As I help more people work through their sticking points through coaching, I've noticed that a surprisingly large factor in many peoples' lives is how others perceive them. This is largely a foreign experience to me, and I think that it's been a great advantage to me to not really care what other people think.
I would like to believe that it's some inner well of strength that allows me to overwhelmingly disregard what strangers think of me, but if I'm honest about it, I believe that it originates from not being very popular as a kid.
At some point I realized that I was just not going to be a traditionally "cool" person. I'm sure it stung a little bit to realize that, but it was also freeing in a way. If I wasn't going to win that game anyway, why try to play it?
At the same time, I grew confidence in what I was doing. I knew that I was weird and that my friends were geeky like I was, but I also thought that they were excellent people. I thought some of the popular people were good too, but I didn't think that partying and going to football games was all that great, so I didn't have much jealousy.
As I grew up, those ideas were reinforced. Sometimes people would think that things I was doing were stupid, but they always turned out to be wrong, at least from my perspective. That's not to say that what I was doing would be right for them, just that I noticed that what was good for me didn't align with what other people thought was good for me.
I noticed that the people with whom I had the best relationships were people who thought the weird things that I was doing were cool. Those were the people whom I most respected, so I naturally came to care more about their opinions. This became a self reinforcing cycle and made me care more about what those close to me thought, and even less about what outsiders thought.
And now you have the end result, where I make decisions with no regard for what strangers will think about them. I care a lot about what my closest friends think, and even some about what readers think, but not at all what strangers think.
This sounds like an obvious way to make decisions, but not everyone does it. Like most things, the transition isn't completely black and white. Just nudging yourself closer to the side of not being affected by strangers' opinions is useful.
The first step is to accept the plain logic that the opinion of someone whose opinion you don't value is worthless. Sounds obvious, but many people act as if it does matter. Think about it, and accept it logically before you try to retrain your brain.
Meditating on the logical pointlessness of caring what people think is necessary, but not nearly enough. Like most big changes, you need to retrain your brain. Whenever you do something that you're worried other people might criticize you for, make a note afterwards of whether or not their opinion, real or imagined, made any difference to you.
Doing this repeatedly will train your subconscious into realizing what your conscious mind already understands— that opinions are only relevant to you if you know and respect the person giving them.
This process won't happen overnight, but you can make it happen faster by pushing your comfort zone and acting in the presence of fear. Sing karaoke. Publish your work. Talk to strangers. Wear the clothes you like to wear. Do these things and other things that scare you, and make a point of focusing on how other people's perceptions didn't really matter.
This doesn't mean, of course, to ignore everyone. The reason you have friends and loved ones is because you respect them. So if they give you feedback, it at least warrants some consideration.
Being able to act regardless of other peoples' opinions feels like a superpower. You can remove all this baggage and friction that many many people slog through every day. It will take time, but it will be worth it.
Photo is the moon rising over Budapest across the chain bridge. Even though I'm about to go on a cruise, it's hard to leave such an awesome city. I ran into two of my readers here, and that was really cool.
Great post mate, thank you. I’m immediately drawn to the words of one of the greatest thinkers of all time,
Albert Einstein, .. “Great spirits have always encountered the violent opposition of mediocre minds”
Only cool people who don't care about what others think of them understand this thing. I also respect these people more than anyone else.
Love this post! It's one of the most useful (for me) items I've read on your blog. Especially the part about retraining the brain and acting in the face of fear.
I already know that this post is going to get a lot of negative comments like the religion one. And that's because this "every vote counts" dogma that everyone loves so much shares a lot with religion. It's a belief that's held true without a single bit of compelling evidence, and it's a strong belief.
But before I get into that, let's talk about some other things.
First, Obama won and I'm happy about that. I don't think that he's a superhero like a lot of people do. When I look at his positions I disagree with most of them. I disagree with most of McCain's positions as well.
For all we know the other person could be enjoying your company or advise..but do we actually know what they REALLY think about you? This is the thing that probably baffles me most.
I have never been the popular one, or the smart one, and so people really don't care what i think because i have no power. But if i were to be "the most _ _ _" then people would want to know what i think and try to please me all the time and this is what i call FAKE! Even though i was popular in this fantasy, it doesn't mean that when i critique someone they would like it, they would only appear to like it because of my social status. Also if they didn't like me opinion, they would be the outcast and people and who they thought were their friends would turn on them(this happened to me so yeah).
I didn't post this so that you reading would feel sorry for me, but i posted it because this is what i think. I'm not trying to make you think what i do, but for those who don't agree, i'm just trying to make you see the other side of the argument.