New Castle News

August 13, 2012

Lisa Madras: The only opinion about you that matters is your own

Lisa Madras
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Does it really matter what someone else thinks about you?

A much overused phrase in my vocabulary when giving others advice is "Stop worrying so much about what other people think about you!"

I tell my children this every time they complain about a schoolmate or friend who has offered up a cutting dose of name-calling. I advise my own friends to stop pandering to finger-pointing ex's and to quit trying to live-up to the office Barbies.

But, as you all know by now, I have a bad habit of not following my own advice. A million times I've said, "Be yourself!", "Stop justifying your actions to him!", or "Your true friends like you for who you are!" But push comes to shove, and I find myself constantly worrying about the image I project. Am I nice enough, pretty enough, smart enough, professional enough, talented enough...the list is endless, and impossible to keep up with.

Trying to make every person you know understand that you're a nice/pretty/smart/professional/talented person is EXHAUSTING. It's also about as useless as displaying a prized photograph inside of a basement cupboard.

As luck would have it though, just when I needed a lesson the most, the universe felt compelled to drop it right into my lap.

Recently I went through the heartbreaking demise of a three-year long romance.  As the breakup unfolded, I spent about a week and half trying to convince this man that I wasn't a villain for ending this relationship. I even went so far as to talk to his mother to make sure SHE didn't think I was a villain, either.

Brilliant and perceptive woman that I am, it only took about a half a dozen cold and demeaning texts and emails from the ex for me to have what was apparently my first halfway intelligent thought in the past three years:  What did I care what this man thought? What difference could it possibly make in my life now?

Not one bit, I realized. What an incredibly freeing notion! And suddenly I understood the truth behind the two-cents I'd been giving everyone all these years. People will believe you to be exactly who and what they WANT to believe you are, and trying to prove them wrong is a colossal waste of time and energy.

I had wanted desperately to hold onto a friendship with this man, partly because I hate cutting people out of my life, but mostly because I truly valued our friendship and wanted him to remain a part of my life.

But my rationale and intellect coupled with his cold indifference made me realize that to him, I would never be anything more than a woman who had provoked his outrage. That's okay, and that's his image of me to carry within him, but it doesn't have a thing to do with my reality, or the me I know I really am.

At times in our lives, we have to question our own motivations as to why we try so hard to live up to others' expectations. There really is no good that can come from that thought process.

We should all work to be proud of what we represent: Am I caring enough, kind enough, friendly enough, helpful enough, compassionate enough? If these are the qualities that you project to the world, then the people who are worth having in it will naturally think great things about you, without you having to work for their approval.

So I'm going to say it one more time, just for good measure. "Stop worrying about what other people think about you!"

The only person's approval you should be fighting for is your own. You'll soon come to find that the people still around you are the only ones who should really be there in the first place.