Pam Thomas loves encouraging others to bring their own flavor to the recipes called Life and Business. She has over a decade of experience in helping others stand up and out in positive ways personally and professionally.
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How to avoid being defined by others’ opinions & thoughts
Has anyone ever said to you, “It’s none of your business what other people think of you”?
If not, consider yourself blessed.
It sounds great in theory, not to give two shits about what other people think, but here’s the truth...we do care and we do make it our business.
If we didn’t we’d be lone wolves and be cool being a pack of one.
If we didn’t we wouldn’t fear rejection. We wouldn’t worry others might think that what we do is odd or bizarre.
There wouldn’t be people pleasers or perfectionists.
I used to be the person who’d say to a client or someone I cared about, “Hey, it’s really none of your business what other people think of you.” It was never my intention to be insensitive (not to mention a hypocrite) by discounting another person’s need for connection. Really. What I was trying to say was this…
There will always be people who have an opinion. You have no control over that opinion so don’t let it define who you are. Just know it’s OK to care, as long as it’s not stopping you from being you.
"When we stop caring what people think we lose our capacity for connection. When we become defined by what people think we lose our capacity to be vulnerable." - Brené Brown
The bottom line: WE CARE and it’s cool that we do when it connects us. What’s not cool is allowing that care to control what we do and who we are as people.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CONNECTION AND DEFINITION
How do we tell the difference so we know when we are caring and connecting vs. caring and being defined?
I like to think of connecting as having that comfortable feeling of “Wow, they get me. How frickin’ cool!” That, to me, is the connection that is created by sharing and caring. Having a deep common bond, one that just feels like a fit.
That’s completely different from caring so much that we’re being held hostage by someone’s opinion or thoughts (or the anticipation of what others might think). That’s when we get into the dangerous territory of allowing it to define us and what we do.
“Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.”
Here’s what I mean…
I make no bones about being an intuitive. I’m very proud of this skill. That wasn’t always the case, however.
I remember when I rediscovered my intuitive abilities and I shared my discovery with my coach. Her response was one of excitement, as she tried to coax me into sharing my skill with the world.
My response to her, however, was this…
Heels firmly dug in with shock and horror added for good measure. “No! I couldn’t possibly share what I’m able to do. People will think I’ve grown a horn out my forehead. I’ll lose the clients I have and I won’t gain any new ones.”
Do you know I actually believed that story for about three years? I spent three years keeping my skill a secret when I could have been using it for the greater good.
When I finally mustered up enough guts to share my intuitive skills with the world, people were AMAZINGLY supportive! I didn’t lose any clients; instead I gained clients because of my intuitive abilities.
ROUND HOLE ANYONE?
If we become a square peg trying to squish ourselves into a round hole, that’s another tell tale sign that we’re defining rather than connecting. In other words, we’re conforming or morphing into something we’re not because of another’s thoughts and opinions.
“You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. It’s their mistake, not my failing.” ― Richard P. Feynman
I remember a time when I wore a certain style of clothing because all the “popular” girls did. In hindsight, those clothes weren’t me and neither was that group of girls. In hindsight, I looked like a real dork for a few years…no biggie. The biggie was trying to fit in with people who weren’t truly my tribe by trying to look like them.
Now I dress for me. If someone doesn’t like me because I’m not wearing what they consider cool, then please “don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya.” I don’t do superficial anyway.
I know, I know…this really isn’t about the clothes we wear…it’s about how to care without it defining who we are.
So how do we do that?
SOME IDEAS FOR HOW TO CARE WITHOUT IT DEFINING US
When we find ourselves caring to the point of defining rather than connecting here are some things we can access and remember…
There’s no such thing as rejection. There isn’t. It’s just God, our Higher Power, or the Universe’s way of protecting us from something or someone that isn’t a good fit. That way we have the space and the energy for something or someone that is a great fit.
Fill our holes ourselves. If we’re looking for validation via others’ thoughts or opinions it helps to check in and find out why. What are we missing? What do we need?
Here’s the thing, when we have a void, it doesn’t matter how much we look to others to fill it. It’s a hole that only we can reach and fill. If we don’t fill it, what others give to us will only seep out that hole.
Don’t know where the holes are or how to fill them? Not to worry. Have an exploratory chat with someone you trust, like a friend, partner or coach. You’d be amazed at the awareness you create when you share your thoughts and feelings out loud.
Watch the story telling. As human beings we love a good story and we will tell them…even the not so good ones that are firmly rooted in our own critical thoughts and fears. The key is to catch it when we are telling that story and just stop. We don’t need to switch the story; we just need to stop telling it.
Look to ourselves for our own approval and opinion. Will this make me happy? Will I have any regrets if I do or don’t do this?
A little factoid: Most people are too busy worrying about what other people think of them and what they’re doing. Which means they actually have little time to worry about what we’re doing.
Using our values as a guide for what we do rather than other people’s thoughts. Our values are deeply connected to who we are. When we use them as the foundation for what we do, we don’t allow others' thought and opinions to define what we do or us.
Someone’s critical point of view belongs to them…really. If someone is critical of what we do (or us), it says a heck of a lot more about him or her then it really does us. Criticalness is just a projection of another person’s own insecurities.
Here’s a line from Brene’ Brown’s talk (below) that’s helping me to release some of my own “stuff” around criticalness…
“If you’re not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.”
Meaning everyone’s entitled to their own opinions and I don’t always have to agree or take those opinions and make them my own.
Explore the fear. Envision the worst-case scenario. What if what we’re scared of really happened? Then what? Then what? Then what? Leaning into the fear helps to squelch it.
ADDITIONAL COOL RESOURCE: If you’re struggling with the fear of what other people think, please check out this post by Dan Stelter. He’s gathered some cool insight from self-growth experts on this very topic.
Check our choices. With conscious choice comes personal power. When we become aware that we’re allowing others' thoughts and opinions to define us we have the choice to do something else.
So my friends, I want to invite you to think about how things might be different for you if you cared only for connection's sake. What would change for you? What impact might this have on you and your relationships?
At the end of the day it is my hope that we are caring about others’ thoughts and opinions only to connect and not to define!
As always, please know I’m here and I’m listening.
Sending you much love and light from my open-heart to yours…