It’s been 18 years since I first heard this concept.
I heard it from Dr. Phil back in the Oprah days.
It made such an impact that I scribbled it down on a piece of paper and perhaps started my obsession with quotes and notes that I carry today.
“You wouldn’t care so much about what people think about you if you knew how little they did” -Dr. Phil
I wanted to buy in, it sounded like exactly what I needed to know at that point in my life. I never really grasped it though, it was like that brilliant idea we dream of and then wake up and it slips through our brain like an egg white slips through our fingers as we’re separating eggs, slippery uncatchable. Google the term “other people’s opinions” and you’ll find a plethora of quotes from bloggers, speakers or authors affirming like Rachel Hollis has said recently “Other people’s opinions of you are none of your business.”
And yet I still didn’t grasp it.
My situation was different.
These speakers didn’t understand.
You see, the people who’s opinions of me was bothering me are people who affect one of our children and they are toxic and harmful. So I’ve always been on high alert and at times even tried to change their opinion of me (because, hello. I’m awesome) to no avail. I would love to say I let it go but there’s always a bit that hung on for dear life.
But today I realized I was doing it all wrong.
I was on Facebook and saw a comment from someone who I don’t particularly connect with and in my opinion has made so many poor choices that affect my loved ones negatively that I steer clear. But I agreed with this person’s comment and wanted to add to it and didn’t. I challenged myself to think deeper about why and recognized I don’t love this person’s choices and that I had a strong opinion of who that person was.
And then it hit me so hard I stopped what I was doing and came to tell you what my problem was and what a bozo I had been not to see it. Are you ready?
If other people’s opinions of ME are none of my business, then MY opinion of other’s doesn’t matter either. And THAT makes ME uncomfortable.
Read it again…Absorb it…
THAT was the missing piece. If the concept that other people’s opinions of me were irrelevant then it also meant my opinions, no matter how righteous, valid or correct they may be, quite literally did not matter. THAT was what ultimately I didn’t WANT to let go of. Holy Hannah I had been SO doing it wrong. Of course it goes both ways. And of course my ego didn’t want to let go of either side.
I know in my heart who I am so dismissing other’s opinions had gotten easier. Not giving them any weight and wanting to right their wrong impression had never gone away completely. And somehow that is connected to my own need to have an opinion about others and practice some sort of misguided social justice by choosing who is worthy of a damn Facebook comment and who isn’t. How absurd is that?!?
**DISCLAIMER AND CLARIFICATION**
There are dangerous people in our lives physically and emotionally that we all need to have boundaries in place for. I’m not talking about removing boundaries or putting ourselves in harms way. I simply mean letting go of the importance of our opinions of those people. See the difference? Important distinction.
What if I went about the next few weeks just focusing on my own life and my opinion of myself and when opinions of other people came into my mind, I dismissed them as irrelevant? I wonder how that would feel? I would think, freeing and full of more space for love. I’m going to try it. In fact, I’m not Catholic but I’ve always really liked the concept of Lent, of making a sacrifice of withdrawal to reflect and prepare for what we now call Easter. I will cast aside my opinion of other people for Lent and I will return and report how that feels the week after Easter in April. I can’t commit to giving up what other people think of me but I have a hunch that might be a side effect of my experiment. What do you think? Care to join me?
And because it hit me so hard, I wrote it down on a library receipt that I posted in my office to remind myself. I don’t have the Dr. Phil note anymore, but I think this one is probably more important…