Are you bothered when people gossip about you? Is it important for you what other people say? Who’s opinion you value the most? Do you value others’ opinions more than your own? Would you rather follow your guts’ feeling than other people’s advice? Are you brave enough to listen to your heart than what social rules dictate you?
When I started to ask myself these questions, I was truly shocked by the level of my social opinion dependency. These thoughts never crossed my mind from such a perspective that I could value other people’s opinions more than my own wellbeing.
We are all social creatures. From ancient times being accepted by the community was the only way to survive. That who behaved out of the acceptable norm was considered an outsider, a rebel, therefore, was rejected by the majority. Our social connections are very strong therefore social opinion is a big part of our mindset.
Well, I don’t want to generalize. I am writing from my perspective only and I hope someone will relate to my thoughts.
I was raised in the social environment where it was almost shameful to be different, so-called rara avis were bulled in schools and later not fully accepted by society unless they become like everyone else. To be liked, to be approved by others meant you are doing good. To live “normal” life meant to study well at schools, graduate university, get a job, get married, have kids, work until pension.
These social frames were deeply instilled in my mind from childhood. Sometimes it felt like my life is already planned for me because everyone else around had and act the same. When I thought that I would have to work five days a week for the rest of my life until pension, I felt almost depressed, but this was the only way I knew.
Practicing mindfulness, working on my mindset and reading a lot about self-development helped me to realize that blindly following social dogmas and being dependent on other people’s opinions is the same as putting yourself into a mental prison.
Of course, everything has to have common sense. I am not suggesting that to liberate yourself from a mental prison you have to completely deny friendly and sincere advice or an honest opinion of other people. A healthy portion of that is of benefit to everyone.
However, it is certainly harmful to be attached to someone’s opinion and constantly seek social approval. When the approval is not received, the thoughts turn to “I am not good enough or I am no longer liked”. The truth is, it is just impossible to please everyone and to be liked by everyone. Every human being sees life from his/her own perspective and all of us have different experiences and tastes. In reality, the only approval you need is your own.
Sometimes life gives us opportunities to go the path where we can stay true to ourselves. Often we can’t see this as a real chance to change our life for better, because we let ourselves be defined by what others think about us. We often choose a safe path and get stuck in quiet desperation.
Let’s just imagine the following situation. This is common when parents with their best intentions want their kids to go to a particular university and get the degree. They see it as a ticket to a better life, a potentially better job and higher quality of life in the future. At the same time, the young person might not feel like spending the next few years studying the subject he is not interested in, but parents’ wish is a law for an obedient child. He goes to uni, gets the degree, finds a job and spends half of his life doing something he is not passionate about. Later on, when this person is a fully grown up having family and social commitments comes to the realization that he is just wasting his life doing what he is doing now. He remembers that being in his early 20-ties he was truly passionate about restoring old furniture. This passion was long forgotten while all other life circumstances took over.
I am not promoting a rebellious behavior towards the parents. Often youngsters are feeling lost due to lack of experience when they have to decide what would be the next step and just follow parents’ advice. That was a typical situation in my own life.
But let’s imagine this particular person at the point in life when he is not happy or fulfilled. It seems like he has everything to wish for: a family, a big house, a job, a status, a social approval. But deep down this person is feeling a huge empty hole, he is feeling disconnected from his true essence. He comes to the realization that he doesn’t know himself at all because all his life he was following what other people thought was right. He might regret not taking his chances, about the fact that he let himself be held back by someone else’s opinion.
What if YOU are this person???
Would you dare to take a dangerous path and make a step backward and start something from scratch considering all your existing responsibilities, risks of loss, risk of looking like a loser in front of others? Often the inability to take one step back in order to take four steps forward in happiness based on other people opinion.
We worry too much about the car we drive, the size of the house we live in, the material comfort of our life, because this way we get social approval. We choose to trade our time for money in order to buy stuff we don’t really need just to show to other people that we mean something.
Wouldn’t you be happier earning less money and live in a smaller house, but doing something that brings you joy and fulfillment? When you do what you truly love would you care about others’ judgement and criticism?
When you give people permission to not like you or to judge you, you will no longer take their opinions personally. Their opinions become none of your business because no matter what you do or don’t do, you have no control over what someone else is thinking.
It is up to everyone individually to decide what is more important for them; what other people think about them or what they think about themselves.
Would you let social opinion to hamper your own happiness?!!!
Let me know what you think.
With much love