Your Worst Behavior Does Not Define You

If you let it, you’ll never live up to your potential

Paul Ryburn, M.Sc.


person on their worst behavior, screaming in a fit of rage
Photo by Jan Kopřiva from Pexels

Years ago, I was in a bad place in my life. I was on a career path that I hated. I compensated by staying up way too late at night at the bars. Also, I had a taste for a particular brand of rotgut cinnamon whiskey, a whiskey whose makers cut every corner in its manufacture. I’d do 3 to 5 shots of it a day.

As a result, I tended to fall asleep sitting at the bar a lot.

It was a running joke for a while. People would take pictures.

Finally, I realized the whiskey was ruining my life. I quit it. It took about four days for it to get totally out of my system — I later learned it shared an ingredient with the antifreeze people put in their cars — but once it was gone, I immediately started feeling better. The lethargy was gone. I stopped procrastinating on important projects I needed to get done.

Also around that time, I switched to a different career path, one that allowed considerably more flexibility in my schedule. I went from getting 4 to 6 hours sleep a night to 7 to 9 hours. I went from waking up to the unpleasant beeping of an alarm clock to awakening peacefully and naturally.

I still go out to bars, but I haven’t fallen asleep in one in quite some time.

Yet, the people who don’t want to see me do well in life still try to pin that identity on me. “Oh, he’ll be passed out on the bar by 3 p.m.,” they comment whenever my name comes up. It’s a way of dismissing me, of labeling whatever I have to say as not valid. It’s their way of trying to silence me.

And that’s fine. A wise man once wrote, let other people react to you however they want. The trick is not minding their reaction, whatever it may be.

But imagine if I heard what they said and believed, that’s who I am. What if I internalized it? What if I thought, I may not always be passed out at a bar on rotgut liquor, but at my core, that’s who I really am?

There are few things in life more powerful than “I am” statements. As a co-creator with the universe, you are handicapping yourself if you make an identity out of who you are at your worst.

What’s your worst…



Paul Ryburn, M.Sc.

I write about writing, ideas, creativity, homelessness, intuition, spirituality, life lessons. Ex-college teacher Twitter: @paulryburn