmates went to one of the two Catholic high schools in Peoria — Academy of Our Lady/Spalding Institute or Bergan High School. I went to Limestone High School, which was the public school that was located in the township where my parents lived.
When I graduated from grade school, my two older sisters were students at Bergan High School and my two older brothers had previously graduated from Bergan.
When I began my freshman year in high school, my parents pulled my sisters out of Bergan and enrolled them at Limestone. At that time, the Christian Brothers were in charge at Bergan, and much of what they were teaching the students in religion class was contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
For example, one thing that they taught was that many of the events that were documented in the First Testament of the Bible did not actually occur. The events were simply stories that were made up to make a point. They taught that Adam and Eve did not actually exist and that the flood that Noah had to prepare for and deal with was not really a flood but was simply a high tide that caused various areas near the oceans to be covered with water.
They also taught that the Catholic Church was wrong about its position on contraception and birth control, and that the old men who ran the church would eventually become enlightened and accept the new and better forms of family planning.
My parents didn’t like the fact that they were paying to have religious instructors in positions of authority teach their teenage children things that were contrary to what the Catholic Church had always believed and taught.
In the biology class that I took at Limestone, when the teacher covered the topics of the Big Bang theory and the theory of evolution, I automatically rejected what she was teaching. I remember sitting in her class thinking, She doesn’t know what she’s talking about. It’s too bad she doesn’t know the truth about God’s creation.
There’s a chance that I may not have disregarded those theories if I had been attending a Catholic high school and was in a class that was being taught by a religious sister or a man who was a member of the Congregation of Christian Brothers — a man who was referred to as a “Christian Brother.”*
When I enrolled at Limestone in August 1971, my dad and I met with a student counselor who talked me into using one of my electives to join the Varsity Choir. I decided to give the choir a try because I remembered how much I enjoyed being a member of the Midnight Mass Boys Christmas Choir, while I was in fourth grade, and the boys’ Schola singing group, while I was in the seventh and eighth grades.
When I signed up for the Limestone Varsity Choir, the student counselor assured me that Limestone had one of the top music teachers in Central Illinois and that I would enjoy being a member of the choir. My decision to join the choir was the best decision that I made during my four years of high school.
At the end of my freshman year, I auditioned for and was accepted into the Concert Choir. At the end of my sophomore year, I auditioned for and was accepted into the small singing group that performed at various events in the community. During my senior year, I was chosen to be a member of the Limestone Madrigal Singers, and I performed with the group at the first (annual) Madrigal Dinner in December 1974.
During my junior year, I also got involved in the high school musical theater productions and during the fall semester of my senior year, I got together with a group of friends and outsiders and I helped write a 12-minute skit for the high school homecoming Variety Show. Since I helped write the script, I was able to play the lead role in the skit.
While a majority of the students at the high school attended the annual musical theater productions that I was in, all the jocks, cheerleaders, and the other students who didn’t attend the musical productions attended the homecoming variety show. During the months following the variety show, my sister Colleen, who was a year behind me in school, regularly reported to me the names of the girls who told her that they wanted to go out on a date with me.
It was during this time that one of my so-called friends — his name was Mark — gave me the nickname “Helium Head,” which was later shortened by another so-called friend to “Heady.” He thought he was being clever because “Heady” was closer to “Harry” than “Helium Head.”
What was interesting about Mark and his friend tagging me with nicknames that implied that I was conceited was that except for one girl, it was only my fellow male classmates who called me by those names. The only girl who called me Helium Head or Heady was Mark’s girlfriend. All the other girls called me by my name.
A couple of months after my new nicknames were dreamed up by the two losers, I was in a long line waiting to buy some tickets. Mark’s girlfriend happened to be next to me in line. I struck up a conversation with her and we talked for about 15 minutes before we got to the table where I was able to buy my tickets. She later told some of her friends that I was “a really nice guy.” I also heard through the grapevine that she chastised Mark and several of his friends for calling me names. Of course, that didn’t stop Mark from calling me Helium Head.
It didn’t bother me that several of my classmates thought that I was conceited and that I had a big head. As far as I was concerned, I wasn’t conceited or arrogant — I was confident and they were envious and insecure.
But then something unusual happened at home. One evening during the second semester of my senior year, I was in the kitchen arguing with my mom about something. I don’t remember what we were arguing about, but I was probably being my regular, authoritative self, and I was most likely attempting to bully my mom into coming around to my point of view.
She argued with me for a while and then all of a sudden she shouted, “You’re not a star in this house. You may be a star at Limestone, but you’re not a star here. Stop arguing with me and do as I say!”
My mom’s comment stopped me in my tracks. I wasn’t hurt by the comment, but it stunned me long enough to make me hesitate and realize that I needed to shut my mouth and stop being disrespectful toward her.
After my mom’s you’re-not-a-star comment, I did my best to try to show respect toward her and to refrain from acting like I was a know-it-all when I was around her.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but because of my positive experiences and the popularity that I was able to achieve at Limestone, I developed a high level of confidence and immunity to criticism, both of which helped me get through college and law school, and also helped me to pursue and marry my wife, who most young single guys in the Lebanese community in Peoria wanted to ask out for a date.
I’m not telling you all this to brag about myself. I’ve been writing my weekly articles for more than 13 years and I’ve never written about this particular aspect of my life. I felt as though I needed to cover it before I introduced you to the concept and technique that I use today to maintain and strengthen my self-confidence and immunity to criticism.
My plan was to discuss the concept and technique in this article, but it will have to wait until next week. I try to limit my weekly articles to less than 1,200 words, and right now, I’m at 1,710 words.
Tune in next week. You won’t regret it.
*The Christian Brothers were removed from Bergan High School in 1979, and in 1988, Bergan merged with the Academy of Our Lady/Spalding Institute and became Peoria Notre Dame High School.