Monday, February 9, 2015

Are you Addicted to the Opinions of Others?

  • Are you concerned with what others might be saying about you?
  • Do you hesitate to act upon your good ideas in case others don't think it's as good as you do?
  • Have you over-leveraged yourself financially (house, cars, trips, clothes... stuff) just to keep up with those around you?
  • Do you find yourself agreeing with people even if/when you disagree?
  • Do you hesitate to invite people to your house because you feel it's too small, unimpressive, or not in a great neighbourhood?
  • Do you not order what you really want for lunch because you're concerned about what your friend might think about your eating habits?
  • Do you not take your partner/spouse to a work event with you because you are concerned with what your co-workers might think?
  • Do you not pursue a job you would love simply because others might not think it's important enough?

The need for the approval of others can be a very secretive need.  It can influence our decisions without our even being aware that we are making choices based on the reactions of others, not out of a true personal interest.  The need for approval gets conditioned into us from the day we are born and can serve, for many, as their primary source of self esteem.  Somehow the recognition of others adds to our perceived level of self-worth and value.

Let's face it, we all care to some extent, what our family and friends think of us.  This need not be particularly detrimental or undermine our sense of self.  However, the trick is to ensure that we don't come to care so much what others think that it becomes our thoughts.  Becoming addicted to the opinions of others can repress our own expression of who we are and what we truly believe and value.

When we get caught up in trying to please others, to ensure that they think well of us, we become overly accommodating in our attitude.  We engage in many unconscious 'likability' behaviours that signal to others our desire to please them.  However, by trying so hard to accommodate everyone, typically in an attempt to be liked and respected, we actually can appear overly solicitous and even obsequious, becoming a person that no one likes or respects.
"You wouldn't worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do"          Eleanor Roosevelt
In a study conducted by the National Science Foundation, it was found that people have as many as 50,000 thoughts a day.  The sad truth is that people are so caught up in living their lives that they rarely even spare a thought or two for us.  Even if they thought about us ten times a day though, it would still only consume .02% of their daily thought total.  You don't even make a dent.

The real truth therefore, about every worry you have about what people will think of you... is that they aren't thinking of you.  Most people filter their thoughts through their ego.  How important you really are to them, to their lives, goals, wants and needs, will determine how much they likely are going to think of you.  That big list of people that care about your car, your clothes, your house, your job, your sexual orientation, your friends, your education, your hobbies... just got infinitely smaller.

People are always going to have an opinion of you.  People have opinions about people they don't know, which means they will certainly have an opinion about those they do.  And certainly, everyone is entitled to their opinion, whether Right, Wrong or Indifferent.  However, their opinion need not become yours.  You have a right to choose how you respond to it, to Accept it, Reject it, or Ignore it, just as they have the same choices regarding your opinion of them.

People are also going to have an opinion about the choices you make, no matter who you are trying to please, yourself or them.  Sometimes your choices will please many, sometimes your choices will please only a few.  The important measure is whether they are pleasing to you.  What you will find, when you are in your 90's reflecting back on your life is that yours is likely the only opinion that will ultimately matter to you; did you live a life that mattered... to you.

In the immortal words of John Fogerty, in his song 'Garden Party'...
"It's all right now, I learned my lesson well.  You see, you can't please everyone, so you got to please yourself"
And, if you feel compelled to sing that line to yourself over and over, or to imitate Ricky Nelson singing it to you, or adopt it as your mantra... go right ahead. I'll likely be singing it right along with you.  Some might think we're crazy but that's their opinion.

What's yours?

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