Labor Day is past, and our resort suddenly turns back into a small town. And I will start hearing one of the most common off-season complaints: “Everybody knows your business.” Though it’s a widespread feeling, it’s not entirely accurate.
Nobody knows your business unless you tell it to them. If you care enough to inform somebody of something personal, then obviously that’s something they should know. But if you don’t know the person who has (supposedly) formed an opinion about you, then on what basis could that opinion have been formed? A lot of people get caught up in the fact that others think poorly of them. But most of these opinions are based on a few random – and unverifiable – “facts”. So why care about it? It doesn’t make sense.
The only opinion that truly matters is the one you hold about yourself. A close second are the opinions of those whose values you respect. Beyond that, caring about what others think is about as pointless as superstition.
Writer Warren Wojnowski of ezinearticles.com has an interesting take on the subject: “[Other people] don’t really know you. They don’t understand what thoughts and feelings you are experiencing. So they are in no position to offer an opinion — but of course that won’t stop most people from sharing one with you. Then, because you become so concerned about how others will perceive you…, you find yourself making decisions within the context of what you think they might think. Which of course means it’s all made up anyway! You let the imagined opinions of others dictate the decisions you make in your life. The only opinion of you that matters is your own. Learn to operate from a position of confidence in your own abilities and intuition.” Psychotherapist Nathaniel Branden puts it even better: “Self-esteem is the reputation we acquire with ourselves.” Words to live by!
Years ago, I asked a client why she cared so much about the opinions of others. She answered honestly: “You know how it is, Dr. Hurd, We all want to be part of the pack.” I understand, but I don’t agree. To want to be loved is one thing. To want to find people who share your values, your interests; to fulfill the need for human connection, is perfectly natural. But acceptance by others, for its own sake, shouldn’t matter to a healthy person. It shouldn’t be an issue of, “Will someone like me?” It should be, “Will I find people I like?”
We human beings tend to project. Projection is the subconscious assignment of beliefs or motivations to other people with little or no evidence to back it up. We project without realizing it – especially in a small town. You tend to see the same people over and over, although you don’t know most of them well. The degree to which you are insecure is the degree to which you will assume that others think certain negative things about you. How do you know what they’re thinking? In fact, what makes you believe that they’re even thinking of you at all?
A late friend of mine once interrupted her husband who was proceeding to explain what HE thought their neighbor Rose thought about him. “You flatter yourself,” she said, “if you think that Rose thinks about you at all.” This hits the nail on the head. We don’t know that others are thinking about us. And whatever it might be, so what?
The road to success and happiness is paved with self-esteem. You can’t have self-esteem if you are overly concerned with what others think. Life is stressful enough. Don’t be sidetracked by things that don’t matter. Live your life for yourself, and expect others to do the same. If they hardly know you, but are in fact making judgments about you, then the problem is theirs, not yours.
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