I hate jewish novels. I really do.
When I was in high school, at a pretty mainstream yeshiva, we were not allowed to have secular books. Me, being the bookworm that I am, could not deal without any kind of reading material and resorted to The Jewish Novel. Jewish novels are generally formulaic and terribly written. They usually use some absurd title, and I feel like the author used a thesaurus for every simple word in order to make him/her sound intelligent. However, there are some (very few) exceptions. (I just need to clarify. very few).
I haven't read very many jewish novels since high school, but one that I did was Hearts of Gold. It's not the best piece of writing and it's incredibly girly (my sister gave it to me when i had nothing to read). At the very least, it doesn't have the formula that almost all other jewish novels do. I found the second book to actually have a really great message which I'd like to talk about. In the book Chani is obsessed with getting everyone's approval, and won't get a cleaning lady, eat out, get a manicure, and most importantly spend money on garbage bags. This is because she feels people will look down on her since she is in kollel and apparently that means not spending any money on anything other than food. She finally realizes she needs to do what she feels is right and not worry about what everyone else thinks.
"If you try to please everybody, you please nobody."
I'm sure you've heard that phrase dozens of times. But have you ever really thought about it and tried to apply it to your own life? We have a tendency to feel like musar is always for THAT guy, not me. But are you doing what you're doing because you want to do it and feel it's the right thing? Or are you living your life according to what you think your parents, friends, shadchanim, etc. think is right. I'm not saying that what people think is completely irrelevant. It is. It's a fact of life and our nature to care about what other people think. However, your mindset should not be all about what everyone else thinks.
This is especially relevant for shidduchim. When you dress yourself up, are you thinking of what will happen if someone (read: shadchanim/ opposite sex) will think of your dress, or do you want to make sure you are dressed like a ben/(bas?) torah? Are you going to daven because of your reputation, or do you want to actually daven? Are you not going to participate in that chareidi/zionistic event even though you think it would be helpful to yourself and others, because your zionistic/charedi friends will think less of you?
It's YOUR life, not someone else's. We all have unique talents. Try and use them; not someone else's.
We are always so worried about the few people who don't like us. We need to realize that some people just won't. No matter how nice, how pretty, how smart, how shtark that you are. Somebody, probably numerous somebodies, will not like you. And I'm not quite there with being okay with that, but I'm trying. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what people think. I'm learning that more and more every day that people don't care as much as we think they do. And even if they do, it's all up to the One Above, not man. I have more to say on this topic, but I'll leave it at that for now. In the meantime have a good shabbos!