Friday, July 5, 2013

What people think of you . . .

What people think of you is really none of your business ~ Martha Graham

Do you realize that people's opinion of you is actually a reflection of what that person thinks of themselves and their own experiences?  

Have you heard this before?  

I used to think this was bull . . . until this happened to me.

Cue chimey "back in time" music . . .

When I was in high school I didn't date anyone from my high school.  I made a point of this because the kids at my school could not keep their mouths closed.  I mean, go out with someone on Friday and by Saturday evening all your business was out in the streets.  I kept my dating life private, dated students outside of the school, usually older (because I was deep like that).  Anyway, it was well known that I went out with people that my high school classmates and friends had no connection to -- on purpose.

So flash forward 20 years later at a high school reunion dinner.  I'm sitting at a long table with about 15 high school friends and the topic of "who did you date during school" comes up.  One person in particular is grilling everyone on who they went out with, I mean she's really going at it like she's Ms. Grill-miser or something. This person that is questioning everyone at the table . . . well, we know who she hooked up with because she had a baby with that person -- in high school. Not a problem, we had several classmates that that happened to - it really wasn't a scandal or anything.

So, we go around the table, each person trying to remember who we've gone out with, when it gets to me. I simply state: "You guys wouldn't know who I went out with because they were older and they didn't go to our high school.  In fact a few were already in college at the time."

Ms. Grill-miser turns to me and says, "Well that's because you were fast."

Record scratch sound . . .
First of all, for you people that don't know African-American, southern jargon "fast" is a word used for girls and young ladies that were supposedly doing things too advanced of their age . . . in other words, doing things that were not supposed to do.

Second of all, I couldn't believe what I was hearing . . . this is what Ms. Grill-mister's opinion of me was?  The person that had a "baby" in high school?  She thought I was fast? What?!  I mean, she was having sex in high school and we all had full evidence of it, because a full living-breathing person came out of it.  But she wasn't fast, I was.  I'm sitting there flabbergasted, trying to figure out how come "I" was considered fast?

So, in my usual bold, socially-awkward, no-holds-barred manner, I pointed out to her and everyone at the table the obvious. 

"Um, I don't know how I'm fast when you were the one who had a baby in high school." 

Yeah, I said it - somebody had to.
When I pointed this out to her and everyone at the table . . . she quickly explained her story.  You see, she was going out with an older guy.  Background: He was in a grade higher than her but only several months older.  

Okay, so older dude (by a few months) had pushed and pressed her for "weeks" to go all the way, and you know, have sex.  Now, Ms. Grill-miser's best friend told her that the pelvic exams necessary for every woman wanting birth control, really hurt.  Background: This information is from best friend's big sister's, the friend had never gone to the doctor for a pelvic exam. And, to top off the fear-fest, they were both afraid that the doctor would tell her parents (although the laws clearly stated that doctors couldn't do that).  

Soooo . . . she decided to do what most teenage girls do in situations such as this . . . wing it.  So she tried . . . unsuccessfully. The attempt at sex hurt really bad and he was very disappointment and sad.  She felt sorry for him, sooo . . . she tried it again -- because he was depressed.  And thus a child was born . . . see? . .perfectly innocent.

I sat back amazed. Instantly, I learned wisdom from the sharing of this story.  I learned that people are going to judge you on the basis of their lives and their errors of judgement, not on anything closely realistic and reflective of the truth.  They will judge you on their experiences and perceptions of those experiences.

In Ms. Grill-miser's mind, she couldn't say "no" to the guy she was dating in high school -- so how could I?  In Ms. Grill-miser's mind If she was dating one guy and couldn't say "no" to sex, then how could she even conceive of the idea that I could date five guys and not one of them could score, somehow?  In Ms. Grill-miser's mind, if she was afraid to go to the doctor for birth control, I had to be "fast" and "bold" to confront an adult (a professional adult no less) and be proactive enough to pre-meditatively demand birth control because I knew I was going to have sex . . . and lots of it (because after all, how could I say no to a guy I'm dating).  Which, in actuality, I said "no" to them - often.

But in her mind, I had to have given into the requests for sex . . . because in her experience she didn't have the fortitude not to.

This is her experience in life.  And this is her opinion about how the world works.  And as you can clearly see from the above description her opinion, her assumptions and her experiences . . . have nothing to do with me.  Everything she thought I had done was utterly untrue -- but from her eyes and her life experiences, her assessment was completely true.  

The point of the story is not to judge her . . . or me.  We both went on to higher learning and obtain degrees. We both have healthy families, have children that are now perusing a college degree.  We both enjoy fulfilling relationships and great careers.  We live fairly well and enjoy comfortable lives -- in the end, it's all good and we are still very good friends. 

The actual point of the story is to see that each person's opinion is just a MIRROR of their life

This is why it's very important to realize that what other people think about you . . . is none of your business.  Their thoughts, their judgements, their descriptions are a mirror of what they think of themselves and rarely is it a true representation of what you are.

Instead of worrying what other people think of you, you should concentrate on these four principles that can help you gain a happier more fulfilled life.

1.  Don't base your value on what others think of you.

Seriously, think of it this way.  If you put a toddler in a high chair and placed two items before him - a huge fist-sized perfect diamond and a huge cookie. Which would the toddler value and keep?  Probably the cookie right?  He'd probably play with the diamond for a moment, but would probably throw it to the ground and pick up the cookie and begin eating it. Now, try to take that cookie from the baby? He will probably scream. The baby just threw a diamond worth millions of dollars to the ground, but he doesn't know that!  In his experience as a baby, the cookie is way more valuable to him.  Should you base the value of the items on what the toddler thinks?  No, of course not!  Then, how can you base your value on what other people value.  You have no idea if they have the capability to assess true value, you have no idea if they have the experience, the knowledge, the realization or perception to truly understand your value, your gifts, your experiences or your talents.  Don't put the judgement of your value in the hands of  toddlers. Know your own value, don't depend on others to tell you your value.

2. The important question is "What do you think of yourself?"

We are so worried about what other people think of us, we don't give proper attention to what we think of ourselves.  If you ask someone what they think of themselves you will often get a blank stare. Do you realize that there have been scientific studies that show the most important factor in an individual's success is not, their reputation, is not what people think of them, is not how many people like or love them, but success directly collates to the self-esteem and self-confidence that a person has.  Start working on thinking better of yourself.

3.  You cannot control other people but you can control how you react and feel about them.  

I have a loud laugh and I laugh often.  People (even strangers) have chastised me about my frequent and loud outbursts.  When I was younger, I was told that it wasn't becoming of a "lady" to laugh out loud.  I've been told that people may think that I'm laughing that them and may become offended so I should quiet it down.  There have been many reasons people have given me to stop laughing when I find things funny.  It's funny, these same people don't tell "men" any of this stuff when they laugh in public.  My friends that know me say that I'm not being embarrassing, socially-awkward, obnoxious, inconsiderate - frankly, they are amazed that this keeps happening to me.  But it does.  And I had to come to the simple conclusion that I like laughing out-loud -- I like that part of myself. And I've decided to keep that part of myself, no matter what anyone thinks or says about it.  My laughing part of myself makes me exceedingly happy.  And as long as I'm not being inappropriate or inconsiderate of others, then I should do what pleases me.  The lesson here is: Be yourself!  Life is simply not fun if you are too worried about pleasing/offending other people.

4. Understand your reasons, your values and know the intent of your heart

I have learned that much of  habits toward people-pleasing, not feeling good about ourselves, and basing our value from the opinion of others is because we don't understand or know the intent of our own hearts -- the reasons why we do things.  If our intentions are solid and good, if our hearts are in the right place and we realize this then many of the judgements, comments and opinions of others would weigh less in our lives - don't you think?  So dig a little deeper, get to know yourself, understand the values you hold dear, examine the reasons you do things in life, know the intent of your heart.  Knowing yourself, truly knowing yourself, is key to being impervious to what people think of you.

Now, go out there and be the most powerful and influential friend I have.

"People think what they think, no matter what you or I think or what we want them to think" ~ Dan Pearse, Single Dad Laughing

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  1. I've always heard this but this is a great explanation of why we shouldn't worry about others judgements about us.
    I plan to share this with all of my girls' health classes.

  2. Thank so much for the encouragement! I'm always trying to explain things that have been made clear to me though my life experience . . . hoping it will help someone else. I'm glad my adventures helped you!


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