How to Stop Caring About Other People’s Opinions

Picture by Bishonen.
Picture by Bishonen.

Years ago I was in a utterly toxic situation. The specific details of it don’t matter. All you really need to know is that I was so stressed out that I lost 20 pounds over the course of a few months. I was quite thin to begin with.

While trying to figure out how to extract myself from the circumstances that were having such a horrific impact on my mental and physical health, someone I loved told me that I all I had to do was stop giving a fuck about it.

“That’s a nice idea,” I thought, “but how in the hell am I supposed to do that?” I’m the kind of person who weighs every word carefully and muddles over anything unintentionally hurtful long after the original conversation has ended.

I’d love to tell you that I have it all figured out. I don’t. The good news is that I’ve discovered some things that have helped me to internalize the idea that other people’s opinions of me aren’t actually the gospel truth.

1) You can’t please everyone. It’s impossible. Even if it were somehow possible, spending your few, precious years on earth running around after other people’s ideas of what your life should look like is ridiculous.

2) Some people will never be satisfied. Oh, this was a hard one. The peacemaker in me thought that they’d be satisfied if A, B, and C changed. They weren’t. Not even a little bit. If anything, it made them even more adamant that D, E, and F were what was really wrong with me. This is not to even mention the fact that there are hundreds of letters in other alphabets to beat me over the head with even if I miraculously managed to survive the 26 in my own alphabet with my mind more or less intact.

3)  Sticks and stones aren’t the only things that can hurt you. Sharp words can hurt someone just as much as a slap or punch. You’re not being overly sensitive or weak when you’re hurt by verbal attacks. There is a difference between accidentally stepping on someone’s toes and purposefully doing it over and over again.  I’ve learned to pay close attention to people who regularly say critical or mean-spirited things. That says a lot about their character, and none of it is good.

4) Everyone needs cheerleaders. No, this doesn’t mean that I expect everyone around me to love everything I say, do, or think. It’s a good thing to be challenged when someone you care about thinks you’re wrong. There is definitely something to be said for surrounding yourself with people who believe in you, though, and who want to see you succeed. Having a positive support system like this also makes it much easier to ignore the opinions of those who don’t have your best interests at heart.

5) Not everyone deserves the pleasure of your company.  Spending time with me (and you, and every other reasonable person on this planet) is a gift. Occasionally there will be people who don’t appreciate it for reasons that are far beyond the scope of this blog post. It’s perfectly acceptable to stop giving them this gift – whether temporarily or permanently – if they’ve repeatedly shown that they don’t know how to handle it.

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