I’m convinced that there isn’t a single person alive who hasn’t struggled with fear of other people’s opinions (OPO). It’s just human nature. We’re pack animals, we care about being accepted, and it’s arguable that it’s essential for survival. I mean, scientists recently discovered that “social integration” is the greatest determinant of not only happiness but life span. Over body weight, genetics, and even smoking! But just because we all long for connection doesn’t mean we have to be beholden to the opinions of others. In fact, if you want true and meaningful connection it’s imperative to stop worrying about other people’s opinions so you can be truly seen, validated and attached to those around you. But this is more easily said than done.
Most advice on the subject is the same canned “other people’s opinions are none of your business”. Which is true but, in order to really digest this and make it part of your life you’re going to need more than a catch phrase. Check out these simple tips to stop worrying about other people’s opinions.
You Can’t Please Them All
By far my favorite quote about OPO is “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.” (Dita Von Tease). Here’s the thing… I hate peaches. Like truly and deeply HATE peaches. As a matter of fact, I won’t even eat anything that looks remotely fuzzy (even if it’s not). Nectarines are a hard NO for me too because they look too much like peaches! My oldest daughter on the other hand, she loves them… can’t get enough. When she was younger, I bought them for her often, even though just picking one up makes my skin crawl. She could never quite understand my deep loathing for peaches and I always wondered about her love for them.
I mean, at the end of the day, a peach is just a peach. It really isn’t about the peach at all. It’s about our particular tastes. Some people love them while others despise them and still others feel very neutral. It doesn’t matter to me how you dress a peach up, make it into a pie or jam or even peal it. I’m still not going to like it… AT ALL. It’s about me, not the peach.
So… if you’re a peach, don’t pretend to be something else. Be the ripest and juiciest peach for those who love (or even like peaches). And don’t worry about those who don’t. You can’t please everyone! I think of this quote often when I’m struggling with thinking someone doesn’t like me or approve of me. I remind myself that I’m the richest, creamiest, most decadent piece of Belgian chocolate in the box. But hey, some people just don’t like chocolate… seriously! Try it yourself by inserting one of your favorite foods, or if you’re like my daughter… stick to peaches!
You Don’t Need a Reason
Everyone Won’t Agree with You
Have you ever gone out to dinner with someone and had them tell you that you really must eat the spicy salsa? Like even though they know you’re a spice wimp like me. Or have you ever had someone tell you that you can’t order the baked potato because they don’t care for potatoes? Yeah, that’s what I thought. No one does that! (I mean, if you know someone who does I suggest you stop eating out with them immediately!)
Breaking news… not everyone is going to agree with you! And just because you don’t agree doesn’t mean you can’t be friends, don’t like each other, or won’t be accepted. You don’t need to suffer through spicy salsa to be accepted and loved. You don’t have to pretend you agree with others to avoid their wrath. And you certainly don’t have to change your potato choice because someone at your table doesn’t care for them.
Likewise, you can’t change your dreams, opinions, or ideas to suit someone else’s preferences. As a matter of fact, often times the things we love and appreciate most about others is the ways in which they are unique and different from us. For example, I love to dance. I love it so much that I dance around when there’s no music, even out in public. My hubby has no interest in dancing. Not a fan at all. But he loves seeing me do it. He loves that I love it and I’m happy when I dance. It always makes him smile. He doesn’t have to like it to appreciate it. I don’t have to pretend I don’t want to dance just so he’ll be more comfortable.
Remember that those who are worth having in your life will respect and appreciate not only your similarities but also your differences. Think of an idea, dream, or opinion someone you care about has that differs from yours. Does it make you care less about them or is it one of the reasons you love them? Right… that’s what I thought! Remember this next time you consider changing your beliefs to appease OPO.
Strive to be Truly Accepted
Speaking of my husband. He’s probably the most authentic person I know and he deeply values authenticity in every part of his life. He’s pretty impressive in that way. My sister-in-law and I have had some pretty good laughs about how far this goes for him. Because you see, he loves turkey but hates ground turkey. I couldn’t figure it out for the longest time because, let’s face it, that’s pretty odd. So, one day I asked him about it, and he said… “I don’t like that turkey is trying to impersonate beef”. No joke! Go ahead, take a moment to laugh! It’s funny!
He seriously has a problem with ground turkey because it’s used in place of beef and is “trying” to pass as it. I mean, we roll on the floor laughing pretending to be turkeys wearing cow costumes and mooing. Ok, maybe you have to be there, but this is some hysterical stuff.
Not only does my hubby refuse to eat all impostor foods but he refuses to be an impostor himself. He has an unusual lack of concern about what others think of him and has never (to my knowledge) considered changing. He is a very cerebral man, quiet, and observant. So, he’s is often misjudged as introverted at best, and cold and arrogant at worst (and commonly). I know him to be silly, funny, insightful, generous, kind, and so much more. But it takes time to get to know him and he gives himself time to settle into a relationship before opening up. When he does though, he’s completely vulnerable and unguarded. This is his way, it’s who he is.
When my grandma first met him, she was certain that he was arrogant and likely hated her. She didn’t particularly care because she knew he was a good man and I was happy and loved. He was quick to tell her that he loved her by association and very much valued, supported, and adored my relationship with her. But her opinion was pretty set. It took the usual amount of time for him to open up to her. He never thought to change or pretend to be someone he’s not. He knows who he is, and he knows that to pretend to be anything other than that is betraying himself and doing his relationships a disservice.
True connection requires both people to show up as their authentic selves. I mean, at the end of the day, do you really care how many people like or approve of the fake you? I would argue that people who like turkey “pretending” to be beef might not like turkey at all, they might, in fact just like ground meat of any kind. You deserve to be accepted and loved for who you are, not for who other’s want you to be. When you don’t show up as your true self you rob people of this opportunity and you rob the world of your voice and talents. If you’re really concerned about other people, not just their opinions, remind yourself that they deserve to know the real you!
It Doesn’t Change Who You Are
My brother hates chocolate. I mean, he loves me (even though I see myself as chocolate) but he doesn’t care for the food at all. It doesn’t matter how unpopular his opinion is. And it doesn’t matter how often people tell him he’s crazy. He’s not a fan of chocolate and never will be. The opinions of others don’t matter. At the end of the day, you have to live with yourself. You have to be proud of who you are and what you put into the world.
It doesn’t really matter how many people love, accept, and agree with you. What matters is that you love, accept, and agree with you. And let me clarify further by saying that even if everyone else thinks you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread and you don’t or you know that you’re hiding who you really are, it’s going to suck. And it’s going to perpetuate a cycle in which you’re consistently trying to win the approval of others and suffer from low self-esteem.
The most challenging thing about overcoming OPO isn’t handling the criticism (as we all fear). It’s handling the praise. It can become easy to fall into the bad habit of seeking the validation and approval of others. And that path leads to only one place… worrying about OPO. It’s most important to be diligent about doing self-checks rather than relying on others. Ask yourself, am I happy with what I’m doing? Am I living my truth? Am I proud of myself? Not because of other people’s feedback but because I know in my heart, I’m doing my best. It’s nice to have others tell you what a great job you’re doing at life but it’s important that it doesn’t matter to you any more than people telling you you’re stinking it up.
If you love chocolate 90% of people will tell you, you’re right. They’ll be like “YES! Chocolate is the BEST!” That isn’t because it actually is the best. It’s because they agree with you. Which is about them. It’s not about you at all. So, don’t make it about you! If someone can’t stand you or what you’re doing that’s about them. Likewise, if they love you and what you’re doing, it’s also about them. Other people’s opinions aren’t just not your business, they aren’t about you at all. They are created by their own experiences, preferences, limitations, fears, etc. You aren’t responsible for that, can’t change it, and definitely shouldn’t embrace it.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Am I proud of myself?
- Am I doing my best?
- Is this really about me?
- Is this mine to change?
- Am I being true to myself?
These are the questions that will keep you from caving to OPO for praise, people pleasing, or any other reason.
Find Your Place
The greatest tip to overcome worry about OPO is to find your place. Figuring out where you fit and creating connection with likeminded people is tremendously beneficial. I mean, seriously, chocolate doesn’t belong in every dish. Imagine chocolate in hummus or spaghetti sauce… yuck! No one is going to like that (well maybe not “no one”).
Those who are also working to live authentically will appreciate you doing so as well. They may not always agree with you and some might not even like you, but they will understand and appreciate the effort. It helps keep you accountable to surround yourself with other’s who are on a similar path. Think of it as a gym buddy for your soul. Look for people who are showing up in real ways, perhaps people with similar passions. Be honest with them. Allow them to question you and inspire you.
The World Needs You
Imagine a world without chocolate. I know… a nightmare, right! Even if you don’t like it you know it’s beloved by many and can’t imagine not having it. In some ways, even though it’s not a health food, it’s essential. Culturally, chocolate is a part of all our lives. You’re like that too! You’re essential! You showing up as your true and authentic self matters. The world needs you, needs your voice, and needs your talents. We are all interconnected which means, you’re a part of all our lives. Because the truth is, there will never be another you! You matter! And remembering that just might be the best way to stop worrying about OPO for good!