Back in the early 1980s, there was a New Thought minister in San Diego, CA named Terry Cole-Whittaker. She was and still is a very vivacious speaker who was so popular that she even had her own Sunday morning TV program. During that time, she authored a book called, “What You Think of Me Is None Of My Business.” Although Terry’s path changed rather dramatically in the years that followed, one of her legacies is the ideas behind the title. It doesn’t even matter if you’ve read the book or not—the title alone is something that I refer to on many occasions. It would certainly be SMART for each one of us to regularly remind ourselves “What others think of us is none of our business.”
Now before you get defensive and try to claim that you already don’t care what other people think of you—let me ask you a few questions. Do you work at any job or spend any time during your day doing anything you don’t like to do? After all, if you didn’t care you’d never do something you didn’t like to do, right? Or, do you wear only clothes (or no clothes at all!) whenever or wherever you want? Again, if you don’t practice complete freedom, then who are you doing it for? Do you follow every whim you have? Do you eat, drink and make merry exactly as you choose? The answer to all of these is probably—“of course not!” That’s because even though we might want to live a bit differently, as social creatures we realize that it’s often important to compromise some things in order to live in harmony and peace with other beings.
Sadly, we often get so comfortable learning to live with those we care about, trust and love, that we end up doing all sorts of things others think are right for us—instead of what we feel called to become. Just like other habits we create in our lives, the habit of conforming to other people’s expectations can quickly lead to a life-habit, where we have no clue who we really are or what we even want. Worse yet, we go through life trying to second guess what others are thinking and creating drama where none even exists—all the while wasting our existence.
Examples of this show up every day by how we raise most children. From a very young age, girls are praised for being accommodating and nice. The more girls are praised for being obedient and submissive, the more that behavior is reinforced in them. Boys aren’t expected to be so obliging, but they too are heaped with expectations that ask them to be compliant or risk rejection and abandonment. To avoid conflict and gain acceptance, all children learn to fit into their family and their peer group’s requirements. Even children and/or young adults who think they are being very radical and adventurous usually do so just to fit into a particular group or “family” where they feel accepted.
So, if we are all “trained” to live within family units and care what others think, how can we ever hope to break out of the bonds that bind us? A few suggestions to help along the way are:
#1 Develop your own inner guidance—and then listen to it! Several weeks ago I wrote a blog post explaining how most of us are outer directed rather than inner directed. It’s rather clear that if we are spending large portions of our time listening to what others think—be they our friends and family or the nightly news—then we are outer-directed and always going to be looking outside ourselves for approval, acceptance and safety. However, if we take the time to develop a close relationship to our inner Self—call it your Soul, your Holy Spirit, or Alicia—that will allow you to be true to your essential being. The closer our relationship with Self, the less likely we will be to be pulled off course by other people’s opinions.
#2 Be about your own business. This suggestion is a popular one with author and speaker Byron Katie. Katie continually suggests that much of our unhappiness comes from resisting what “is” and trying to change it. She teaches that we spend far too much time thinking about other people’s “business” and not enough on our own. Consider, if you are attempting to alter or change someone else all the time—you are focusing on his or her business—rather than what is right in front of you. The big problem is, we can’t do anything about someone else’s business—so we are just wasting time and energy on them instead of what we can influence—ourselves and our “business.” Plus, it’s very likely that if we are listening to their opinion of us—that too is focusing on their business and not our own. Let others think and do what they must—and be about our own business.
#3 Be relentless about discovering your own purpose and passions. As author Martha Beck says, our soul’s purpose is like a guiding North Star in our lives. Chances are good that if we aren’t clear about our purpose, we will be swayed by the first convincing argument or manipulation we hear. Unfortunately, there is plenty of evidence showing that people without a North Star can be directed to do all sorts of things (as radical as killing themselves and/or others). When guided by our own North Star, we will be much less likely to even notice the voices and suggestions of those who would lead us astray.
#4 Stay conscious and aware of your motivations and choices on a daily basis. This is a suggestion I write about in just about every one of my posts. That’s because I believe it is critical for us to stay awake and aware as much as possible.
Of course, most of you are probably familiar with these “tips.” But if you’re like me, you could use a regular reminder of how important they are. As a writer, it is very tempting for me to work hard to attract and please those I hope read my words. However, if I end up paying more attention to what I think people want—and less attention on what I feel called to write about—there is a very good chance both of us will be unhappy. Instead, as I write about those things I believe deserve to be communicated, I am following my own North Star.
It doesn’t’ matter whether you’re a boy or girl, young or old, rich or poor, or any one of the 7+ billion people on the planet, we are all being constantly bombarded with conflicting arguments to behave one way or another. Our challenge as spiritual beings having a human experience is not to ignore the people and events in our life—but also not to let them determine who we are and where we go from here—and definitely not how we think about ourselves. As caring and compassionate people, it’s SMART to remember that we can daily do our best to share our Light and resources, and remember that what you really think of me is none of my business.
“There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.” ~Howard Thurman
“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” ~Anna Quindlen
“To be nobody-but-yourself—in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else—means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” ~e. e. cummings