“The eyes of other people are the eyes that ruin us. If all but myself were blind, I should want neither fine clothes, fine houses, nor fine furniture.”
What Other People Think
You may argue with us on this one, but the strongest influence on many of the choices we make is what other people think or, more precisely, what we think they think. I believe that this factor not only influences many of our choices, but it can actually modify the way we live our lives on a day-to-day basis. The influence of other people’s opinions works against our ability to think independently and impacts our ability to make unique-to-us choices about our life and the way we live it. If we are not careful, we will slowly – over time – become just like everyone else and fail to develop the unique individual that resides inside of each and every one of us.
Some Have Value…Others, Not So Much
First, understand this distinction.
There are exceptions to the point presented above. When people close to you have important experiences or advice to share that could influence you in a good or positive way, you want to listen to them and heed their advice. We all encounter helpful people – our parents, our teachers, our business and church leaders, our spouses and, in some instances, our very close friends. They frequently share important learning experiences with us, and we want to make sure that we pay attention to these people when those moments occur.
On the other hand, there are people who we encounter each day – some we know fairly well, and others not so much – such as friends, acquaintances, school mates, fellow workers and many others who create circles of influence around us. Let’s call this group “the other people”. Although, we have not verified the wisdom or credentials of these other people, they can influence the choices we make in almost unbelievable ways.
If we care too much about what other people think, then we lose our ability to make a free choice. We are no longer doing our own thing, but rather conducting much of our living under the influence of what other people think. We make decisions based not on our own preferences, but rather on the presumed preferences of other people.
We have this natural tendency to worry about the opinions of others. In fact, our thoughts about an upcoming assessment can, at certain moments, cause great concern and even stress in our lives.
- Are we dressed right?
- What will they think about our house when they come see us?
- Will they approve of the way I am?
- Does my hair look okay?
- Can other people see that we are successful?
It’s Driven by the Need for Acceptance
It’s our natural desire to want to be accepted by others. We want them to think well of us, and we want to have their approval. This need of ours is a strong one, and we will go to great lengths to ensure that we receive it. While we might not be able to eliminate it completely or will it away, we need to be mindful of the fact that this influence can actually change us, and not always for the better.
As a result, many of us live to meet the expectations of other people, not the expectations that we have consciously developed and chosen for ourselves. Instead of turning out to be a true individual, we grow up trying to be the person we perceive that others want us to be. When we live this way, we miss the opportunity to make independent choices and to become the person we’re intended to be.
Don’t be victimized by other people’s opinions. Learn to rely on your own.
“Resolve to be thyself. He who finds himself loses his misery.”
Learning to Rely on Yourself
The remainder of this article was contributed by Rebekah Olsen,
Content Control Manager of Good Choices Good Life
While I was editing this article for publication on our website, the message really struck a chord in my heart; it’s an emotional battle that I’ve been fighting with myself for many years. I come from a strictly religious background where fitting into the mold of a respectable Christian and exuding humility was strongly encouraged. While these aren’t bad qualities in and of themselves, they left me severely lacking in the self-confidence and individuality department.
When I left home for college, I was hit with the cold, hard truth of reality; I didn’t know myself and I had very little self-worth. I relied on other people’s opinions, styles, ideas and desires because I was unable to create my own. I became that girl that followed everyone around and did whatever the person in nearest proximity to me did—which, in college, was hardly ever the smartest thing to do.
I was no one and I was everyone all at once.
It wasn’t until four years ago when I met my husband that I truly became myself. He taught me how to love me--the good and the bad--and how to lead my own life. I owe him my life, literally, and I hope I can pass a little of the knowledge he gave me on to you.
The foundation for relying on your own self is first changing the way you think. If you have little self-worth and don’t value your own qualities then how can you value your own choices? A simple fix you can make to change this way of thinking is to turn every negative thought you have about yourself into a positive one.
Here are a few examples to give you a head start:
- Negative: I wish I wasn’t such an introvert. Why can’t I be more outgoing like my friends?
- Positive: Being an introvert makes me a more intuitive and empathetic person. Because of this, I am observant and sensitive to other people’s feelings. While I might not be the center-of-attention in the room, my friends seek me out for one-on-one time and advice.
- Negative: I don’t have a good sense of style. Why can’t I dress as cute as Taylor? How does she find clothes like that?
- Positive: I may not be the best dressed, but I keep myself clean and groomed and I take pride in myself. Anyway, I’d rather spend my day doing (insert favorite activity here) than dressing up.
- Negative: My husband thinks I should accept a higher paying job, but I know I won’t enjoy it. I wish I could be more financially minded like he is so I wouldn’t care so much about the actual job duties.
- Positive: I choose to live my life by my passions, not by financial gains. It’s okay to accept a job I’m going to love and enjoy even if it doesn’t pay the most. It’s what I desire and that is important, too.
If you think positively about your attributes, you’ll begin to value them. You have to come to believe that you are who you are for a reason. You are here for a purpose. Your job is to take what you are right now and make it even better while helping other people along the way.
If you aren’t the type of person who is naturally charismatic, stop trying to make it your goal to be charismatic. You won’t ever achieve that goal. It may sound harsh, but it’s just simply not in you. Instead, focus on improving and enhancing the qualities that already exist in you. And, believe me, you have plenty of good ones – everyone does – you need to just focus on them, and use them to be a good person who cares about those around you.
As you do this, you’ll also develop the ability to rely on your own opinions and choices. You’ll no longer need to seek advice or follow the decisions of others because you’ll be too busy recognizing the value of your own qualities and your own mind.
It won’t happen over night, or maybe it will. Changing the way you think is an emotional struggle that’ll test your inner strength—but if you’re persistent and focus on simply becoming a better you, the results will be forever rewarding.
“We cannot think of being acceptable to others
until we have first proven acceptable to ourselves.”
Written By Michael Nelson and Rebekah Olsen
- OTHER PARTS IN THIS SERIES -
MISUNDERSTANDINGS ABOUT LIFE
A Busy Life Is a Meaningful One
MISUNDERSTANDINGS ABOUT LIFE
It Will All Just Work Out Some Day
Copyright 2014 / Good Choices Good Life, Inc. / All Rights Reserved
Was this article helpful to you? Let us know by sending us an e-mail to staff [at] goodchoicesgoodlife [dot] org!
Drifting Along vs. Steering Your Boat
How Do We Measure Success?
Learning from Life
Identifying Negative Thought Patterns