One of my favorite morning routines is walking my dog Kloe. Not only is it healthy for my body (and Kloe’s) but I also make it healthy for my mind by listening to podcasts and other lectures by authors I enjoy. I purposely pick positive and uplifting talks and seminars because I care about what kind of information I am putting into my brain. However, because we traveled so much this summer and although I still did plenty of walking, I hadn’t listened to a lecture in months. This week I downloaded some new ideas from one of my favorite speakers, Abraham-Hicks. And with synchronicity at play, I heard exactly what I needed at this time in my life. That was the loud and clear message that it is time for me to stop my need to alter my behavior to get others to agree or even understand me.
Now as a writer I realize what a radical statement that is. After all, doesn’t every writer want people to understand and at least partially agree with what they write? I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care. But the thing is, if I care so much that everything I write is acceptable, pleasant and pleasing to every single person who reads it, then I’m not saying one word that is unique, special or even necessary. If we edit our words so they are right and proper for others, then we aren’t creating something new, just regurgitating words onto paper. I would far rather prefer that my writing spark thoughts in others in ways that they have never thought before—and yes, that risks that some won’t like them or even understand. And while I have a strong intention to share ideas that I find uplifting and helpful, I’d be delusional if I thought it was even possible to do that for every person who reads my blog.
The problem is, I was raised like most people to do just that. Doesn’t every mother want their daughter to be a “good girl” and have everyone like and love her? When children do good and nice things, other people smile, approve and “include them.” When children do unusual, radical, outside the box, or “seemingly selfish” things, then many people are displeased and often vocal in their criticism. We all learn from an early age about what it takes to fit in and be accepted. Follow the herd. Don’t be the tall poppy. It’s okay to be entertaining, but don’t push it too far. And stay quiet and polite—because no one likes a loud, assertive person—especially if she is a woman.
I get the importance of this basic survival instinct for both parents and their offspring. Certainly, for thousands of years our physical and mental survival depended upon our ability to work with and be valued by our tribe. This was especially true for women who not only had to consider their usually smaller size and strength, but they also had to consider the needs of their children. The importance of collaboration, acquiesce, peace-keeping and self-sacrificing are deeply encoded in our biology. Fortunately, we don’t live in a world today that requires our constant submission to the rules of others or our society. But that doesn’t mean that many of us still don’t feel the reflex and unconsciously attempt to comply. And anyone who thinks they are immune to the urge to belong, be accepted, and be understood—just look at your Facebook account.
Fitting in and being accepted worked for the first several decades of my life. I honestly didn’t know any different. Just about everyone I knew was doing exactly the same thing. Assimilate. Settle for a rather ordinary (suitable) existence. Be successful based on what everyone in your world thinks it means. It doesn’t seem to matter what generation you are born into, we still strive to fit in and find approval from our peers.
Plus, it doesn’t really matter if you’ve made some bold choices in your life or not. Only we individually know if we have compromised ourselves to fit into a box that is much too small for us. In fact, my previous writing about my attempts to not care what others think of me is tied to this idea. And while I am much better than I used to be, I know deep within that I still sometimes care too much and censor myself by doing things (or not doing them) to conform. How do I know that? Because it doesn’t feel good. And that’s where some of the advice of Abraham-Hicks came in during my morning walk.
Now Abraham-Hicks may have said something like this over and over again, but I swear it was the first time I heard it so clearly. It’s true they constantly suggest that we should avoid caring so much about the opinions of others. But this morning they said it in a slightly different way in answer to someone in the audience. They said, “From the moment you are born you are taught to base your happiness and wellbeing on what is going on in the world outside of you rather than what’s happening inside of you. If you get love from your parents that is good. If you don’t, you feel bad. If someone feeds you and changes your diapers, good. If not, then again, you feel bad.”
As we grow we get more and more conditioned to believe that every feeling we have is either triggered positively or negatively by other people or the circumstances around us. The world outside of us becomes our reality and we are oblivious to what is going on within—our true thoughts, emotions, our soul. And because of that conditioning, we become convinced that others (our parents, our spouse, our employer, our government) hold the key to our happiness. And if they don’t deliver, we fight and/or blame them.
In other words, few of us are taught from an early age that we are the generator of our thoughts or emotions. We are taught to “face reality” instead of “create our reality.” We go through life allowing others to tell us how we should think, feel and live. By adhering to our “tribe,” and doing our best to seek its acceptance and understanding, we hope for happiness. But like Dorothy in the Wizard Of Oz, we’ve held the real power all along. That “power” is the innate knowing that our true guidance, and the key to our personal happiness, lies within us.
Someone else who repeatedly teaches us to be true to our “authentic, imperfect selves” is author and speaker Brene Brown. She calls this awareness, “true belonging” and says, “True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”
What it comes down to is the awareness that if we think we need other people to understand or agree with us before we feel good about ourselves, we will constantly be fighting a losing battle. It’s not their job! Instead, if we focus inside at what our soul longs to be and create, we see that the Source of our wellbeing lies with us. Accepting ourselves completely, warts and all—frees us from attempting to win the approval of anyone else—and we will be guided and directed from within to do what is right for us. Talk about “rightsizing!”
I’m not there yet. I still like knowing when something I write resonates with others—and I’ll always care on some level about what Thom thinks of me. But every day I’m getting better at letting go of the need for others to approve of my actions. And I’m also relinquishing any thoughts that what I write will appeal to everyone. I’m accepting the fact that some people won’t have a clue what I’m even talking about! From here on out I want to write only what my inner guidance tells me is “up” for me. I’ve always strived to be a growing, evolving writer and I can’t help but believe this is the next step for me to be the best writer I can be.
What about you? Do you only follow your own inner guidance, whatever that means to you? Or do you find your thoughts and emotions swinging back and forth with what’s happening on the TV news or what some people said, or didn’t say, on Social Media? Or what about friends, family or co-workers? Do you force yourself to sometimes avoid speaking your mind just to keep the peace? Do you ever let outside circumstances disrupt your inner peace? We live in challenging times, especially if we are still bound by some of those ancient tribal needs to belong. Could the next SMART step in each of our individual evolutions be to get in touch with that still small voice within and then live our lives in authentic alignment?
Okay, your turn? Do you ever feel the need to conform to fit into people around you? Do you need approval to feel good about yourself? Do frequently feel the urge to justify your ideas to others? What advice would you give others who are struggling with this awareness? Please share in the comments below.
Dr Sock says
Kathy, what a great article — very thought provoking. I would say that throughout my life, I have not been a pleaser, or very driven to conform. I do think that girls of our generation were pushed hard toward being peacemakers, being the ones who compromised, and putting others’ wishes before their own. Sometimes in my life I have felt guilty for being insufficiently “feminine” and for wanting to follow my own path rather than being a cheerleader and supporter for others. I know that I have felt stifled by the pressure toward conformity that one often finds in women’s friendship groups. I do have lots of friends, but they mostly are 1-1 friendships or mixed gender groups of friends.
I think that when I was a small child, I received lots of positive reinforcement for my achievements (e.g., figure skating, skiing, academics). I thrived on it and became very achievement oriented. Also, as the oldest child, I was expected to help look after my younger brothers, so I learned to to be responsible and make decisions and take a leadership role with my siblings.
This early skill set and drive to achieve allowed me to be quite successful in my career. But, the flip side of that was that my identity and sense of self worth became quite wrapped up in career progress and achievement. I cared somewhat about the external markers of achievement (promotions, awards), but even more than that, my sense of inner worth was dependent on my accomplishments. I was constantly driving myself to meet my own impossibly high standards. Instead of being a conformist, I was a perfectionist.
Now, as I retired person, I am finally relearning how to live a life that is less driven and perfectionistic.
I too have spent the bulk of my life exhausting myself, trying to be what others thought I should be, trying to portray a woman who thought the same thoughts as the rest of the herd. I never felt that I fit in so was always trying to recreate myself in the hopes that life might be less stressful. The older I get the more I realize that my dearest friends love me for who I truly am, not some phony artifact. I know that when I speak my truth, respectfully, to those around me who may not agree, I am the most content. This doesn’t always work, especially when writing blog posts, as I still wonder, before I press that publish button, whether anyone will agree or even like what I have written. But I know that when I am writing about topics that speak to me, other than writing just about our travels, is when I feel the most authentic. Thanks for this very thought-provoking post!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi LuAnn! Thank you so much for your honesty and for sharing your own personal struggles with this issue. Thom and I were having lunch with new friends yesterday and afterward Thom commented that he liked them, but something was a bit off. After talking it over we realized that they were both very guarded. And while I would never tell someone they need to reveal everything about themselves over a casual lunch, it made me realize how grateful I am to be able to be fairly honest and open when I talk to people now–compared to when I was younger. But even with that said, there are still times when I feel that “urge” to not say what is on my mind. I guess the awareness that you want to be true to yourself as much as possible is a really important start, don’t you think? Maybe I can’t always say what I feel the urge to say, but knowing how I REALLY feel matters. From there we can decide to share or not. Now that I think about it, it is the same with our blogs too. Obviously, we don’t share everything, but until we are awake and aware enough to know what we REALLY think and feel we don’t even have a choice. Sorry, I got off on my own tangent there but I so appreciate your thoughts on this! ~Kathy
Kathy, I love your writing and completely connected with the line “but knowing how I REALLY feel matters”. This is so true. And for the record, you can go off on a tangent with me whenever you want. So glad to be following along with you.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi LuAnn! In think your comment is one of the nicest things anyone has said to me in a long time! Thank you….of course I didn’t “need” you to say it but I still found it very supportive! 🙂 And maybe that is the new definition of a good friend. “you can go off on a tangent with me whenever you want. So glad to be following along with you.” ~Kathy
I do believe there may be a budding friendship here. Your writing so resonates with me! I look forward to meeting you in person one day.
G Angela says
Hi Kathy for large part of my life l lived in conformity – worried about what others said, did and lived. Allowing every body around me to make my choices and finally I had to make a decision for myself and create space that I wanted and needed to express myself. Its a long story for so much has happened from the time I took responsibility my own life. The shocking experience was that the ones who were close to me and part of the family were wanting me to conform to their thought patterns and their standards.. I followed my inner voice and put an end to all those relationships which today doesn’t matter to me, as I was honest with myself in following my hearts call. Right now I am just happy being me and don’t really bother about likes/dislikes/comments for I believe that there is something more important for me to accomplish and I must invest in finding my own unique purpose for being here on this earth. Thanks for triggering these thought processes:) and i am continuing to still reflect..appreciate you for linking your post and I always learn so much from your posts. Thank you!
I work with a very judgmental woman. She often says negative critical things about me and has a very condescending attitude. Some people actually want to leave work because of her. I have had that thought myself but find that working with Pat is an important avenue to deciding for myself what I think of me and not listening to others. One thing that helps me is an affirmation – “I love and accept myself.” and “God loves me.” This reminds me that I need not let someone else determine how I feel about myself.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Nancy! Good for you for realizing that you will never be able to change Pat, but you can decide and choose how you will experience her negativity in the future. I know it isn’t easy but the ultimate freedom it brings is the BEST! And thank you for sharing your affirmations with all of us. If we can find ones that give us courage and strength then we definitely benefit. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us. ~Kathy
Beth Havey says
As always, Kathy, there is so much here. But I want to return to my childhood, where I know I was easy to raise. Why? Because I did want to please. But my situation of losing a father early on, I was 3, might account for being timid in my behavior and knowing I needed to always have MOM in my corner. I spent hours on my backyard swing, singing. At such a young age, I believe now it was a form of escape. Later, I made friends in the neighborhood and was always protective and close to my younger bother. I guess you could say that anything on the X chromosome I was honoring. It wasn’t until college that I began to see that I didn’t always have to comply. That I could forge down new roads and break some rules. But that has always been challenging for me. I love that Hillary Clinton saw early on that she could complain, face injustice, demand change. I worked with black and brown students when I taught high school and that helped me forge some of the basic beliefs that truly drive me now. I also worked in an inner city hospital and grew to love and understand patients that had little to nothing. I helped them fight for what they needed and I still believe in doing that. I use my skill as a writer to fight for that. And most of the people I meet eventually know where I stand. I no longer hold back. Life is short, and CHANGE I NEEDED. Great post.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Beth! Thank you so much for sharing your path of growth in this area. I think it is helpful for each of us to hear what others have gone through and how they have overcome it so I really appreciate it. Of course, I don’t think most of us ever completely “arrive” at the final destination either. There is always a little further we can take it. But as we learn to honor that still small voice within then we not only value ourselves, we are more empowered to be of service to others. Thank you again for your thoughts on this. ~Kathy
Terri Webster Schrandt says
Having flaming, red curly hair and freckles as a kid and being teased for them made me a staunch conformist all through my life until about the last couple of years. To compensate, I learned early on to excel at sports, arts and academics to feel accepted and through which to accept myself. You are so right about wanting to be accepted as a writer and blogger, too, Kathy, because we do crave positive feedback for our creative energies. It is hard to learn to let go of that need for agreement, but as I have aged, it does get easier. Many comments already have been shared about this, so here is where I will stop, but I appreciate your words on the subject, as I continue the journey!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Terri! I didn’t have red hair but I did/do have freckles and oh yeah, that was rough sometimes. Remember Freckle-faced strawberry???? And top that off with “Chatty Kathy” and a last name of “Pfeif” (pronounced Fife) and I was teased a lot too (remember Barney Fife?). It’s interesting that you choose sports as your outlet while I went in a more academic direction. Don’t we all try to fill in those gaps with what we think makes us stand out in a positive way? Good for you for finding what works for you and then like so many of us, taking baby steps towards a great self-awareness and self-love. I’m hopeful that by the time we all hit 90 we will be AMAZING! Thanks as always for your thoughts. ~Kathy
As I think back about my life, I’ve never really “fitted in” anywhere and I have always had a problem with being categorized into a certain box or following the herd. Luckily, my parents never discouraged me from following my passions and traveling the world. They had to get used to that pretty quickly. 🙂 My priorities have always been different than those of my friends and family. But, as I explored the world, I came across many like-minded people, so I did create a “tribe”, even though the friendships are being maintained by email.
Does all this mean that I don’t care what people think of me? Yes and no. I think everyone wants others to respect and like them. But, I won’t change my behavior or do something that doesn’t feel right to make this happen. And no, I have no clue about fashion, favorite bands, or the latest fad. That, I don’t care about. I want to live a happy life, true to myself, and so far, I have no regrets realizing that.
Also, we have tried to make “everyone” happy before with our products and business, but experience has taught me that this is impossible anyway, and causes a lot of stress and unhappiness for ourselves. Sometimes it clicks with people and sometimes it doesn’t. As far as my writing goes, I want to enjoy it and not adjust it to the mainstream blogs, articles or books out there, just to be accepted or liked. As a writer, it is important to have your own style and voice. And, as far as our blogs go, they’re ours, so we can do with them what we want. 🙂
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Liesbet! I agree that you are one of the more fearless women I know! You’ve lived a life that most can’t even imagine. But sometimes, at least for myself, when I’ve been most bold I still evaluated my actions (or thoughts) in terms of how they would or wouldn’t be accepted by those closest to me. And while there is nothing at all wrong with that, some of it is still coming from an “external” locus rather than that “inner” locus that I’m working toward. If I wasn’t so convinced that it contains great riches, I doubt I would bother. But much of what I read tells me that there is so much “juice” there that it is worth the exploration.
I also think this issue is multi-faceted because it isn’t just what others think of us–it is also our need to get agreement before we feel good. Can I be okay if Thom completely disagrees? How about if a friend or close family member accuses me of something I know I’m not or didn’t do. Can I live “peacefully at ease” with that? I think nearly everyone I know reacts to the actions and statements of others. We certainly see it on the national level with politics. While I will never deny that something requires action and commitment, I think we still ought to maintain our own peace of mind no matter how crazy things seem in our world–or the world at large. So while some people might feel they are immune to what others think, if they are making themselves crazy dealing with external things like politics, they are still vulnerable to the attitudes, wants and desires of the culture. I think any time we believe that if other people and the country just did things “our way” ‘then everything would be perfect and we could be happy. This is a different way of thinking about that. Thanks for the opportunity to let me address that! ~Kathy
Janet Mary Cobb says
Kathy – great post. I’ve rarely cared about what others think of me by way of ‘conforming’ – but that doesn’t totally eliminate the ‘hope’ that my writing resonates or is widely accepted. Does that make sense?
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Janet! As I mentioned, I think there are lots of ways to come at this issue. And while I’ve written about getting past what others “think” of me, I’m still working on that agreement or understanding part. I think a good “test” is whether we are still blaming anyone (or the circumstances of our lives) for us not being able to be at home in ourselves. If we can’t be happy because those people are doing “whatever” we think is wrong, then we are letting outside experiences guide us rather than being directed by our inner selves. We are reactive, not proactive. Make sense? In terms of writers it comes down to caring far too much about our “statistics” like how many readers we have, how many comments, how many books have we sold (or NOT sold!)? In terms of social media, it is reflected in how many “likes” we get and how many followers on Instagram. In terms of family, it is doing what is expected of us even when we resent it because we don’t want to “disappoint” them. My goal is to continue detaching from all those external cues that tell me I am okay or not. And to live my life inner-directed as much as possible. Not to be selfish–because that is what we are often told we are doing when we don’t do what others expect us to do–but instead to be true to myself. Ha! You didn’t ask for a huge response but I guess I felt inspired. Thanks for the opportunity! ~Kathy
Janet Mary Cobb says
I totally get it Kathy! I think it is the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. I’m getting a good ‘test’ of this now with our eldest son living back at home. He is totally capable of getting himself where he needs to go for work and play. Sometimes he asks to use my car or get a ride somewhere. Whereas when he was younger, I’d feel obligated to put his needs first – but now I think about when I say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ as to the why. Sometimes I even offer. But I have no sense of ‘if I don’t I’m a bad mother or person’… a great thought-provoking post, for sure. Thanks!
Leanne | www.crestingthehill.com.au says
This has been a huge struggle and learning curve for me over the last few years Kathy, and something I still battle with. My husband regularly reminds me that I’m responsible for my own happiness and not other people – but MAN it’s a struggle. I wasn’t even aware of the concept until he brought it up a few years ago! Whenever someone disagrees with me or says something snarky or takes offence (big one in my family!) I immediately take it all onboard and start feeling down. It’s hard to unprogram 50+ years but I am pushing through step by step – and also hoping not to hit too much negativity along the way that puts it to the test!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Leanne! Thank you for your honesty. And I actually believe this issue is bigger for many of us than we even want to admit. I do confess that I didn’t even have a problem with this until I hit forty. And I’m sure that Thom was also making hints to me saying I was far too reactive to circumstances and others as well. But for me, a real switch happened when I stopped trying to apply “techniques” to getting over taking things personally, caring what others think of me, and hoping for agreement. I now think those techniques are often like bandaids over a wound, they can help but they aren’t the reason we heal. With that said, I think a big reason why I resonate so much with Abraham Hicks is that the message there is one of constant unconditional love for each of us. Lots of people (and I used to too) accuse her/them of being very materialistic and selfish. Instead, now what I hear is complete acceptance of each person’s personal path of expressing life. (That’s a real abbreviated explanation of course!) But what I’ve gotten over the years after listening to Abraham Hicks is that not only is it okay to be me, but the only one I can ever change is myself. Plus, if we can’t love and accept ourselves, we can’t love or accept others. And until we do, (love and accept ourselves) we will constantly be trying to change everyone else, ourselves and the world around us–and caring what they think! Again, this is a very multi-faceted topic so I’m only pointing a finger at where I want to head. And that’s really all any of us can do for each other. does any of that make sense to you? I hope so! ~Kathy
Leanne | crestingthehill says
Hi Kathy – The interesting thing for me is that I wrote about something along the lines of what you’ve said in my post today (which I wrote a few weeks ago!) it’s that part about self acceptance (and self love – I find it hard even writing that!) I think there’s so much work I still need to do on just being okay with acknowledging my own worth – it’s so much easier to see it in others. I’m working on it though and I think if we are aware then that’s half the journey – thanks for your thoughts – you are always such a great resource to me 🙂
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi again Leanne! I so agree that sometimes baby steps are the best thing we can do RIGHT NOW. Good for you for knowing where your own personal work is and then doing what you can to keep moving. THAT is inspiring to us all! ~Kathy
My need to belong has been a huge component of my life and a need I’ve rarely felt met. It’s such a long-held need, I’m not sure how to let it go. Yes, that need has caused me to conform many times, to adapt to others needs, to worry about approval, to be the “good girl”l. I’m trying quite hard in retirement to let go of the need for approval at least. To not conform to what others think I should do at this stage of my life. I’d like to think I write what I want to in my blog – not necessarily for approval. But then I still look for the comments. And yes a few times, I wondered (worried?) how the topic would be received. I think relinquishing the need for approval and understanding is going to be a big leap (long term process?) for me.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Pat! That need to belong is such a deep biological and instinctual response that I doubt anyone but us thinkers spend much time looking into. I’m not sure we CAN completely let it go, but I do believe that I can keep an eye on it to make sure it isn’t either 1) making me deny the “true me.” 2) make me go numb and unconscious. It does seem to be helping me to get older and focus on the freedom that brings, but what I find for myself is that the areas where I am most deeply attached, like my writing, are the areas where I am most “vulnerable” to caring about other people’s opinion. But now that I am entering my 8th year of blogging on this topic, and after 6 books out, I am gradually realizing that the quality of my peace of mind and well-being exists mostly (solely?) in my head (and heart). And what’s the other common saying, “I can’t force anyone else to like me or “get me” so I had better like/get myself! Good luck to us both and when you think about it–this is right near the top for what is most important. ~Kathy
I live what most people (I think) would consider a fairly “normal” life (husband, house, career, now retired) but I don’t feel that I’ve gone overboard altering my behavior to accommodate others. Is that because I don’t have a renegade inside of me… or is it because I’ve just gotten so good at accommodating that it just seems “me” now? Either way, I do appreciate the confidence that has come with age. I do hold bits of me back (for instance, very few of my friends know I have a blog) but I think that’s mostly because I’m a private person. Although I do respond to criticism (real or imagined), I don’t base my self-confidence on it (mostly… god knows I have a few triggers). I’d love to hear more about the podcasts you listen to when we get together in a few weeks.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Janis! Thank you for your honest appraisal of this in your own life. I do think there are lots of different layers and perspectives on what motivates us. But I’m exploring how I am motivated (or not) from inside myself regardless of what is happening on the outside. I actually think the current political climate here in the U.S. is once such trigger because I see so many people (and women) completely unraveled by what is happening. And let’s face it, there are others completely overjoyed. While I think we all tend to act in ways that we perceive are in our best interests, sometimes those “interests” really aren’t our own–they are just our programming from family, schooling, culture etc. There are so many “triggers” in the world that I think we get almost numb to complying with–and for the sake of my writing, not to mention my personal wellbeing, I want to dig deep to see what’s there. After reading your post I guess the question that pops up for me is “why” are you such a private person. Of course that is certainly none of my business. I want/need to be asking those kinds of questions to myself. ~Kathy
Hi, Kathy – Awesome and timely post as usual. (How do you consistently do this?)
I found that after I retired, I have steadily become more me than I have been since childhood.
I believe that there are a variety of causes leading up to this. When I worked, I focused on what I had become good at over time, and what I was known for. With a demanding job and family life, it is all that I had time for anyway. Being truly uncoordinated from a young age (understatement), I avoided team sports and any other physical activities that heavily rely on coordination. I even successfully convinced my High School Principal that I should take an extra academic class….in place of Physical Education! This morning, I thought, ‘what the heck….I’m going to sign up for a local aerobics class’. I told the instructor that she was free to laugh at me. She retorted back with a wink that she might just do that! End result: I had a blast! People were moving right when I sometimes moved left. The world did not end. Who knew? I could say that I wish that I had discovered this freedom long ago. But what is most important is that I am thrilled to have discovered it now! I greatly look forward to reading what your upcoming writing has in store for us.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Donna! hahahaha….trust me, I don’t. I just hope there are one or two of you out there who appreciates some part of what I’m writing. And thank you for sharing some of your own evolution with us because I think hearing how other people are doing it is helpful. As you say, jumping in and pushing ourselves to do something we want to do can sometimes be the most empowering thing we can do to reinforce our personal sense of self-worth. I think it is also a great example of how even when we think others are laughing, chances are they aren’t thinking of us at all, or just worrying about how THEY look to you! And what a surprise–the world didn’t end! I think if we all remembered that every day we would gradually get stronger and more aligned than ever before. I’m trying! We’ll see where it goes! ~Kathy
Pat Grissom says
This is a great message, and so appropriate for what I needed to read and have reinforced. Thank you for having the courage and the insight to share such a valuable Truth. Pat
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Pat! As I confessed, I am happy to know that this resonated with you. Thank you for letting me know. May we both continue to grow and be true to that voice within. ~Kathy
This post really resonated with me. I think women of our general were taught to fit in. I can still hear my mother’s voice, ” who do you think you are to…” fill in the blank. This is one area where I think millennials are getting it right. Despite all their social media sharing, many of them seem very comfortable in being who they are, not changing to please others and creating their place in the world rather than just accepting what is expected. I think this is why they often struggle with employers and get a bad rap. My brother employs a lot of millennials and he is always complaining that they are trying to do things their way and not adhere to his ideas.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Michele. I sincerely hope that millennials are moving past the need to simply conform to fit in. Hopefully they are much further along than most of us baby boomers. However, I do see a lot of younger people mimicking what others of their generation are doing. If you get torn jeans, I get torn jeans, if you walk around on your phone taking selfies, then I walk around on my phone taking selfies, if you get a tattoo, then I get one too. I’m not putting that down because we all did it. Just that it is VERY tempting for young people to really really want to fit into their peer group. And that peer group can be a real benefit or as we all know, lead them far astray.
On the other hand, I also believe that many young people have been raised by parents who wanted to offer them something different than what they grew up believing–and some of that was that they are very special and can do no wrong, regardless. And I’ll bet that it isn’t that they (younger people) don’t care what anyone thinks (I’ll bet a LOT of them care what their friends think) they just don’t care what people in authority think. Now this is just off the top of my head so I might get some people disagreeing with me. But one reason why I see so many unhappy people (including a large number of unhappy young people) is that they are not being directed to listen to their heart and soul–instead, I think they are listening to social media, their friends and television/the media in general. That concerns me. I suppose only time will tell right. Meanwhile, the only one I know for sure that I can change is me. That’s where MY real work lies. Thanks for your thoughts on this and generating some in me! ~Kathy
Rick Smedstad says
Kathy, great subject. It is something I ruminate over daily, especially since retiring. It gives me great personal satisfaction, in my mid-70s, to continue to work on letting go of the need for external approval in my life. No gold ring yet but getting closer. Thanks for directing more attention to this personally important topic!
I enjoy your writing…and your thinking.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Rick! Thank you for letting me know that this confirms some of the experiences you’ve had since retiring. I imagine after retiring from an important occupation that was so personally satisfying that it might be harder to let go once it is gone. People tend to tie much of their self-esteem to their work (especially when it is good stuff) so to let that go and just being who you are today without caring how others view you now requires some new thoughts for sure. I never thought that through before but I’ll bet you are not alone in that experience. Good for you for being aware of the temptations and choosing instead to be true to yourself. ~Kathy
As a contrarian from the get go, I am familiar with the price one pays if one refuses to conform… or care what others think about that.
As a child, I was more of a passive-aggressive sneak who learned to hold counsel with my inner voices who told me I was good and kind and loving – as opposed to the belligerent, stubborn, trouble-maker my dad saw me to be. As a teen, I thought I was crazy and wrote tomes of dialogue that argued the truth with the voices in my head. I was different and I dared to be different and the wise ones of the 1970s affirmed my courage.
It is so odd to look back on that adolescent period of my life and realize it was my faults that saved me.
Learning to not care what others think of me — my parents, my peers, my critics — has been a lifelong learning. Curiously, the more I’ve practiced, the more empowered I’ve become, whether it is in the day-to-day or in the writing I do.
It is truly too bad that parents do not teach their children to create their reality. Facing reality is a dead end.
One of the most transformative books on my journey was in the early 1990s, “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” (author forgotten at the moment) and her line, “What you think of me is none of my business.” At least, I think that came from her!
In conjunction with Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All” reminding me to press on, I defied the odds and survived one of the major traumas of my life — divorce. Regardless of what others said (or didn’t say) I sold my house, left my kids with their dad (until they followed me), and went to university for the first time at age 35. Ten years later, I was in a well-paid, meaningful, career and could have snubbed my nose at the naysayers. I was too busy dancing to the rhythms of my inner goddesses!
Ah, yes — embrace those differences and nourish them.
Don’t give a fig for the opinions or approval of others. Fame is a short-lived flame and nourishes no one.
Thank you for stirring the pot with these thoughts.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Ezme! Thank you so much for sharing your personal journey of emancipation with us! Like you said, your path may have been hard and challenging at that time. But look where it took you! And as you say, “the more I’ve practiced, the more empowered I’ve become, whether it is in the day-to-day or in the writing I do.” I too believe it is a “practice” that we all need to work on (some of us more than others!) but that as we become more ourselves and empowered, the closer we come to that state of alignment. And yes to that book, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway as well as the quote, “What you think of me is none of my business” which I actually wrote a blog post about several years ago! https://www.smartliving365.com/think-business/ Abraham Hicks is adamant about us all letting go of other people’s opinions or judgments because they point out that others want us to conform to their wants so THEY feel good (without really caring how we feel at all.) Far better for each of us to accept responsibility for our own feelings and actions. And then, and probably only then, we can allow others to be in charge of their lives like we want to be in charge of our own. Thank you again for your thoughts on this. ~Kathy
Mona McGinnis says
It has taken me a life time to relinquish the need to conform. I was raised by a mother who is very conscious of what others think, constantly mindful of her behavior and that of her children whose behavior was a reflection on her. I have come to learn that what others think of me is none of my business. It’s been a long and arduous task but it’s a relief to stand on my own two feet.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Mona! YES! Isn’t that one of the biggest gifts of getting older. Getting to that point when we realize that we need to rely on ourselves and stop caring so much how others think. I don’t my mom was particularly tied to what other people thought of her so I don’t know that I got this from her. But I do know in the family that I was always the one who tried to keep the peace and make everyone happy–and I think I was pretty good at it. But like I said last week, “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” By playing that role I mostly denied myself thinking that made my parents love and appreciate me more. And maybe they did or they didn’t–but it didn’t teach me to be fully self-reliant and follow my own inner guidance above all. Either way, isn’t standing on our own two feet the BEST!?! ~Kathy
The Widow Badass says
Excellent post Kathy. I have found when women get to a certain age, it becomes so much easier to be your own person. I’ve seen it in myself and others, and I think it is a beautiful benefit of menopause.
Having those levels of “agreeable, amenable, peace-keeping, self-sacrificing” hormones in decline reveals the true person inside (the one who previously only came out once a month during PMS). Who is sick of putting up with other peoples’ shit and not afraid to tell you anymore. Long may she reign!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Deb! Your comment reminds me of what a close girlfriend told me recently. She is a VERY caring mom and devoted to her kids, but lately, she will admit not being so very accommodating to even them. That’s a BIG thing for her and like you said, I’ll bet hormones are involved.
As for me (with no kids to gauge it by) I believe that my growth is striving to get more and more in touch with my inner being. And I doubt that my inner being is directed too much by hormones…but I could be wrong! Either way, I too long to be in touch with “the true person inside” me and really want to get to the point where other people’s crap just rolls off my back. THAT reminds me of a quote by Coco Chanel that goes, “I don’t care what you think of me, because I don’t think of you at all.” I laugh every time I hear it. Long may SHE reign! ~Kathy
The Widow Badass says
I may have said something along those lines to people somewhere along the way…LOL! Also another one I heard (forgot who originally said it): “You wouldn’t care so much about what people thought of you if you knew how seldom they did.”
Another thought provoking post Kathy. First of all listening to different podcasts while walking your dog is exercising your brain while you and the pup are exercising your body so good for you!
Second of all, teenage years are spent trying to stick out and still conform at the same time and I think the feedback from others during this time influences our conformity or outlander tendencies later in life. That said, I have worked as the token woman or with very few woman most of my adult life and realized early on that men’s approval from my coworkers or managers was difficult making me an outlander. Being an outlander has never been hard for me to accept so it worked for me!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Haralee! Yes I love listening talks when I am walking my “normal route” here in my neighborhood if it is just Kloe and I doing the walking. It is sort of like my morning commute. And it sounds like you received a great deal more practice staying true to yourself than I did growing up. Or perhaps you are the type of personality where being an Outlander wasn’t a big deal. Remember the 4 personality types from Gretchen Rubin. That post helps me realize that while I can be quite independent in some areas, I still have a “pleaser” that tries to accommodate those I think are special and deserving–I think I am an “upholder.” Thom, on the other hand, is a “questioner” and while I doubt he is completely immune to the influence, he cares far less than I do and can’t understand sometimes why I even try. I wouldn’t be surprised if you are a questioner too based upon your comment. While we are all different and have different motivations, I think a key is knowing ourselves and being aware of our “triggers.” Thank you for providing a good role model for those of us still working on this issue! ~Kathy