Opinions are a dime a dozen, and they change at the drop of a hat. Some people’s opinions matter, but most do not. If you’re like most people, including myself, you think too much about what others think. This leads to unhappiness because we can’t control what others think, and even when we can, it takes an enormous amount of energy. To the extent we are successful at people-pleasing, the more we lose touch with what really matters to us.
I recently wrote an article entitled A Simple Lifestyle Tip To Increase Self-Confidence. In it, I talked about how living true to our values–however we define them–makes us more confident people. In addressing the broader topic of how to stop caring what people think, popular vlogger Charlie Houpert from Charisma on Command makes a similar appeal. Charlie argues that the solution is to focus on our own perceptions expressed in terms of values rather than those of other people. At the end of the day, ask yourself, “Did I live up to my values?” rather than “How did my behavior today influence what other people think?” This puts the ball in your court and is a surefire way to improve mental health.
Check out the the complete video and transcript down below, as well as other content from Charisma on Command, one of YouTube’s finest. In the mean time, here is a fascinating excerpt from the New Testament that tells you everything you need to know about opinions.
When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.” He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.Acts 28:3-6 (The Fickleness of Opinion)
Have you ever lied about an odd hobby you have? Or maybe your job status or your height? Or even just avoided putting yourself in a situation in which you knew you were likely to fail? Why did you do that? Short answer — because you were embarrassed. Embarrassment comes from trying to control how other people perceive you. So instead of just showing the world your nerdy hobby, say, that you collect beanie babies, you go, “I don’t want people to think I’m a dweeb,”and pretend that you don’t have one.
The same process plays out with hobbies as it does with mistakes that we’ve made, areas in which we’re weak and areas in which we might get publicly rejected. We hide what we don’t want people to know about us. We conform to what other people would like us to be. But it doesn’t have to be the answer because there is another more empowering mindset. Instead of focusing on other people’s perceptions and feeling embarrassed about what they may think, focus on whether or not you live up to your own values.
For instance, if you do have a killer beanie baby collection,you obviously value something about it —maybe it’s the nostalgia or maybe it’s just a quirk that started when your grandma gave you one twenty years ago. Either way, if you value your own opinions, you won’t try to hide the collection no matter what anyone else thinks of it.
Or maybe you have a crush that you’re thinking of asking out. Focusing on other people’s perceptions of you would stop you dead in your tracks. After all, what if other people found out and laughed at you for getting turned down? But what if you instead focused on your own values like doing the courageous thing or being honest even when it’s uncomfortable? You would ask that person out. Now maybe you’d go on a date, maybe you wouldn’t but either way, you’d have lived up to your own values and no matter what anyone else said or did, you could feel proud of yourself.
The point is that when you focus on living up to your own values,you never have to feel embarrassed again. It doesn’t matter whether you trip up an escalator, get fired from a job, beat up in a fight or blown off by a girl or a boy that you like —none of that stuff is pleasant, but you don’t need the double penalty of being embarrassed by those things. Your attempts to live up to your values are all that matter, so take responsibility, try to correct course and move on. And if you have traits that embarrass you, whether it’s your looks, your height, your age —well, you can’t control those things and you can’t live up to a value that you can’t control. So even though you might not like something about yourself, own it. You will immediately feel relieved when you accept yourself the way you are.
Now this isn’t an excuse to simply give up on improving yourself in the name of self-acceptance. Some things are worth a moment of embarrassment because they remind us that were not living up to our values. So in the case of maybe having fallen out of shape, a moment of embarrassment is worth it to get you back to a healthy lifestyle or a moment of embarrassment in saying your job title can be worth it if it inspires you to hustle to land your dream job. The point is to get clear on your values then live in line with them. Let other people’s perception of you fade into the background noise.
Now this doesn’t mean you ignore other people completely to the point of becoming a self-absorbed jerk. For instance, if one of your values is to be kind and you keep getting feedback that you’re hurting people’s feelings,you probably need to make an adjustment. But just remember there are 7 billion people with 7 billion different opinions —you cannot please them all. So when you take feedback from others, focus on doing the right thing rather than the thing that pleases everyone else.
In short, stop trying to be okay by everyone. Stop trying to control the opinions of strangers. Instead, figure out your values and live by them. Be your unadulterated self all the time regardless of the audience. Make mistakes, fail publicly, get laughed at —you’ve got nothing to lose and as long as you’re trying to do the right thing,you’ve got no reason to ever feel bad about it. Own your screw-ups, your weirdness, you’re unpopular actions, and you’re free. . .