I was thinking the other day how most of my life I have allowed myself to be influenced by what others may think of me -- my actions, the way I talk, the way I write, the way I look. I have a feeling that many of my generation too were raised to consider what other people may think, in fact I can still hear my mother chastising me with "What would your family think? What would the neighbors think? What would our friends think? In time a certain paranoia sets in and it influences every decision we ever make.
I can't really pinpoint when I began to smarten up and let my heart influence what I do and what I say, but it took most of my life to get over the "what will people think" syndrome. Oh, I get in trouble sometimes, but for the most part it feels pretty good.
There are two types of decision makers in the world. The first are internal decision makers. These are the people who self-analyze every step, every option, every possible outcome and never talk it through with others. This doesn't mean they don't care about the opinions of others. In fact, my experience is that it is quite the opposite. They've been burned so many times, they choose to make their decisions on their own as a way of avoiding being rejected.
The second is an external decision maker. These people constantly seek the opinions of others, asking for their approval in ways such as, "Do you like this idea?," "Am I right?," "Are we in the right place?," "Am I doing the right thing" and "Are we okay?" They're thought of as team players because they want to get everyone involved in their process. They simply can't move forward without the validation from others.
The addiction to the opinion of others affects areas of your life you may not even be aware of. For example, your decision to live in a particular neighborhood, drive a certain car, send your kid to private school, wearing designer labels, the watch around your wrist, the vacations you go on, the clubs you belong to, all of these things are tied to what someone else thinks.
The addiction to what other people think has another significant impact; it represses us, which in turn keeps us in a sort of purgatory, afraid of the consequences of pursuing the life we really want.
Since we are the stories we tell ourselves, as one writer put it, they impact the way we behave. "When we release from an old story, we let go of our self-imposed conversations and traps that keep us stuck. In the process, we become more sure of ourselves, become more expressive and are more likely to make decisions that move our life forward because we're no longer living from that story that has been holding us back."
The only way to have complete freedom from this addiction is not to worry about the outcome other than think positive about it. It takes practice and courage to not place any level of importance on someone else's opinion. An opinion is not fact. It may not even be the truth. It is merely someone else's view about an issue that is based solely on personal judgment and therefore should not have any impact on our choices.
So this weekend put on those shorts that you haven't worn for a while because you've put on too much weight -- who cares -- sit out in your back yard with a cool glass of something and sing and laugh out loud to your heart's content. Who cares what those old fogey neighbors might think.
"Who cares", that's the ticket!