I want to ask you a serious question: What matters more to you, what other people think or your own success and happiness?
On the surface it seems like a stupid question. When asked, I suspect the vast majority of us would feel perfectly justified in putting our own opinions about our own life higher in the pecking order than other people’s. Yet when it comes down to it, the reality can be very different.
Every single day people are failing to act as if their opinion is the one that counts. Every single day people are putting, often flippant, unkind or irrelevant, opinions of others in the way of what matters most to them.
Your parents idea of how you “should” be living your life. Your partners cutting remarks about the impracticality of that new project they worry is far too unrealistic. Your colleagues sneering scoffs about you considering changing career so “late in life”. So called friends jealousy fuelled naysaying over the around the world trip you are longing to take.
It’s often not even those closest to us that we are giving this power too, it is to relative strangers too. Your neighbours and wider community, other parents in the schoolyard, Facebook “friends” you haven’t seen since childhood. Even an ugly comment thoughtlessly posted onto social media by a complete nobody in your life has the power to derail months of dreaming, planning and hard work.
In a 21st century world made smaller through technology that connects us all, sadly phenomena like trolling has become commonplace. Faced with the uglier side of human nature, surely the answer cannot be to make yourself as invisible as possible for fear of rocking the boat.
We may like to think that our own happiness and success is the most important thing, but we so often give away control of it by letting others totally subjective thoughts pollute our own.
The problem of putting too much power into the wrong hands...
Do you know the number one most common regret of people lying on their deathbed?
“I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
Palliative nurse Bronnie Ware decided to record the biggest regrets of the people she cared for coming to the end of their lives. Whilst the lucky ones amongst us realise before it’s too late that we’ve been working towards or living someone else’s version of happiness and success, it is a sad fact that many don’t…until it is too late.
We live in societies where relationships are quite rightly highly prized, so I’m certainly not suggesting selfishly disregarding the feelings or impact of your actions on those closest to you. I am suggesting that ultimately YOU get to decide what is right for you in your own life, without putting the precious power of your destiny into the wrong hands.
The bottom line is that all your f**ks should be exclusively reserved for what YOU THINK, FEEL, BELIEVE AND CARE ABOUT.
Because that’s the whole point. It is your life to live, and your regrets to shoulder the burden of by not being true to yourself and dancing to your own beat in life.
Dealing with the haters…
The truth is that people being unkind will never start to suddenly feel good, negative opinions will never become a pleasure to hear and being told you are ‘wrong’ will never be an absolute delight.
But you have to ultimately decide what matters more. You or them? Your happiness or their cynicism. Your growth or their attitude problem directed at you. Your success or their own personal and limited viewpoint.
The good news is the more you focus on yourself and less what others have to say, you do develop a thicker skin in the process. The ability to face everything as ‘nothing personal’ is a tremendously useful one in life and business when you’re going after your goals.
I was reminded today of a quote in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book ‘Big Magic’: “Remember that people’s judgements about you are none of your business”.
Whilst it certainly can feel pretty damn personal when it’s being directed at you, the old cliche of it being about them and not you really is true.
Choosing to reframe others criticism can provide you with added insights and fuel needed to excel even further, if you choose to use it rather than dwell on it.
Either way, you need to stop giving away precious energy justifying yourself to people who have not proved themselves worthy of receiving it. People who don’t have your back, people who give criticism masquerading as feedback, people who are projecting their own fears onto you.
It is one of the saddest things in life to hold yourself back for fear of how you may be perceived. Not one of us wants to be one of those people lying on their deathbed, wishing they had been truer to themselves rather than what others expected of them.