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Roll Models 6Every nurse and I have our own distinct dynamic to our relationship. Even though they all have a different relationship with me, I know without a doubt that they all would agree on one thing. They would all agree that I am stubborn. Not just a little defiant, but full on, my mind is made up, don’t waste your breath pigheaded. I am not proud of it, and I don’t deny it, but I do prefer to call it having conviction. Once I come to a decision, I am going to “stick to my guns.” Sometimes this is a good thing, and sometimes it’s not, but it is who I am. Over time my propensity for stubbornness has probably grown, but the following story shows that I was born predisposed to pigheadedness.

Around the age of 2, I started sucking my thumb. A lot of children do this for a short period of time and then stop, so at first it wasn’t a big deal. I however, decided that I was going to do this all the time for over a year. If my hand wasn’t on a toy, it was in my mouth. As I was approaching my fourth birthday, my parents were trying to break me of this unsanitary habit, but nothing was working. You have to remember, I am stubborn. A close family friend however, found the key. She told me very matter of fact one day, “You know, Scotto, 4 year olds don’t suck their thumbs. So if you want to be 4, you will have to stop.” I was young and trusting, so I took this as a statement of fact. Like every other child, I wanted to be a big kid, so turning 4 was obviously very important to me. On September 10th, 1990, I stopped sucking my thumb “cold turkey,” and I have never done it again since.

Now, I am sure that in telling me this that she was hoping to sway me to stop using my hand as a chew toy, but I doubt even she knew how powerful this tactic would be. In one statement, she accomplished what months of effort from my parents could not. Her approach worked so well, because she didn’t try to change my behavior directly. Due to my stubbornness, this method wouldn’t work. Instead, she worked to alter my thinking and beliefs, so that I would change my own behavior. By convincing me that “4 year olds don’t suck their thumbs,” knowing my goal was to be a 4 year old, she actually turned my stubbornness into a positive. My mind was made up that I was turning 4, so if not sucking my thumb was a part of that, I had the conviction to make that happen.

Roll Models 7The fact that even as early as age 3 I could be that stubborn, probably means that I was genetically predisposed to be this way. It is yet another wonderful gift from the old gene pool. As I have grown up though, my convictions have only gotten stronger. This can be a very good thing, like when I relentlessly advocate for myself, and it can also be a bad thing, like when I refuse to go to the ER even when my nurses tell me to. Like everything in life, it is all about finding the right balance. For me, that means finding a balance between living my life the way I want to and listening to those around me trying to keep me safe and healthy. It is something that I am working on as I go through life, and I am getting better at compromising, but it is definitely a work in progress.

Whether your friends call you stubborn, or you just “stick to your guns,” you have to be aware of how to balance your convictions. If you don’t, you will end up a 27 year old still sucking your thumb. As important as it is to stick to and defend what you believe, it is also important to remember that others may have valuable information to share. Try doing some “Mental Optometry” and engage in an objective dialogue before stubbornly defending your opinion. Not only will you learn more information and make better decisions, but you will no longer be seen as stubborn but decisive.

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