If you follow my blog posts, you will know that I write pretty openly these days. When I’m writing, I don’t stop to consider what you might think of me. Not anymore anyway. I was very different only a little more than a year ago. I was very protected and closed and was very cautious about what I shared. I know there will be some people who read my blog posts, and perhaps think I’m a little whack-a-doodle for sharing in such a vulnerable way. I’m OK with that, and it no longer bothers me on any level. What other people think of me will not change how I write any longer.
The Mike who made other people’s opinion his business
You know the funny thing is I’ve been trying to write this post for about a week now (seriously). I’ve made numerous attempts to write this section and sharing different stories. The ironic thing is I keep stopping and restarting because I’m worried about what someone might think of me for what I’m writing.
So let’s review where that got me so far this past week …. ummm …. no-where!
I’ve done this my whole career. I think of speaking from the heart, and very much in alignment with my values and beliefs. I know what I want to say is going to be potentially controversial with some people, but for me I am speaking my truth. Then one of my saboteurs speaks and says “you shouldn’t say that … think of what so-and-so might say about you!” So I don’t. I delete it and try again. I just churn.
When I do this several things happen for me:
- I waste a lot of time churning while attempting to make something perfect … just like today. My friend Christopher Avery taught me this is The Control Cycle. I evaluate my writing, I give myself advice, then I comply. It’s a vicious cycle unless you choose to break it.
- I get tied up in a knot as I struggle free myself from the control cycle … yet I never seem to get there.
- I have historically ended up putting aside something that’s important to me like my beliefs, values or principles. In some cases, I’ve even denied the very core of what defines me and my place in this universe.
- The situation starts to impact my health … like today when I developed a migraine (thankfully not too bad this time)
- I start living in my head, not wanting to share the mental struggle happening as I endlessly debate something. So I shut out the world around me, including those who love me most
- I feel very alone as if no-one else in the world can help me solve these problems. I might even start to reach out to others for help but withdraw before completing the ask from some form of self imposed shame or judgement.
In all, what it means is I start playing very small. I do not live up to my full potential. I do not have the impact I am meant to have on the world around me. I do not live on purpose. I feel sad inside, and my heart aches for something more for me. You can imagine … this is not a great place to be.
Going on record
I would like to go on record. As of today, my saboteur’s can “Kiss my ass!” You will never again convince me the right thing to do is compromise a part of me in the interest of what someone else might think of me … good or bad. It does not serve me in any way to compromise myself in this way.
Don’t get me wrong. I want to have a positive impact in this world. I want people to like being around me. I want people to benefit because I was here. However, I also know we’re all on our own journies of life, and I will not align with everyone around me. This saddens my heart a little, as it’s my fondest desire to have a positive impact on everyone I encounter on my journey.
What I have come to see is people are dealing with their own things, and they may not want to be a part of mine. Our journeys may not be in alignment with each other. Please know if we realize you are one of those people, I still appreciate you for the beautiful person you are.
The Mike who speaks with truth
I have become very clear about who I am, and what impact I am meant to have in this world. This has been no small feat, and is hands down the hardest work I have EVER done. I don’t actually think of myself as having changed in this journey, rather I’ve just gotten rid of all the stuff that was hiding what was really inside.
Most recently, I have learned the value of what it means to say “What other people think of me is none of my business.” This includes both positive and negative thoughts about me.
I used to take deliberate action to get notoriety or credit for something. I now see in taking actions such as this it only served to overly inflate my ego. Perhaps my ego was taking a hit at the time, and I was using it in some way to compensate so I wouldn’t feel as bad.
Now when I’m complimented, I sincerely appreciate the acknowledgement, and use it as confirmation I am having the impact I want and am meant to in this world. However, I do not use these acknowledgements to inflate my ego in any way.
I used to get defensive, or try to run from situations where people were critical of me. I would compromise myself in order to please the other person. I was more interested in protecting my ego, than being true to myself. This would create a lot of self doubt and internal conflict for myself.
Now when attacked, I start by examining if I’m living my values, purpose, and beliefs. If I am, and if what I’ve said or done is the most truthful thing possible then I accept our journeys are not aligned with each other. They may never be, and that’s OK as we all have an important role to play in this world.
Easier said than done
I am sharing this story, not because I am hoping you will be able to radically change your perspective tomorrow. You may not even agree with my belief around how I think of other people’s opinions. For me, I have reached this point because I have become very clear on who I am. It’s been a lot of hard work to get to this point, but I can attest every bit of it has been worth it. However, ever journey must start somewhere so I would invite you to start by becoming mindful of your actions.
If you do not already, I would invite you to start journaling. Yeah I know that sounds like work, but take it from someone who even a year ago resisted journaling, it is one of the most reflective activities I do for myself. When journaling, do not think. Just start moving your pen. Let the words just emerge. Do not fight it or edit it, as no-one else will ever read it anyways.
I would invite you to take a little time journaling about how other people’s opinions have you acting in an inauthentic way for you. Here’s a structure that might help you:
- Make a list of the times you reacted to someone’s negative opinion of you
- Make a list of the times a compliment stroked your ego, or where you took intentional action simply for the purpose of praise
- Now write about how it felt to be impacted by someone else’s opinion. What belief or value of yours did you put aside because of someone else’s opinion.
- Finally, write about what might be different if you didn’t let someone else’s opinion impact you like it did
You are the expert in your life
I am the expert in my life. You are the expert in your life. I cannot tell you what is right or wrong for you (that would be me giving you my opinion 😉 ) It is my wish for you, that through some self-reflection you begin to see the impact other people can have on you. I also am hoping you will start to see places you are sacrificing yourself for those opinions. If you do see these things you can start to choose to live your life more fully.
What I do know is all of us has an important contribution, and when we play small the world is a little weaker for it.
It’s time to start living the life you are meant to live!
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Mike, this is a gem, a delicious post, a precious post. Thank you. A few of my favorite — and perfectly-placed — lines:
“So let’s review where that got me so far this past week …. ummm …. no-where!”
“As of today, my saboteur’s can “Kiss my ass!””
“I don’t actually think of myself as having changed in this journey, rather I’ve just gotten rid of all the stuff that was hiding what was really inside.”
“What I do know is all of us has an important contribution, and when we play small the world is a little weaker for it.”
And, thank you for your acknowledgement.
Thanks Christopher … I appreciate you!
Great post Mike!!
I love your strength to acknowledge that really, who gives a shit what anyone else thinks!
Unfortunately, I care(d) deeply what others thought of me, my actions and my beliefs. Well, that has drastically shifted. Your writing, my life lessons and growth have helped me realize that, who cares. I want to do well, provide value and love life. That’s it.
Life becomes very simple when you cut out the crap.
Love your post. Resonates and gives me some well needed guidance.
Enjoy your weekend Mike!!