The other day I was listening to a lovely lady in her late twenties who was in an animated, high-pitched frenzy over an episode in her life. She was extremely conflicted about how certain people were reacting to her decision to make a huge career change.
Before she could launch into her next angst-ridden tirade about what “they” think about this and what if “they” saw that, I asked her – “Who the **** are “they”?
She paused and blinked at me several times. I wasn’t sure if it was because the question surprised her or because I used a four-letter word.
“Weeell….? “ I prompted
Her forehead creased (no botox here…) as she pondered the question.
Before she could continue, I told her that it really didn’t matter who “they” were. And more significantly, what “they” think about her. Of course, to properly comprehend that this did not mean she would have to disregard the opinions and preferences of those she cared about, I had to explain the difference between the opinions that truly mattered and those that really didn’t. It turned out that there were far too many opinions that she was concerned with and it was impeding on her ability to successfully attain her goal. (Her Best Is Good Enough – but she doesn’t know it – yet.)
We like to think that we are in full control of our lives, the decisions we make and the direction we go. The truth is that we are a lot more affected by public opinion than we would readily admit. What “they” think matters – much more than it should and there are many who feel they have to base every single decision on what “they” think.
This can happen to anyone who is part of a community, a group, an organization or any social structure. The trick is to recognize the effect of the external influence WHILE it is happening and counteract* any adverse effects it may have on your decision-making. To do this, you must first identify the source of the influence.
The Good Ones
Many of our friends, family and associates may share their opinions about our lives because they care and because they want what is best for us. It’s natural. But sometimes, we allow their opinions – and as I like to put it, their “preferences” for our lives to confuse our decision-making. We shift from thinking “this is what I want to do” to “this is what I should do” or “this is what X would like me to do”. It then becomes difficult to know where to place the emphasis in our thought-process..
For this, I offer one simple solution; listen to their opinions because you care about them and/or because you respect them. Listening does not mean agreeing. It is a foolish person who chooses not to listen to opinions or advice from people they respect, love or admire. However it is up to you to act on their advice. You can choose to do what you feel is best for you – at this precise point in your life. The consequences, good or bad are entirely yours!
The Bad Ones (aka “Haters”)
Any relatively successful person will tell you that you do not achieve your goals – especially the loftier ones, without your share of land mines. Of course there are the natural challenges that will occur along the path to success since nothing worth achieving comes easily. But when it comes to people around us, these land mines can come in the form of discouraging remarks designed to put you off your goal. They come from the kind of people who would experience a secret moment of glee if you fail to achieve what you are setting out to do.
They usually fit into one of these 2 categories:
- People you know who have already achieved what you are trying to achieve – but would prefer it if you don’t (the not-enough-space-at-the-top syndrome)
- People who do not have the ability, strength or perseverance to achieve what you are trying to achieve and don’t want you to succeed as they feel it would amplify their own inabilities. Unfortunately this thought-process comes from their own self-doubt and insecurities and instead of choosing to rid themselves of such negative feeling, they prefer to infect others with it.
Harsh – but you know it’s true. Now many people in the two categories above tend to keep their negative feelings to themselves and if they are people within your circles, they will appear supportive outwardly – but will make little comments here and there to dissuade you privately. Some may even speak unkindly about you to others – and if you are aware of this, I challenge you to drop them completely from your schedule (aka life). What’s the point in having a relationship with those who wish you harm? Of course this method of cleansing and revitalization is not for everyone – only those that can handle it*.
So who indeed are “THEY”? They are a combination of the above. By now you already know who they are – in your world. Before you go out on a rampage, remember that these people are in your life for a reason. You alone choose how important you allow their voice to be in your head.
You have to live your life knowing that there will always be others who do not want you to succeed and discourage you at every turn. There will also always be those that take steps to make things difficult for you. HOWEVER the sooner they know that you do not base your decisions on their opinions, the good ones will back down. The bad ones – THEY will find another person to plague with self-doubt. But certainly not you!
*For more about (A) counteracting the negative effects of opinions that have been shared with you or (B) for cleansing and revitalizing your circles, ask me!