It’s your life
We all care far too much about what other people think of us. I would like to think that after all my years of training and working as a mental health professional that I would be a lot better at following my own inner wisdom. I do however still catch myself worrying about what other people think. It seems that it is an inevitable part of life but it is not something that we cannot challenge and learn to minimise in our lives. When I catch myself altering my behaviour and not doing what I want to do because of what others might think, it leads to self-doubt and indecisiveness. I also see it in my clients-many of whom experience incredible stress and anxiety due to the forceful opinions of family and friends.
What tends to happen is that we feel judged, and family members especially, who know us well, tend to be especially effective at belittling us and making us feel “less than”. Family members can be adept at knowing our insecurities and playing upon these fears.
The trick to counteracting the judgements of others is to learn how to care less and to build a strong inner core for yourself. This entails possessing a strong identity, having clear goals and purpose and above all accepting yourself for who you are. The more we believe in ourselves and like ourselves the less likely we are to be persuaded by others. Humans are social creatures and it is normal and natural to seek advice and support from other people. It is when the influence of other people diminishes us that it is unhealthy. Learn to identify when this is happening-figure out who the toxic people are in your life. Often when we have been in the company of toxic people, we come away feeling exhausted, confused and drained.
Here are some tips on feeling stronger within yourself. This can help you to live a life more in line with your own values and priorities-remember that it’s your life. You are the one that has to live it every day, you know yourself better than anybody else does (even if they pretend to know you better than you know yourself) and you owe it to yourself to live the life that you want, not the life that others want for you.
1) Look at the source
Whenever you’re criticised or judged by someone else, make sure that you study the person making the comments. Are they perfect? Do they have their lives completely together? Are they happy? In all likelihood you will find that they are just as flawed as the rest of us. One thing that they will probably be very good at is judging others as well as foisting their opinions on others. Critical people often use deflection or projection as a way to focus attention away from themselves. Some people believe that attack is the best form of defence.
One of my favourite quotes is by Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”. Remember this quote it will come in handy.
2) Trust your instincts
we all have in the wisdom and sadly as we become adults this powerful in a resource becomes diluted. This is due to social conditioning, the pressure to conform, the pressure to please and needs to feel loved and accepted by others. We are taught as children to change our behaviour in order to be socially acceptable. Part of this process involves knocking down our inner desires and replacing them with ones that others deem more acceptable. This process knocks our confidence and promotes low self-esteem, lack of self belief and a load of self-doubt. Part of developing yourself as a strong and connected human involves reconnecting with your essential self. Your essential self is the person that you were naturally meant to become. Your social self is the adult that you grow to become that fits in and plays by the rules. Naturally we all have to abide by certain rules of the world would be chaos at this process can damage the delicate ones amongst us who begin to lose their own sense of identity. Make a list of the things that you enjoyed doing as child, the things that you are good at and are still good at. Notice your natural inclinations-do you enjoy company would you prefer being alone? Do you value money, people, peace and quiet…? Reconnecting with your true self is an integral part of building your confidence. This will lead you to feeling stronger about where you are going and what you want to do with your life even in the face of critical family members and friends.
3) Nurture your self belief
Remember that no one has all the answers. Your ideas and opinions about the board are just as valid as anyone else’s. Focus on all the times in your life that you have surprised yourself in a positive way. I was not very good at maths at school and came to believe that I was just useless when it came to numbers. Then in my early years of working I had to attend an airline fares course with the mathematical equations were incredibly complex. I had no one to help me as I was staying in a hotel away from home and decided that it was completely up to me to pass this course I spent every night in the hotel reading and going back over the day’s work. At the end of the course, I ended up with one of the highest scores in class. I was absolutely amazed. All that time I had spent with the self-limiting belief that I was useless at maths was not entirely correct. Self belief is a dynamic concept as it cannot always be at 100%. But we can constantly work at challenging our negative thoughts about ourselves. Who says that your way isn’t the right way? Where is it written that you are doing things wrong? Then to live your life with conviction and even if you make mistakes along the way, at least you are trying and hopefully learning from your mistakes.
4) Stop being a people pleaser
We all have it in us to want to please others. When that need to please others comes before our own self-worth it is unhealthy. It is the facts that you will never be able to please everybody so you may as well start learning to please yourself. There will always be two groups out there, no matter what you do. There will be those that support you and those that disagree with you. Accept it and get on with your life. The more you try to please others the more you send yourself a message that you are not worthy on some levels. That message can be different for each of us. Learn to identify why you want to please someone else. Are you doing it for the sheer joy of it are you doing its two-game validation or approval? Doing it for the sheer joy healthy, doing it for approval can lead you into problems.
5) Create goals and have purpose in life
When we have an idea of where we’re going and what we want in life, especially when those goals are as specific as possible (SMART goals) it can help us stay on course in the face of criticism and disapproval. When we have set goals for ourselves on meaningful and in line with our values, we have a sense of purpose to carry us through even when the going gets tough.
No one has the right to tell you how to live your life and you need to regularly remind yourself that you often know what is best for you. Have faith in your ideas and beliefs. Be assertive in the face of criticism. Being passive (your needs are more important than mine), as in not responding at all to toxic people will eat away at your self-esteem. Being aggressive (my needs are more important than yours) will cause unnecessary stress and conflict in your life. Get the balance right by adopting a “win-win” attitude. This approach looks at how both parties can get their needs met. Sometimes however, when toxicity levels are high, the best way forward is to limit your time with these people or possibly avoid them altogether.
No one wants to look back on their life and feel it was wasted. Use your time well by being true to yourself. Know where you want to be and who you are. It is good to get advice and to connect with others-we all need this must be wary of the toxic ones around you have their own agenda. Take your power back and own your life.