When I decided to start blogging, so many people said to me, “Wow, good for you, you’re so brave!” I hadn’t considered it an act of bravery. To me, the opinions of strangers on the internet were insignificant compared to the opinions of those that live in my physical world. I’m just trying to be the best me I can be.
We’re conditioned throughout our lives to try to gain other people’s approval. This conditioning has only been exacerbated by the creation of social media. That’s all we’re really doing there. We post our behaviors and experiences in hopes of gaining popularity, “likes.” For some reason, there seems to be a level of disappointment if what we share isn’t received according to our expectations. If we weren’t conditioned this way, the beauty and fashion industries would be drastically different and I would likely be unemployed. In a way, I’m grateful for it.
As a young girl in private school, I wanted my mom to buy my clothes from Nordstrom, like all the other kids, but my family couldn’t afford to shop there. The other kids made fun of my clothes. That criticism stuck with me for a long time. Physical appearance is the first thing some people notice. Sadly, some refuse to look beyond that and make the effort to see the real person underneath the costume. That’s all it is, a costume. Your looks don’t define who you are but it’s natural to want other people to like us. The truth is, some people may not like you and you will survive.
As a highly sensitive and introverted person, I am wrecked when someone doesn’t like me or even worse when someone did like me and changed their mind. Particularly in my professional life.
I used to overthink it if a client canceled and didn’t reschedule. “What could I have done differently?” “Was it something I said or the way I reacted to something they said?” I put passion into my work and I have years of experience. It is easy for me to take it personally when someone isn’t happy with the work I’ve done. It’s one of those things that my brain would remind me of on a random Tuesday morning at 3am. “I haven’t seen Judy in several months, I must have done something wrong and she hates me now.” Or, “Remember that driver who wouldn’t let you over and then flipped you off? Yes, remember and stew over that for the next couple of hours for absolutely no reason.” The reasonable, logical side of my brain would remind me that the driver isn’t up at the same hour conflicted over the incident, but I am. Judy doesn’t really hate me, she probably got busy with work and kids and needed to find a place closer to home that could accommodate her schedule. Why does what those people think of me even matter? It doesn’t, but it took me a long time to be able to manage the emotion and just wish them all well. Bless and release.
The mind replays what the heart can’t delete. It’s not that we should walk around in life not caring at all what others think about us, or what we think about them. But, if we care for people more than they deserve, we’ll be hurt more than we deserve. The thing you’re not supposed to do is ruffle anyone’s feathers…but how many fucks should you actually give?
Trying to do all of the things for all of the people can make you crazy! It’s impossible. Other people’s encounters throughout their lives establish how they are able to see others. You have no way to control their thought process because most of the time it isn’t really about you. Let me say that again. It isn’t really about you. When I finally figured that out I felt so free.
I used to be friends with a man who revealed to me one day that he hated women. The truth was that he was keeping score. Every time a woman let him down it was another check mark in the “Women Hurt Me” category of the game he was playing. I figured that out when I was unable to attend his wedding reception because I had a migraine. He told me that I was lying. His belief… migraines were bullshit. If I didn’t show up we would no longer be friends. He said there was no excuse for me not having the ambulance drive me past his house on my way to the hospital. Yes, he actually said that and believed that’s what I should have done. Because so many other women in his life had let him down, in his mind I was doing the same thing. He couldn’t fathom that I was actually sick and the timing was unfortunate. After that, I realized how much energy I was wasting dancing around his insecurities in order to maintain that/his “friendship.” For whatever reason, his approval mattered to me and it mattered that he thought I was lying. There was nothing I could do to change that. It’s called Narcissistic Personality Disorder by the way, but that’s another post. <shrug>
Elbert Hubbard said, “To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing and be nothing.” I fact checked that quote by the way so if you think Aristotle said it, he didn’t. Walt Disney was fired from his job at a newspaper because he lacked creativity and imagination. Thomas Edison had over nine thousand failed attempts before the light bulb was invented. Steven King’s first novel, “Carrie” was rejected thirty times before it was published. Can you imagine what these peoples’ lives and our own would be like if they had accepted that criticism and quit trying?
What if we flip the thought pattern? What if we shift the focus to thinking more highly of ourselves? If we are self-sacrificing in order to please others, what sense does that make?
I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but a couple of years ago I made it my motto to “clean house.” I called it, “Getting rid of the riff-raff.” What that meant for me was letting go of people or things that didn’t serve me or make me happy. “If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no.” Ironically, when I told a friend at that time, she said, “what are you talking about? You can’t just get rid of people.” I bet you can guess what happened to her…
I didn’t like the idea of having to do things that I didn’t want to do. Lunches with girlfriends full of salads and small talk. No, thank you. Loud parties full of people I would never want to associate with beyond that particular invitation. I was making these plans in order to preserve other peoples’ feelings when the quality of time was what really mattered to me. It’s perfectly fine to acknowledge the invitation and decline. What works best for me now, unless I’m positive it’s something that I really want to do is to be non-committal. I RSVP as a “maybe” and I decide when the time comes. That way I don’t have to cancel, disappoint someone, or force myself to go to something I don’t want to. It took a couple of years but when I let go of the people and tasks that were of lesser value, I suddenly had all this time to invest in the people and activities that fulfilled me. The need for approval went away because I was the one approving everything. Queue the Aha moment!
Let’s talk about boundaries. It’s okay to say, “No.” Other people aren’t your responsibility. No one is going to care more about you than you. You have the right to your own feelings, they’re your feelings. If other people get mad at you, that’s okay. They’ll get over it and if they don’t, remember what I said earlier, other people won’t like you and you will survive. At the end of the day, what matters most is that you are living with integrity, kindness, and love for yourself. What others say about you only matters if you believe it to be true in your heart.