What others think of you is none of your business! Seriously!!
A common trap we all fall victim to is to grieve over the perceptions that others have of us. For some strange, inexplicable reason, what others think of us, always, matters more than what we think of ourselves. And while these opinions, that others have of us, cause us untold hurt and, often, suffering, we still continue to give them the importance that they absolutely, simply, don’t deserve.
There are only two kinds of opinions. One that creates value – which is, when you heed them, they help you become a better person, professional and human being. The other kind debilitates. It hurts. It is the second category of opinions that we must be wary of. We can’t escape them. But we sure can choose not to let them affect us when they are thrown at us!
I learnt this lesson the hard way in Life. For a long, long time, well into my late thirties, I would hurt from others’ opinions of me. Which, predictably, varied from the banal to the absurd. I would work hard at clarifying to people who had read me wrong or strive, even harder, to change their opinion of me. In trying to do all this I would grieve and suffer endlessly. Then, one morning, I read this quote by the famous philosopher and thinker Jiddu Krishnamurthi (1895~1986): “The ability to observe oneself without evaluating is the highest form of human intelligence.” I remember that I was in the middle of my daily practice of mouna – observing an hour of silence. My business had collapsed. There was no money to even support the family. I had to deal with a lot of creditors – each of whom were driven by their urgency to recover their money that was stuck with me/in our business. So, each one employed a different method to force me and my business to pay up. A common approach many used was to accuse me of being a cheat. It was humiliating at one level and very, very painful at another. Soon the perception that I may be faking a financial crisis spread to my own family. And when I was called a cheat among people with whom I shared a blood relation, I was devastated. That was when I came by Jiddu Krishmamurthi’s quote. I read it a few times that morning. Then it struck me that if one had to ‘rise’ above judging oneself, in order to stay anchored and peaceful, what purpose did it serve to worry about others’ opinions of you? In a flash I awakened to the pointlessness of it all.
Ever since, I have let my awareness build a protective shield around me. People still opinionate about me, my actions and my Life. These opinions come flying at me. But they bounce off my awareness – unable to touch me or affect me.
A few weeks back, a close friend, called me a ‘coward’. He called me a ‘coward’ because I was not willing to debate a point of view with him. He shared this opinion of me over facebook chat with me. I simply pasted a smiley emoticon as my reply to his unsolicited opinion. I am not sure what he made out of my benign response. It doesn’t matter to me at all though. But another mutual friend, who heard of this other friend’s effort to “chat” me up, called me and asked me not to take the latter’s actions seriously. This is what I told that friend: “Choosing not to enjoin in a pointless debate is not cowardice.” I was only expressing myself. But my caller friend summed it up brilliantly: “As long as we are sure of what we are doing and are at peace with ourselves, it shouldn’t really matter how people perceive us.”
That is so true. And that’s all there is to it! Let people keep judging and opinionating. If their opinions are constructive, take them on board. If they are aimed at only causing you insult and injury – beware! You can’t stop them from coming at you. But you can well choose to ignore them! An opinion that you don’t allow to affect you is nothing but a harmless heap of words. You give that heap the stature of an insult and the power to injure you by taking it seriously!