Do you find that your list of pet peeves grows as you get older? I’m raising my hand. One of my new pet peeves is when people care about other people’s opinions about them. Let me share an example. My parents in law live in a retirement community complete with exercise center, a clubhouse, and two pools. My kiddies are fortunate to be able to play in the pool sometimes. One hot summer day I noticed that a group of women were sitting on the sidelines and not enjoying the water. I asked my mother in law why they weren’t participating. She said the women confided that they weren’t comfortable enough with their bodies to go in the water. So, they weren’t participating because they were caring about other people’s opinion.
Friends, those women were likely in their seventies. Do you want to still succumb to other people’s opinions about you when you are retired? Hell, no! If we infuse logic for a moment, most of the people in the pool that day probably had similar cellulite or loose skin and they were likely not even thinking about these women!
How many times have you heard someone say some version of I don’t want to do that? What if they (they = family, neighbors, co-workers, you choose) think I’m …(fill in the blank). I don’t want them to think…I swear to you I’m getting fired up just typing this.
Why, why, why do you care about other people’s opinions of you? For real, why? We can’t explore your Fear of Other People’s Opinions (FOPO) without reflecting on your concerns in the first place. Are you an enabler? An obliger? A martyr? Do you tend to put others’ needs ahead of your own? As I’m writing this, I’m realize that many women indeed do most of those things. Many women tend to think of everyone before themselves and are more likely to keep promises to others before promises to themselves. Many women are self-proclaimed people-pleasers.
I have a bold answer to that, though. I think some of us use “people-pleasing” as an excuse to prevent our own growth.
[Drops the microphone and walks away.]
If we are busy putting everyone else first, then we don’t have to contemplate how to grow or how to push ourselves outside our comfort zone. I know challenging yourself is strenuous, emotionally draining, and feels infinite – I’m doing all the things, too, friend! I literally had to pause this thought because I needed to tend to my seven-year-old son, Sebastian. He said, “Mommy, I lost a tooth!” And we chatted for ten minutes. I’M DOING ALL THE THINGS, TOO! I’m (trying to) balance being a mommy, working full-time, being an Independent College Counselor part-time, and growing my blog, too. I know it’s not easy!
BUT, if you give more value to others’ opinions of you over your own, then you let yourself off the hook. You won’t have to think about what interests you. You won’t have to try new things and force yourself to talk to people you don’t know. You won’t have to sit in the discomfort of not knowing what you are doing. I get it. That version of your life is easier. It’s safer.
But is that really what you want for yourself? Is that really the example you want to set for loved ones? You can sit here all day and vomit excuse after excuse like I’m too busy, I don’t have enough time, or I don’t want them to think…but they are all just that – excuses. I know I sound harsh today, but friend, THIS IS YOUR LIFE. No one is forcing you to think this way. You are choosing it. You are allowing yourself to be an understudy in your own life. Only you control that.
Plus, if you routinely value others’ opinions about you over your own, you are sending yourself a message that they matter more than you do. You are repeatedly telling yourself not to trust your own judgment. By caring so much about others’ opinions, you are jeopardizing your self-esteem. You are teaching yourself that your opinion doesn’t have value and that you should not trust yourself.
Friend, this is awful. If your child told you a story about how their self-esteem was wrapped up in how others feel about them, you would IMMEDIATELY try to rectify the situation, right? Of course you would! Why do you put your foot down for them and not for you? Your opinion about yourself is the only one that should matter, but your kids are listening. Little ears pick up on messages you don’t even intend to send.
Here are some more truths about the FOPO that aren’t often discussed:
Other people aren’t thinking about you! We get so wrapped up into thinking about if others will judge us for our length of skirt at work, for having two servings of dessert, or for letting our kids watch TV on weekend mornings. Knock it off! No one is thinking about you! People are too self-absorbed to worry about your kids’ television habits. They are 1) thinking about what they are going to have for dinner, whether to put their son in t-ball AND basketball, or if they will have enough time to watch “The Bachelor” (maybe that last one is just me) and 2) thinking about what YOU are thinking of THEM. Stop the madness! This sounds insane, right? We need to let this go, friends.
On the odd chance that they are, though… I live in the real world, too, friend, and I know that sometimes people are judging us. Yes, they are self-absorbed, but sometimes they are judging us, too, because they want to feel better about themselves. They judge our decisions, wardrobe, or children to validate their own insecurities.
To this I say: So, what? Who cares if they judge us? Let them judge all they want! Their opinion only matters if you let it. I’m not telling you that you shouldn’t care about your mom’s opinion or partner’s opinion. Don’t get me wrong; if a loved one confronts you and is hurt by something you did, then you need to pause and reflect on your role in the situation. But if you are confident in and comfortable with your decisions, then PROCEED! Their reaction is not your problem. That’s on them.
Did you hear me? If you are confident in and comfortable with your decisions, then other people’s opinions shouldn’t affect you! OTHER PEOPLE’S OPINONS OF YOU ARE NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. That saying has been highlighted in many books and memes, but I first heard it from Rachel Hollis. Other people’s opinions about you are not your concern. Your concern is how you feel about yourself. Period.
Some want you to be reliant on others’ opinions What I have found, though, is that many people bristle when you are unaffected by others’ opinions. They don’t like it. They want your self-worth to be reliant on others. It’s an odd thing, really. The ideal should be that our self-esteem isn’t based on others’ opinions about us, right?
Why does it upset some if you don’t care about impressing people? Because they are jealous. They wish they could free themselves of the weight they carry around, constantly thinking about others. Example: You and your friend Mary have a mutual friend named Rebecca. Mary secretly wants you to be insecure about Rebecca’s opinion about your outlet Coach purse because it validates Mary’s own insecurities. If you are affected by Rebecca’s opinions, then that makes Mary’s feelings “normal.” Sounds like a vicious cycle that rings true at the same time, right?
Some people have a difficult time making a decision without first running through a mental list of how it will affect others or how others will view them. Again, I’m not talking about loved ones; I’m talking about those who have no consequence on your life. Do you feel this way? Are you weighed down by others’ opinions? Do you put their needs before your own? Imagine all the time you are spending thinking about other people and what goals you could accomplish instead. Imagine the self-esteem boost and carrying yourself with confidence instead.
Dear friends, we must be kind to ourselves. Most of us keep ourselves in this tiny box and don’t allow ourselves to grow. We do not exist in a bubble. We exist in the dynamic created by our family of origin. We can repeat the dynamics (which I did in my first marriage), learn from them and do better, or a combination of both. I realize now why I was minimizing myself, and I must gently let go of any shame involved.
The easiest way not to care about others’ opinions about you – Take care of yourself! If you are living your life to its fullest, following your spark, and embracing the butterflies (see what I did there?), then other people’s opinions can’t touch you. What does that mean, specifically? I’m glad you asked. If you are getting enough sleep, moving your body at least 30 minutes a day, and eating well, then you are likely to care less about others’ opinions.
When I say “eating well,” I don’t necessarily mean dieting. I mean eating nutritious foods that fuel your body, not eating past fullness, and not emotionally eating. In my experience, if you are taking care of yourself in these three ways, then you are confident in yourself. Self-care inspires us to step out of our comfort zone. It lends itself to asking, “what else?” Self-care helps us feel proud of ourselves, which naturally helps us seek more.
If you routinely allow other people’s opinions affect you, reflect on if you are taking care of yourself and living up to your potential. I suspect you aren’t.
Are you ready to?
Did today’s topic resonate? Whose opinion of you are most susceptible to? How do you feel about others’ opinions of you? What are your pet peeves? Share below!
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