“But what will other people think?”
This question is subliminally destructive. It nearly always stops you in your track and makes you question yourself. And why? Why are other people’s thoughts suddenly more important than your own? They should never be. Normally, the reason we care so much about other people’s perceptions of us and our actions is purely a social one. We want to be liked and approved by others in the society around us. This makes us somewhat people pleasers. It is also an extremely dangerous inhibitor of our progress.
Face it: it is already super difficult to get yourself to do something that affects your prosperity. You have to fight yourself! Then, when you finally convince yourself into performing that task or action, you start thinking about how well it could sit with other people. But other people do not usually care about your prosperity and personal growth. No matter what, we are all largely egoistic. Yet those hurtful opinions that we sometimes hear as reactions to us or our actions get stuck in our heads like splinters. So, how can you avoid this poison? Here are three ways that helped me.
1. Stand back and see the full picture
Imagine you just overheard someone you do not know spit some criticism about you. Of course, you could flame up and retort. Sometimes it is hard not to. But what good will this altercation do? You will fill yourself with fury and tension, yet you will most likely not receive any apology or change that person’s opinion. It will just be a waste of time and a disturbance to your serenity. In reality, all you need to do is this. If that toxin has entered your brain, make sure it does not stay in your mind and damage your psyche.
Value your time. Devalue that person’s opinion by ignorance. Not getting fired up will be a much more powerful response. And the truth is, those who pass judgment won’t care. Nobody ever cares. They will forget fast, and so should you. The purpose of indirect criticism lies deeply in the person’s own insecurities. The purpose of direct criticism, on the other hand, is usually to get a fired-up reaction. Do not give people what they hunt for.
2. Get your priorities straight
Does your priority really align with what a person thinks about you or your actions? If it does, that is an extremely worthless priority and you need to reconsider it ASAP. I am sure that most of you will have other priorities, like learning new things and growing more successful. If that is true, then whose opinion is more important? The opinion of someone who barely knows you, your goals, and your plans? Or your own opinion formed through your expertise, discipline, and drive? It is easy to lose focus on what is important if you are prone to getting knocked off balance by other people’s perceptions of you. Fortify what matters to you most and inscribe it in your mind.
We also tend to think that there is a high level of normality in our society, which is not really the case. Yes, our existence is cemented through multiple societal systems that are meant to segregate us and tell us what is right and wrong. At the same time, the sheer amount of those inter-clashing systems and the uprise of unhappy revolutionaries means our perceptions vary significantly. Does the person who expressed his opinion about you or your actions see things the same way? That is highly unlikely. Here is a simple, recent personal example below.
I was at a supermarket a few weeks ago, paying for several items at the cashier. As a habit, if I can carry something to my car in my hands, I will not be purchasing a plastic bag. Why? Because firstly, some smart guy out there earns a good profit on this ridiculous item. Secondly, I would rather not contribute to the existing plastic bag pollution. A couple of mundane guys at the next cashier giggled to each other as I gathered my stuff, commenting “Don’t be cheap and get a bag” in another language which they thought I did not understand.
But why should I care about this comment? Let them laugh all they want. These smart commentators must be the same people who toss their plastic waste into the sea and contribute to our global problem. Even if you do not believe we have a problem, it is plain disgusting to be so filthy and wasteful. Yet for them, my decision had nothing to do with contributing to a clean world, but to being a cheapskate and ignoring convenience. If you judge whether someone is wealthy or not by him not buying a plastic bag at the store, you are definitely not headed for big prosperity.
3. Fortify your confidence
The real reason why we care so much about what other people think is a lack of self-esteem. Getting validation about yourself and your actions through others helps you feel like you are “headed the right way.” But why? Don’t you know yourself what is the right way to be headed? Perhaps, if you notice yourself unhealthily caring about the opinions of others, you should invest time to improve your confidence. Maybe you lack a plan for the improvement of your life, and that explains why your confidence is absent. It is time to make that plan.
Another example? It is easy to come up with one in our world of human insecurities. Just today, I was pushing a stroller with my 2 kids along the pavement as I passed by yet another 2 mundane guys. The comment I overheard did not bother me one bit. On the flip side, I found it hilariously idiotic that someone’s brain can even go in such a direction. The comment was: “All he needs is a skirt…” Wow. I love my kids more than anything. I also stick to the belief that a mother and a father should play equal parts in raising their kids if that is a possibility. Am I doubting my manhood? Hell no. Do I see myself as a good father? Hell yeah. So, comments as such fly into one ear and out the other. Just good luck to the women those guys will be married to, and happy parenting alone.
So, how to fortify your confidence? You must know and understand what you are doing and where you are heading. If you feel there are issues with any aspect of yourself, work on them. Nobody is perfect. If you are unsure about a certain area important to you, research it until you are satisfied with your level of knowledge about it. Accept that knowing everything is not a possibility. Focus on that what is crucial to you. Put effort into educating yourself and invest time to get to self-love. Once you start respecting and loving yourself, you will not be ticked off by anyone’s evil words or useless opinions.
Your attention is constantly being hunted by people and by businesses. Giving attention goes hand in hand with investing time. Savor your time and learn how to control emotions that may be set ablaze by meaningless toxic comments and judgments. Hopefully, I gave you an idea of how to stop caring about what people think about you and your actions. And logically, I hope you did not misunderstand that there will for sure be times that you will need to pay attention to what people think, especially if they are key to your progress and development, such as your mentors.
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