Why do we care so much about what other people think (about us?) Every day I meet people who bemoan about how someone in their life diminished their achievements, pooh-poohed their plans, or expressed a lack of support for their ideas. Somehow we’ve gotten it into our heads that people who purport to love us (and tell us that they only want the best for us) have opinions worth more than our own! And this is such a fallacy! Yet we do the same thing to other people without even intending to. (Which begs the question: If you knew that your opinion caused someone to feel badly about themselves… even to the point of giving up – would you think a bit more before YOU spoke?)
Realistically, it is only YOUR own opinion of yourself that should matter. And yet we falter…
I grew up with the adage “How can you do/say/think that? What would the neighbors/friends/strangers think (of you?) It was almost as if people on the street without any regard to you or your life should have a level of control over who you are! It was as hogwash then as it is now, but so many are still caught up in the trap of “what would so-and-so think?” – the truth is that it just doesn’t matter.
The opinions of others have nothing to do with me (or you!) I’ve spoken at hundreds of conferences over the years and I am always amazed at the diversity of evaluations that come back from attendees. They range from the polar opposites of “Couldn’t stand the presenter, didn’t learn a thing…” to “Best presenter I’ve ever seen – make sure you invite her back. Excellent!” – all from the same presentation! The rest of the audience lies somewhere in the middle, with the majority of people offering no comments at all. What should I believe about my presentation – the best, the worst, or somewhere in the middle?
None of them! All of the opinions from the audience are from THEIR perspective – based on what they like and how they perceived me. No one knows me except for me! When I speak, I give it my best and that is all I can do. When I leave the stage and feel good about what I’ve done, that is all that should matter – I’ve done my best. Yet, of course I do read the evaluations (and they are the basis on which I am asked back!) – and they do still affect me. BUT I am learning to ignore the outliers (both positive and negative) because they are so much less a reflection of me than of the audience members and their own frame of mind!
The only approval we should ever strive to meet is our own.
If you’ve read anything I’ve written over the past two years on this blog, you’ll know that I’m a fan of author and motivational guru don Miguel Ruiz and his landmark book The Four Agreements. When my daughter first gifted me a copy almost 10 years ago, I read it but the concepts just didn’t sink in at first.
Now, 10 years later, I fully embrace the concepts even though I still get tripped up by life’s little circumstances that suck me in and zap my energy!
Cover of The Four Agreements: A 48-Card Deck
The Four Agreements just for introduction purposes (see my other posts on the subject for more insights) are:
1. Always live with integrity: I used to think this meant to live honestly (with high ethics and morals), but it really means: become your own best friend! Love yourself unconditionally and never, ever say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to your best friend! (i.e., Banish your inner critic and rid yourself of the negative thoughts like “I’m not good enough, pretty enough, thin enough, rich enough – any of these! Replace them with positive and realistic self-love endorsements such as “You are kind. You deserve love. You are a great person! (Which goes beyond appearances!))
When you’ve had a lifetime to build up your defenses with a damaging inner critic (mine was so strong it almost led me to suicide!) – often put in place to protect you from the (inevitable) onslaught of unsupportive but well-meaning people in your life – this can be a major life change! But it is necessary – if you are not your own best friend who loves you for all you are – you’ll never find happiness. Happiness starts and ends within – so start today by loving yourself!
2. Don’t take anything personally: This one was also tough for me, but it makes so much sense. Think about it – if you wear something new out to a party and three people come up to you saying variously:
- “What a great color on you – great outfit!”
- “Oh, from the looks of that outfit, you’ve gained a few pounds.”
- “You look tired, maybe it’s the outfit, you really shouldn’t wear those colors.”
Who is right? As I’ve stated above – none of them are “right” – they are all opinions. If you feel good about yourself and how you look – that is all that matters.
When we stop taking the responses of others personally (they are not personal – they are only a viewpoint from another,) life gets so much better!
3. Never make assumptions: Agreement #3 also takes getting used to. When we realize that not everyone thinks like we do, it makes sense to stop and ask questions to clarify what others tell us. A couple of years ago I was dating a guy who I really cared about and he told me after a few weeks that “I have no feelings for you.” I was devastated because I took it to mean that he didn’t care at all about me, and I immediately started crying when he said this. He couldn’t figure out why I’d be upset because he meant that he wasn’t in love with me, he cared about me but wasn’t in love (he was going through a divorce at the time… I should have seen the red flags there!) My interpretation was that no feelings = no caring. I’ve since learned to try not to react and instead ask questions first to make sure that what I hear and interpret is the same thing as what is meant.
In life, we make so many assumptions about WHY others say, think, do, or act based on OUR opinions. When we ask questions to find out WHY – the answers may pleasantly surprise you!
4. Always do your best: This one can be the easiest to embrace because it is tied to #1. If you are always doing your best, it is harder to tell yourself you could have, should have… anything. When you do you best (at the time, given the information and resources at hand) – you can never could have, should have done anything differently!
All in all, it really shouldn’t matter to me what YOU think about what I write, what I say, what I post – yet it still does. We are at the core, social creatures who are domesticated to care about others and respect the opinions and thoughts of others.
In this journey of life, I’m finally learning to put MY OPINION of myself first… and everyone else’s second to tenth. It’s not always the easiest thing to do, but if I don’t accept and love myself – how can I expect anything of anyone else?
p.s., Comments? I’d love to hear YOUR opinion – it doesn’t change the fact that I did my best in writing this post, but I’d still like SOME feedback.
p.p.s. Remember to register for the upcoming True You Discovery retreat May 3-5, 2013 in beautiful St Petersburg Beach, FL. Visit www.spiritualconnections1-trueyoudiscovery.com for full details. I also wrote about this in my last blog post.
Have a good week!