The following article was written by Charity Gibson, Top Banana at Green Banana Promotions.

I’ve been pretty introspective lately. A lot of things around me are changing, and I realized that if I’m not careful, I could easily lose myself to it all. So...this blog post isn’t really about business; but at the same time, it’s kind of everything about business. Personal branding has such a big impact on the way people view our brands. I haven’t really done much to build my personal brand except be myself. And yet for some strange reason, people seem to like what it has become. Either way, here is a little look at what has made me, me. Would love to hear your story and learn what makes you, you. To each of us and the situations that have shaped us into what we are, cheers. ~ Charity G.

“Just be you, because life is too short to be anyone else.”

My past is one tattered with abuse, instability and brokenness. After my dad went to jail, my mom was left to raise three girls on her own. While she worked two and sometimes three jobs to get by, my sisters (who share a dad and are nine and 11 years my elder) found ways to fill their time together, which left me alone most of the time. Multiple moves meant that I was never in any one place long enough to make real friends. And to top it off, add the fact that we were dirt poor.

Reading this, you might think that my life was pretty terrible. Looking back, it easily could have been if I’d let it. When I was 22, I read the psychologist report that was done after my dad was removed from the house when I was a child. It was filled with things I didn’t really care to hear at that point in my life. When I read it the first time, the only thing I took away from it was that I had a genius IQ. In fact, I was in the top three percent of people worldwide and, if I hadn’t gone back to correct an error I made, would have been in the top one percent. I stopped reading at this point and proceeded to gloat for a good three years. Then, after the ego deflated, I realized those reports were all completed when I was four. Well, it was good while it lasted!

A few years later, a situation forced me to reread the reports. Again, among the many parts I read that I didn’t care to know, I took away a piece of information I found kind of remarkable: “After detailed evaluation, Charity does not appear to have any residual psychological effects from the events that transpired.” In many abuse cases, it’s common for people block out or forget periods of their lives when bad things have happened. Many people, for some reason, feel the need to undergo all kinds of therapy to remember and work through the pain. After hearing my story, many people tried to get me to go to therapy because they felt that after “going through such tragedy, I must certainly need it.” Why?

Earlier this year, I was fortunate to spend some time in conversation with my friend Paul. We somehow got on the topic of raising our children and how, as working parents, the routines we create for our children become their version of “normal.” Essentially, normal is whatever we make it.

To me, nothing about my life has been unfortunate. The way things happened were just the way things happened. All the moving, not having parents at home, having no money…it was just my own little version of normal. I didn’t know any better, so what was there to be sad about?

I saw people that had more than I did and quickly learned if I wanted something I didn’t have, I could easily get it by working for it. The only difficult thing to handle was that there was never anyone around to tell me that I was doing a good job, and I dressed a little crazy because I didn’t know any better. I still laugh at my old school pictures!

Also, because of a medical condition I didn’t learn about until my mid-20s I was (and still am) quite chunky, and kids can be mean. I spent a good portion of my life lacking self-confidence, but regardless of how I felt, I never sat stewing in my own self-pity. I learned early that if you don’t like something about your life, learn to accept it—or change it. The choice is yours. That’s what I believe makes all the difference.

I recently had someone say to me, “Charity, I love how you can walk into a room and just light it up! You don’t ever care about what people might think. You are just you, and I’ve gone my whole life wishing I knew how to be more like that.”

I was a pile of warm fuzzy goo at that moment, but then my heart started to ache when the depth of what she had just said really sunk in. Yes, she admired me, but essentially she had just told me that she has spent her whole life uncomfortable just being herself.

Sadly she isn’t alone. So many people spend too much worrying about what others will think. I don’t really care what people think about me because I am too busy caring about other people. There is nothing special that I do. While sometimes I can be incredibly hard on myself, overall I am just truly comfortable in my own skin and I realize that other people have their own story so I don’t judge them. Instead, I always try to point out what is good in others, and try to help them figure out how to take good to great.

I figured out a long time ago that no matter what I do or what I look like, there will always be people that, for whatever reason, won’t like me or certain things about me. Some people always have negative things to say. Since that’s the case, why would I spend my time being anything but who I really am? Truly…because on the flip-side of those people who dislike me are the people that will absolutely love that I’m wired a little differently than most people and yet still embrace me completely just as I am. See, it’s about changing your focus from all that is or could be bad to concentrating on always looking for all that is or could be awesome.

We spend so much time trying to be cookie cutter versions of what we think the world wants us to be. It’s the blind leading the blind. In reality, we would all be so much better off if we could just embrace all the things about ourselves that makes us who we are. Take a minute to think about who YOU really are. Cast off the weight of judgment and circumstance for a minute and think about who you would be if you could just be you. How would that be different from who you are now? Write it down. What do you love? What do you hate? Are there things you are doing just to impress others?

From here, it’s simple. Do more of what you love and less of what you hate. Try new things because you want to learn and grow, but don’t continue doing something just to impress people that don’t really matter. Quit using other people as your measuring stick, and stop being so quick to pass judgment on others out of your own insecurity. Just be wonderful as you are YOU, because really…life is much too short to be anyone else!