Today’s invitation is to reconsider this mindset mantra with me:
What other people think of you is none of your business.
Before I tell you what I think, let me ask you- what’s up with it, do you reckon?
I wonder if you’re noticing themes when we look at any of these statements that are immortalised by Canva and Word Swag graphics all over instagram? What might those themes be? I’d love for you to take a moment’s pause before scrolling on down, to check in with what YOU notice.
Here’s what I’m seeing and saying about this…
1. Oversimplification of actually very complex dynamics.
2. Lack of context for those dynamics.
3. Instructional/ directive format/ illusion of certainty.
4. Individualistic/ neoliberal vibes (you’re responsible for you, fuck everyone else)
And, for balance, what’s actually helpful about it?
When I’ve said stuff like this in the past, I’ve been trying to reassure someone who is struggling with being judged, or fearing being judged. I’ve been seeking to encourage them to give more weight to their own opinions and feelings about their choices than someone else’s, especially if those other people don’t know them well, and/ or there is no appetite for closeness or resolution between them going forwards.
Women and other marginalised groups are BOMBARDED by judgement all day, every day. Our bodies, our parenting, our money, our work, our sex lives, our voices, our homes, etc. YES- I GET IT. Sometimes it would feel AMAZING to just… switch off all that noise.
I think that mostly, when we use this kind of mindset mantra, we are seeking to permit ourselves and each other to tune out the external noise, and tune into what’s right for us. Sounds good!
AND. How do we know what’s right for us? Babes, we do not exist within a vacuum. Each of us is part of something more- families of various structures, neighbourhoods, workplace teams, friendship groups, communities- society. I know that it often feels like it would be so great to opt out. To run away and start a commune with a few dear pals in the woods. Even then, we would probably want to access some public services at some time. Healthcare, for example.
Whether we like it or not (and I know there’s a lot not to like), we are part of this society, and it is part of us.
How do we know what sort of contribution we are making to it if we do not hear from people with different experiences from ours? How are we invited to improve our efforts if not by becoming aware of a critique of the ways in which we currently participate? If we only acknowledge the endorsements we receive (and let’s face it, none of us are going round with our fingers in our ears refusing to make it our business when someone tells us they think we are excellent), how can we cultivate any healthy perspective on the part we play?
I also think there’s something being missed when we commit to this way of life.
We seem to be missing the fact that our ideas about what are right, correct, good, satisfying ways to go about life do not emerge spontaneously from our DNA. Any ‘knowing’ we have about what is right or wrong, good or bad, etc, comes from our experiences. Childhood, family, school, friends, religions, workplaces, the internet, books, documentaries, magazines, etc.
I feel as thought when we say ‘what other people think of me is none of my business’, what we are really saying is ‘what people (outside of the groups who currently agree with me) think of me is none of my business’. And I think it could be helpful not to ignore the fact that retaining the approval of members of your existing groups might be playing a part in any closed mindedness you might feel compelled to participate in.
I was scrolling back through my instagram the other week looking for something funny, and instead I found a cringemaker. In the comments underneath this poorly informed post I’d done was a disapproving comment from someone I barely knew at the time. We had a bit of back and forth, and I remember feeling flustered about the whole thing, convinced I was being misunderstood or misrepresented or both. She was telling me she thought I was wrong, and I was concluding that she was also saying I was not intelligent, or caring, etc.
I could have just written that off as NONE OF MY BUSINESS. I wanted to, God I really, really wanted to.
But I didn’t. I thought about it, and thought about it, and thought about it.
I thought about
- what was actually being said, and what meaning making was only happening inside my own brain
- the point she was making
I argued with her in my mind for a bit. I started looking into my ‘side’ of the argument more, expecting to find evidence to support my take. Lo and behold, what I actually encountered was evidence that she was right.
This interaction prompted me to pivot my point of view, and the learning I’ve done about this topic since then has allowed me to see the world, my place in it, my parenting, my activism and my work very differently.
If I had written off this conflict as we are encouraged to in the online coaching space, I’d have concluded this person was maybe jealous of me, not as evolved as me, had internalised misogyny at play… etc. I would have had temporary relief and smug satisfaction. Instead I had massive short term discomfort, and long term fulfillment and gratitude.
So yes- we need tools to support us in moving through criticism and conflict. But those tools needn’t be used to build a brick wall between ourselves and those who critique us. We are losing opportunities to learn together.
Instead of ” what other people think of me is none of my business”, I’m playing with all of the below:
- what other people think of me is filtered through the lens of their life experiences
- what other people think of me provides insights about how well I am communicating
- what other people think of me is sometimes irrelevant
- what other people think of me is sometimes crucial to understand to maintain relationships
- what other people think of me is based on a tiny proportion of my behaviours and choices that are visible to them
- what other people think of me is usually temporary or changeable
I’d love to know if something here is helpful to you babes.