Other people want you to change your opinion to suit them but they won’t change to suit you. They just go on living their lives. How does that work? – Quote by My wife, 2010
John Donne said “the death of any man diminishes me” but I think a worse fate than being dead is dying inside – being diminished – while you live.
That is what happens when you poison your growth through letting others diminish, marginalize and demoralize you from reaching your potential. Let me tell you, living in fear of other peoples’ opinions sucks. I know. I’ve done it.
Yes, – you live, but you live a sickly fearful existence stunted like a tree permanently in the shadow of other peoples’ opinions. As a result, both the branches you grow and the fruit you bear will be withered compared to what they could be. You behave like a rabbit darting from safe hole to safe hole avoiding the glare of other peoples’ disapproval. It’s no way to live.
If you are fortunate enough to get a moment of clarity you will realize that millions of people don’t live this way – they lead happy self-directed lives that are productive and focused – then you can start to question your own personal status quo…and that’s where the changes start.
Then, as you grow older and wiser you realize how unimportant other peoples’ opinions of your worth really are but the trick is to realize it young – and choose amongst all the mediocrity of others peoples’ lives to do something magnificent with your life and time from an earlier age.
The desire to please others rather than live the life we’re called too has probably killed a lot of dreams and is still strangling millions of others. But today I’m going to tell you what I’ve learned in my 37 years and in case you think my age counts me out from having any wisdom remember that being old does always mean you are wiser but it may mean you have made a lot more mistakes! The question is: have you learned from them?
I’ve been through some nasty hard stuff in life, stuff that has driven other people to suicide, and yet to look at me you’d never guess. Because I’m still here, I’m joyful, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s this. Live your life. Don’t be a jerk because it doesn’t pay but live your life. Or others will try to live it for you. Their greatest ambition is to stop you causing them any discomfort. Rise above it. Love them anyway.
You are designed to be great and to do great things. They may not be nine ‘o’ clock news things (Question: Do you think Mother Theresa would have stopped caring if she never got any publicity?) but you are here to make an impact for a worthy cause rather than being what George Bernard Shaw called “ a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”
Man and Superman: A comedy and a Philosophy
The first key to becoming great is, paradoxically, one of the hardest and most counterintuitive. You need to care first and foremost for what you think – and stop caring what other people think of you.
On the face of it, this sounds unbelievably selfish and arrogant (which is probably why so many people don’t ‘get it’) so let me explain.
You need to be the one who authorizes your point of view. That way, you can develop a determination to help people that transcends their disapproval. If you are to truly help another (with wisdom and vision) then you will need to do things that they might not like or understand. Hopefully, they will understand later but even if they don’t you need to know for yourself that you did the right things.
Secondly, if you decide what you think then you can decide to approve of yourself. By this I mean you can decide that you are worthwhile, you have value, and you are going to make an impact in the world.
For a long time I went around with the idea that it was somehow arrogant to approve of myself and as a Christian I wanted to have a humble view of myself. But then I realized I had not accepted what God said about me, which is that I am created in His image and precious to Him. I was being a hypocrite by not accepting my Creator’s (much more positive) view of me!
Here’s the point: My consciousness is the gatekeeper for what my mind lets in. I actually had
to let in the idea that God approves of me. Whether I let it in or not doesn’t change the fact that He does, but I have to be the one to authorize that thought as being valid in my mind.
What do you have to step up and give permission to work in your mind? Where do you need to say “Thought, come in”?
Caring too much what others think about us is an inhibitor to greatness, per se.
I am not saying we should not care at-all – I truly believe that striving to love our enemies and our neighbors as ourselves is exactly the right thing to do in a messed up world where hatred and anger only begets the same. As the book of Proverbs says “A wise man ignores an insult: it is to his glory to overlook an offense.”
However, giving others the right to question our worth (as opposed to our skills and performance) means we will forever live timidly in the shadow of needing their approval. And whilst we wait for a smile or a nod, they will carry on living their lives. Does that make you angry enough to want to change it RIGHT now? It should!
So why did you give others the right to diminish you? Because you want their approval so you simultaneously buy into their disapproval as well. Why do you want their approval? Well other than the fact that we are created as social animals and a certain level of approval is necessary for co-existence, the blunt fact is you don’t approve of yourself so you look for it from others.
The quote goes “The deepest desire of the human heart is to be appreciated.” That’s true, but unless you can appreciate yourself, you’ll always be a prisoner of other’s opinions.
Yet we don’t think we can approve of ourselves because we have blinded ourselves to our own capabilities and accepted the limitations others have placed on us. It is a sad but undeniable fact that our minds tend to reinforce what we currently believe and it takes a courageous man or woman to take a step back and question what seems like the reality of what we ‘are’.
So because we want the crumbs that comes from the significant other’s table we have allowed ourselves to be sold – or sold ourselves – reasons to let others criticise our worth and this is a death-sentence for the soul and foolishness of the highest order.
What really gives another human being the right (let alone the experience and the wisdom) to judge our worth and value? Are they not in the same boat as us? Were they not born, have to eat, get hungry and so on? If you prick them, do they not bleed?
When the scales fall from your eyes and you see that mostly we judge ourselves by labels that have no lasting significance we become free to see all the posturing that we do in order to look good in the sight of others.
Do these others know all our secrets, all our dreams and aspirations? Do they know the good deeds we have done in secret or the evil we have wished on others? Do they know our joys and our griefs, our little celebrations of life and the desperation we can feel alone in the dead of the night?
How possibly do they have the experience of us to make a reasoned judgement?
Can you possibly know all that about them? I think it was Confuscious that said “knowing you know nothing is the beginning of wisdom.” It’s time to approach what people really know and can do with a little humility. They do not know you – and you only know of them what you have seen and heard.
I have found it an 18 year project to get to the point where I don’t really care what other people think of my value in their eyes so I don’t say it lightly when I point out this needs to be done. Realising, truly realising that I decide what I think was my breakthrough moment.
There is a self-help saying: “What you focus on grows” and simultaneously what you authorise, grows in your mind as well. The moment I realised I could authorise myself to believe in my own worth was the moment I truly started valuing myself. And when I could value myself, it was easier to value others. And when I could value others it was easier to overlook their behaviour because there was a bigger picture to pursue – that of helping them realise their value.
Then you realise that you are equal in value to anyone and everyone. It’s not about economic status or looks. If I or you are to do anything worthwhile in this world we need to see ourselves as equals to others in value.
I know the present way society is going encourages us to value ourselves according to labels such as beauty (did you know obese women were considered beautiful in Picasso’s time?), money and career but all this is meaningless and leads eventually to terrible consequences such as the Holocaust or Year Zero.
You, as much as the smelly old bag lady in the street, are a living miracle. Your sperm and egg made it when all the others fell by the wayside (unless you’re a twin!) You already succeeded before birth and you succeed now, everyday, although not perhaps in the ways you would like!
You have to believe in yourself, like yourself, have a realistic evaluation of yourself and yet reach for a higher more potent moral and giving version of you. Human beings operate best when they transcend their selfish motives.
Earlier this year I left my church and along with that I left the approval of my friends some of whom I had known for 14 years. I joined another and I am happy there because I am being called to grow into what I can be. I had to make a decision to do what was best for me and my family – and although it has been hard I have not regretted it.
When you let other people diminish you, you do a disservice not only to yourself but to the whole human race. Don’t do it. Read and re-read this post, and rise up to do great things. Growth and striving for greatness are natural human states. Become all you can be, and in the striving you will be happier and a better person for everything.
Paradoxically, in order to do anything of worth for other people you have to stop caring what they think of you if you do things they don’t like. Then you can start.
Douglas Cartwright is a freelance blogger and the founder of The Self Hacker Blog.
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How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.