For a very long time, I cared a LOT about what other people thought about me. I cared what they thought about how I did in school, how I looked, how I spoke, how I acted in a group, what my beliefs were… the list goes on.
Don’t get me wrong, it still comes up from time to time, and usually on the matters that hit closest to home, like my parenting skills, but I bounce back WAY faster.
I want you to be able to do the same. I want this for you, because I see so many people who are absolutely crippled by other people’s opinions of them. On the outside it looks like nothing has changed, but on the inside, they are allowing someone else’s opinion of them to change their behaviour, their actions, their beliefs, their self-esteem.
That’s not okay.
I don’t want this to be a wishy washy post in any way. I want you to leave with tangible strategies to try when you’re going down the OPOBH (other people’s opinion black hole).
Firstly, Remember That’s On Them
Thumper said it best: if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.
So what do we do when people in our lives still say or do something hurtful? STOP. Take a deep breath. And repeat this phrase:
“This is about them. It isn’t about me.”
Let’s go way back for a second, and I’m talking elementary school here. Remember how awful little girls were to one another? We’d say snide things, we’d judge people on how they dressed, we’d be cruel about their appearances. KIDS ARE THE WORST. But here’s the hard part – many people grow up and operate in pretty much the same way.
Sure, we have the money to buy Venti Starbucks coffees and lease a car, but inside we still hold a lot of the same hurts from our childhood.
Kids lash out because they don’t know how to handle the feelings that are going on inside. If you were totally secure with your social standing as a pre-teen, would you be bothered about bringing someone else down? Nope. If you were totally secure in your looks, would you judge how someone else dresses? Nope. If you were totally secure in your grades or your intelligence, would you call someone else stupid? Nope.
BIG FAT NOPE.
Hurt people hurt people. So when someone hurts you, whether it was as a child or in your current adult life, they’re hurting you because they are hurt. And that sucks… because really wouldn’t it be better to stop the hurt in its tracks? It sure would, but life isn’t that simple and we often go to our highest training. If our highest level of training is to hurt back… that’s all they are operating with.
As an adult, sometimes it can be super frustrating and painful when people share their opinions about how we do our jobs, how we parent, whether or not we’re doing what women “should” do, how we look, or any number of judgements they choose to lay at our feet. We feel like we should have moved on from this kind of behaviour we experienced as children, but that’s why it’s even more important to remember: that person’s judgement is on them, not on you. Hurt people, hurt people. Repeat this mantra until it becomes your default. It’s not about you.
Nip Self Comfort in the Bud
When we’re stressed, hurt, frustrated… it can be so so easy to resort to self comforting (a.k.a. numbing) behaviours. Emotional eating. Binge watching TV. Alcohol. Smoking. Drugs. Video games. Excessive social media use. Whatever your go-to numbing behaviour is, recognize when you’re reaching for it in response to someone else’s harsh words.
Take a deep breath.
This is the time that you need self care more than anything. Self care isn’t sexy. Self care doesn’t always help you numb out. Self care looks like going to bed early, going to counselling to let out the emotions that you’re struggling to deal with, talking with dear friends, moving your body, getting fresh air and eating vibrant foods.
It doesn’t sound fun, does it? The fun part is that those behaviours will help you bounce back from hurt SO much faster than numbing behaviours.
As a kid, did you ever pick a healing scab? We all did. You pick it, it bleeds, and the healing process begins all over again. But if you are patient, if you tend to it, if you distract yourself from the triggers when it’s itching… it will heal faster.
You Live With Your Choices, Not The Other Person.
We are never going to do everything ‘right’, because there is no single ‘right’ move for every person, every decision, every action. What we can do is the best we can with the information that we have.
If you’re doing that, if YOU feel good about the decisions that you’re making, then it doesn’t matter what someone else thinks. You have to live with them.
And if you’re not happy with your choices, reach out to people whose opinion you do value, not people who are bringing you down.
The One Inch Card Method
I learned this exercise in one of Brene Brown’s books, and I’ve used it with almost all of my clients.
Take a piece of paper and cut it to be a one inch by one inch square. Small, right?
On that square, write the names of the people whose opinions DO matter to you, who you would actually consult, who have a positive impact on your life.
I have three names on mine. That’s it. Other clients have named just one.
This goes to show the danger of living our lives based on someone else’s opinion when in reality their opinion isn’t as valuable to us as we might think.
Carry that piece of paper around with you in your wallet. Whenever you are feeling the niggling of frustration or hurt at something someone thinks about you (or fear of what they might think), then whip out that paper and remind yourself about who and what matters most.
Set Your Boundary
When I asked you guys on Instagram what you wanted to know about how to deal with other people’s opinions, by far my laugh out loud response was “how to tell people to politely F off.” Well played, miss. well played.
I truly believe it depends on the situation.
In some scenarios, if you’re unlikely to have further interaction with the person, you can simply ignore it and brush it off. Why waste precious mental space?
In other scenarios you need to set the boundary, so I am referring back to the episode that we did on boundaries, but it’s as simple as: stating what you are and are not willing to put up with, and what the consequence will be if the person oversteps the mark.
You could also phrase it something like, “I appreciate your input, however for my own reasons I’m choosing to do it this way.” Essentially you’re acknowledging they have an opinion, while being clear that you’re not allowing it to affect you.
As usual when I give multiple strategies for you to look at, not all of them are going to fit your needs. Some will, some won’t, but give each a try. Because at the end of the day you want to lead a happier, mentally healthier life, and there ain’t no room for toxic opinions in that equation.