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How to Stop Letting Other People’s Opinions Guide Your Life

Woman blocking ears

“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.

Inject Self-Trust

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.

Know thyself.

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. 

Blinker yourself.

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

About Andrea Still

Andrea is a recent environmental graduate, and she’s equally fascinated by human nature and their mutual interconnection. She’s enthralled by personal development and is the voice behind the popular Instagram page @the_warrior_spirit. If you’re finding life frantic, she’s written a guide on Peace of Mind which you may find helpful.

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  • Hey Andrea,

    Another great post – well done! I love the idea of blowing things up until they become funny. I’ll have to use that one. 🙂

  • Great ideas, Andrea!
    Thanks for sharing with the rest of the world 🙂
    Loved it and shared it on FB!

  • It’s all too easy to accept what’s said or what we see without giving it any thought. Awareness is such a powerful tool and this is a great article for us all to become more aware of what we accept rather than reject. Love this Andrea!

  • Bullyinglte

    Andrea – So very true and so hard to do. We need to further use our Adult Brain to stop our Child Brain from reacting. When we react, we are really showing our child brain in action and by learning to be mature about it, we stand above the way others try to make us feel small. It’s not ego, just self-esteem and self-belief.

  • andreastill

    Thank you Sophia, appreciate it… 🙂

  • andreastill

    Cheers Cate. I got the blow up idea from public speaking class where we learned the art of exaggeration for comedic effect. It can be applied to daily life when things a bit too much – it releases built up tension. 🙂

  • Ann Davis

    Andrea, I should have read this post in my teen years. Well done.

  • andreastill

    Hi Ann, and I wish I’d known about these in my younger years too 😉

  • andreastill

    Loved your interesting insights! My child brain has a lot to answer for… I guess it’s persistent daily action and awareness that can make us feel stronger and brush off those negative comments of others. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  • doctalqur

    I so wish i would have read this earlier. i have damaged myself so much for so long tailoring myself to peoples opinions and i always failed

  • andreastill

    Hi Elle, I guess we don’t know, what we don’t know! That little word ‘awareness’ makes such a huge difference though, once you start noticing things and events for what they are. Thanks for reading 🙂

  • LaTrice Dowe

    I understand people are entitled to their opinions. Unfortunately, I can’t control everyone’s actions. Although I could careless what others think of me, I know who I am as a person. There’s nothing wrong with embracing your own individuality, and it’s okay to be different.

    Thank you, Andrea, for sharing your experience.

  • paramvir

    Hi andrea, great insights and excellent article. But I would really love to talk on one point you talked about in the para “Know thyself”.

    You said and I quote, ” you ended up focusing on improving weaknesses, which can never measure up to the power of just working with your strengths”.

    But I want to know here, let’s say I love something but I suck at it at the moment, So should I leave it because it’s my weakness. I mean there is no weakness in this world which you can’t turn into the strength or vice-verse given enough time. I guess initially our strengths were also our weaknesses but with enough time and energy, we turned them into our strengths.

    I would love to hear your opinion on this. I am sorry if I sounded rude.

  • Deebee

    Fantastic post Andrea! You have given some great ideas which I will most definitely be trying out.

  • Mark Tong

    Hi Andrea – what a great post – I love the unravelling the ball analogy. I learned a long time ago that other people expressing their opinion of you or what your doing is usually just them telling you their own shortcomings or fears. Remember, it is personal, but only to them.

  • Thanks for another thoughtful article, Andrea. I’ve learned from personal experience that knowing yourself, discovering your innate strengths, and applying them to your work and life creates self-trust and a huge boost in confidence. Learning this earlier in life would have saved me some heartache for sure!

  • Jj

    What if the person with the negative comments, which are inaccurate, is your boss. How are you supposed to ignore it when it affects your profession?

  • andreastill

    Not at all – great question!

    I agree that with perseverance and time you can improve on your weaknesses.

    However, if you put your efforts into strengthening your strengths over time – instead of focusing on what doesn’t come naturally to you – you’ll find life easier and you will be happier in yourself.

    I suspect what you refer to here is not actually a weakness, as much as a skill you need to master…

    Hope that helps 🙂

  • andreastill

    Great – I’m glad it helped you… 🙂

  • andreastill

    Wise perspective – thanks for commenting! 🙂

  • andreastill

    Any of the above will get you started. Meditation and zooming out are especially helpful when you are looking at a situation too closely.

  • Thanks for sharing this vulnerable post Andrea – I especially agree with ‘blinker yourself’ – it’s a hard thing to remember at times but other people’s comments and opinions are indeed a reflection of what’s going on for them, rather than about you. I hug that truth to myself in difficult situations and breathe it out.

  • andreastill

    Hi Ellen,

    Yes it’s important to be mindful of where other people may be in their lives. It’s often not that apparent on the surface, so sometimes it might be hasty to make any kind of judgement in the heat of the moment.

    Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

  • andreastill

    Thank you Linda for your wise observations! I guess in hindsight we need to go through certain stages of development to arrive in a better place later on… 😉

  • andreastill

    Yes that truth in itself is very liberating… 🙂

  • What if what they say is true, how are we going to differentiate if we are just in denial or we should ignore it?

  • qeurich

    Great post Andrea – and in my opinion your best to date! Your examples are awesome, uniquely put and easy to remember.

    Blinkering yourself is certainly what I did when a friend read a published guest post of mine and damned it with the faintest of praise – not too badly written – and then went on to criticize the format (without understanding or caring it’s a standard format for blogs) – and just had to tell me that he’d never be taking my advice.

    At first I was struck dumb that he was so negative and unsupportive. But, then I realized all that negativity was because I was doing what he could not. He’s been in the start-up phase of his business since the end of 2014, while I’m working daily at mine, and has never written anything for public consumption, not even on his own website.

    So here I am, “Sharing it Out”, because the best sharing is with people you know will understand!

    Many thanks!!!

    Quinn

  • andreastill

    Hm, how do you know what they say is ‘true’? Let’s say they are; then the difference is in the way it is communicated. I presume you too respond to constructive guidance better than all out criticism? See ‘Find your double’ section 🙂

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  • Ilka Emig

    Thanks for a great article Andrea! I am sure that many people can relate and learn from it. It is hard to get over criticism and hurt and build up self-confidence; especially when the hurt and criticism was done in an early age or even by the parents. What a feeling of freedom when we are finally over it, isn’t it?

  • Craggy

    I use a technique of agreeing wholeheartedly with the criticiser,something like.”you know your so right,my house stinks,but I was born in a cowshed,and thank you for telling me”

  • Andrea – awesome article! I felt as if you were speaking directly to me. I really like the “Get out of your body” part. Thanks a lot for writing it!

  • andreastill

    That’s a good one too, bit of humor always works =)

  • andreastill

    My pleasure Maria! 🙂

  • andreastill

    Can’t tell you just how liberating it is, Ilka. Because it’s embedded so early, it becomes so much part of a person that it’s pretty hard to be aware of it…

  • andreastill

    Thank you for the feedback Quinn, always appreciate it! Thanks for sharing your story and sorry to hear about your friend’s attitude. Though like you say it’s easier to critique someone else’s work, than to actually go and walk the talk. These are exactly the kinds of situations I’ve written this article for – hope it helped you… 🙂

  • Lauren

    What do you say to a coworker who tells “You are too sensitive?” Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Thanks so much!

  • Nicki Lee

    Love this post, Andrea! When you described feeling “psychic,” I could totally identify. “Others’ nagging voices had become my own, to the point I was second-guessing what people might have been thinking of me.” I do this all the time, and it is such a misuse of my time and energy, yet it feels so valid at the time. Time to reset my reality. Thanks for the excellent suggestions!

  • Martin G :)

    Hi Andrea,

    I just came across your post and WOW! Just what I needed to read today.

    I started out on SnapChat a few weeks ago and thought I was doing ok until a friend said otherwise. I was gutted and decided not to continue my new found hobby. I recently came across the Shorty Awards in the U.S where they have an awards show for Social media, including SnapChat. I looked at some of those short listed, basically SnapChat superstars, and realised that I had been doing my SnapChat stories the same as the superstars.

    I was delighted and now continue my journey with SnapChat….. It turns out that SnapChat isn’t as big here in the UK as it is in the U.S, well not yet anyway!

  • monta

    great answer! the question asked by Sydney is also one that I had trouble with understanding, but your answer is right on spot! There is a huge difference between if someone says “It seems to me that you are being insensitive to other people’s feelings. Is something bothering you? Maybe we can talk about it? I’d like to know your thoughts on this” rather than “You’re being a cold-blooded b***h to everyone!”

  • Amanda Young Sproles

    Thank you for sharing this! After 43 years of self doubt, I am learning to trust myself and recognize the need to not internalize or replay other people’s opinions of me. Easier said than done, but your article gave some very important techniques I need to incorporate! Thank you so very much! God bless you for sharing this! May your life be filled with peace and love Andrea Still!

  • orion9k

    Most opinions are not based on truths and facts, they are based on subjective beliefs and mainly based on a reflection of their own limited horizon of reality/understanding, fabricated morality and limited ability to question and reflect upon own and others opinions in the light of perspective.