“What other people think of me is none of my business.” ~Wayne Dyer
Do you feel it too?
That discomfort rising inside when someone imparts their clever wit on you. Not just any kind of wisdom, but the one that makes you feel small, in a here-you-go, punch-to-the-stomach kind of way.
A covert little criticism implying that you might not be doing something right or have the wrong ideas.
Your first reaction is disbelief. Followed by denial. How can they be so rude to come out with such a comment? Why can't they be more tactful or careful with their words?
Then your anger takes over, and you shout from the top of your voice… “Did I even ask for your opinion?”
Unfortunately, what seemed like shouting was just a thought. That witty retort you wanted to scream at them? Never left your lips.
You only disagreed with them in your mind.
And worst of all? After you leave the scene and mull the incident repeatedly, you begin to think they might be right. And that's a tragedy.
Because, ultimately, you can wind up feeling that what you know and who you are don't matter.
Thinking this way for too long leads to low self-esteem and a loss of confidence in your abilities.
But it doesn't have to stay that way forever.
I used to believe that other people’s bad opinions of me didn't affect me, so I was shocked to discover they literally paralyzed me and stymied my progress.
I clearly remember when a girl at school remarked, “Stop behaving so spoiled.” This is one of the earliest memories I have of being accused of something not even based on reality, but I actually believed that what she said was right.
I spent years trying not to appear “spoiled,” without knowing or pausing to contemplate what it really meant. This applied to all the other “wrong” behaviors I stopped doing in hopes that I'd then be more acceptable to the world.
But that never happened. I could not achieve a state where I pleased every person. I continued picking up subtle signs from others, telling me where I went wrong, or what needed correcting.
This led to putting up with a lot of intimidation at work from peers, in my adult life. Not only was I too shy to strike back, I faced humiliation in front of the group when a boss called me a geek once. As if that was the worst sin in the world.
Furthermore, I became a “psychic” over time. Others' nagging voices had become my own, to the point I was second-guessing what people might have been thinking of me.
The situation changed when I recognized I was living within the bounds of my limiting thoughts, including those that were formed from others’ limited opinions.
What I needed to escape this loop was a good old dose of self-trust.
Because other people don't live your life, you can only live it for yourself. And for that, you must stop listening to others' inflated belief systems.
Immunize Against Opinions
The following ideas will help you shed chilling spells of self-doubt and embrace the loving warmth of self-assurance:
Unravel the ball.
Like a wool of yarn, the kind of reactions you learn and display to each situation you encounter get layered and imprinted in your mind over the years. Try and look beyond the obvious issues (top layers) to get to the root (core) of it.
I spent years trying to behave “appropriately” so that other people would accept me, because underneath I felt like my true self was unworthy and underserving. Once I unravelled this ball I realized that I was just as worthy and deserving as anyone else, and I could start being myself—my true self.
Fire the culprits.
The people who impact us at an early age can leave deep, lasting impressions on a young mind. What messages did they leave you with? By careful introspection, you can now examine the validity of such judgment. Is it wise to still carry their opinions, or can you now move on? Give yourself permission to kick them out of your life.
That girl who told me I was spoiled? I was able to shake her opinions by seeing the absurdity of the moment. I finally understood that at that age, she barely knew herself, and she might not have known the consequences of her talk.
Find your “double.”
With seven billion people inhabiting Earth right now, with all different personalities and opinions, you won't have to look far to find those who agree with you. Seek out your own kind for mutual support and growth.
Being around people who share your visions and goals is tremendously more helpful than trying to change those who have the opposite agenda of yours. It's no coincidence hobbies were invented—regardless of what you're into, a local group has already sprung up near you to bring together passionate and kindred spirits.
Find what you’re good at by clarifying your personal strengths.
Too many of us fall into the trap of making wrong career choices based on others’ opinions. Maybe you were particularly drawn to creative work but decided to become an accountant because your parents thought that was more sensible. Furthermore, you ended up focusing on improving weaknesses, which can never measure up to the power of just working with your strengths.
If you live up to who you naturally are daily, you'll be one of the few who follows an authentic life. By flowing with your strengths, you gain greater work satisfaction and become invincible in your character.
Reset your reality.
Thoughts are curious creatures. Have you ever stopped to ponder what they are, where they come from, and what they do to you? Find truth each day by doing ten minutes of thought-stopping meditation, and recognize just how much your thoughts are influenced by people outside yourself.
What do you believe as a result of your mother's negative views, or the heavily biased statements you read in the newspaper? Thoughts become disturbing when you take them too seriously. With a little meditation every day, you can widen the distance between your sanity and them.
Other people’s negative opinions are likely reflecting their own limiting beliefs about life. Develop the skill to recognize and ignore these. You don't have to disagree with them on the spot if it doesn't feel comfortable just yet. But put the mental blinkers on, and try visualizing how you'd go about creating a different outcome next time.
Get out of your body.
Zoom out of yourself to place a particular opinion in perspective. Keep going upward until it's nothing more than a speck of sand. These opinions look quite different from 100 miles above.
Or imagine looking back from ten years time. This incident will fade into shameful insignificance. As if it never happened. Think about this as you're weighing up a certain opinion's merit.
Blow it up.
When someone says something negative or belittling to you, exaggerate it as much as you can in your mind, to the point that it becomes funny. Comedy has an incredible power on the brain, releasing feel-good chemicals and allowing you to let go.
Blow up the person who's saying it into a large balloon, and send them out into the stratosphere. And release a huge belly laugh with it! The bigger, the more powerful.
Share it out.
Bring the troubling thought out in the open by telling a close friend about how you feel. As soon as you’ve done that, you start to see the triviality of the situation. Keeping it to yourself can be a bad idea if it festers and eats into you. “Trouble shared is trouble halved.”
Be vulnerable enough to tell someone if a silly remark bothers you. It does more harm staying inside. So let the critter out, and disperse it into tiny particles.
Go Your Own Way
Don't get sucked into some clever clog's reckless opinion, no matter how convincing it might sound.
You could spend your lifetime wanting to appeal to others' standards. But that's not a strategy for a fulfilling life.
Now is the time to start honoring your authentic values.
Get to know yourself. Hang out with your own kind. Put others' opinions in perspective. Only then will you be free to live your life … your way.
Woman blocking her ears image via Shutterstock