I used to spend hours and hours of my time obsessing about the thoughts of others, which involved replays of what I could have said or done better and how they would respond to these scenario-based words or actions. In rooms with strangers, I walked on eggshells to ensure a great first impression, and if the meeting did not pan out how I imagined, I marked it as a failure.
My objective from all of this was to convince people of the narrative I created for myself. It was important for people to see me a certain way, you know, the basics: kind, generous, and perfect. Looking back now, it's funny because, like most narratives, they are told from a point of view but are not always valid. I spent the first half of my life convincing people of a fictional perspective of myself that I felt was nonfiction.
I might have been pushing this agenda to get my subconscious to believe this was true. You can fool some parts of you but not all. The subconscious does not hide behind anything; it comes forth when it is ready, not when you are ready. Even still, I wonder now what the problem was with being authentically me.
Over time, I learned to embrace all of me because everything God makes is good. I recently had a conversation with friends, disagreeing that we have flaws. We all have gifts, and how we use those gifts depends on the outcome. Some of us don't know how to use our gifts or are brought up and only taught the perverted ways to use our gifts. Yet, we are all special and can regain power with just that notion.
Here are three of my go-to perspectives I use to combat the urge to delve into other's opinions.
1. Embrace who you are; people can believe what they want about you.
If you are confident in who you are, no one can dictate who you are. You don't have to accept an opinion just because it is said. Opinions are the evidence and information people have collected over time to define what they think about you through their lens. If the person is settled on who you were and does not notice who you evolved to, that is on them and not you. We are not on earth to prove to people who we are. We are here for a higher purpose that supersedes what people think of us.
2. If you forgive your past, no one can hold it over you.
This comment piggybacks on the first point. No one can hold anything against you that you've already forgiven yourself for. We are human; we mess up. Once we have acknowledged and apologized, that is as far as we can go. Other people's timeline to forgive you is on them, not you. People feed into others' guilt to manipulate a person until eternity. If God forgives us for repenting about something once, why do we need to gobble at people's feet? Why do we allow people to beat us up for things that happened fifty-eleven years ago? Why am I apologizing for things I did at 12? I was 12! True Story. There is power in forgiving yourself. Self-forgiveness releases you from regret and self-pity and gives you power over folks who like to dangle your imperfections over your head.
3. The people you are trying to impress are human, too.
Imagine a mere mortal condemning you for being a mere mortal. Contrary to popular belief, no one is perfect. For any of us that have thrown stones (Lord knows I have), we all reside in these windexed glass houses, chile. As much as we think we are hiding, people can see through us. To me, the person that gossips the most has the most to hide. And through that hiding, people can still see them. No one has a hell and heaven to put you in. Opinions and advice are good, but also be sure to discern the spirit in which the advice is given. If you feel a way about what someone said, consult with God, and he will grant clarity because you don't want to miss out on a word from God if that something you don't want to hear is true.
4. Don't Take Yourself Too Serious
Have you ever tripped in front of a large audience? Did you spill a drink on yourself during a meeting? Or have you stumbled over words during an important speech or presentation? If so, did you stop in embarrassment or make a joke and keep going? My God, I used to be so flushed when I made a mistake in front of people because, after all, I was playing the role of perfect. But after discovering I was human, I learned to laugh at myself more. Life happens, and I believe that God has a sense of humor. The ability to laugh and make jokes in embarrassing moments clears you of shame, anxiety, and regret. Sometimes, it is what it is, and unless you have a time machine in your backyard, you can't undo it. A moment is only as embarrassing as you make it.
These perspectives can stick with practice. I still practice these not to get tangled up with the webs of opinions or fall into the "what if" rabbit hole. My awareness of when it happens and my emergency go-to statements that throw me a rope when I need to climb out are essential.
I am never saying to disregard advice and become a know-it-all. This post encourages you not to believe every word said about you or to you. The best thing we can do is discern and lean on God's understanding. And as long as God is pleased, that's the only opinion that officially matters.
Don't Be Shy? Do you Struggle with People's Opinions? Have you struggled with people's opinions? What are the ways you navigate through your emotions?