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What Others Think of You is None of Your Business

“What other people think about you is none of your business.” One of my readers wrote that in the comments one day and I’ve thought about it a lot since then. Is it really none of my business what other people think about me? The answer is, absolutely, 100%, without a doubt yes. And it is none of your business what anybody else thinks about you, either. And I mean anybody.

There are a few big reasons, to me, why this statement is true.

First, no matter how hard we try, it is nearly impossible to keep the negative voices of others from affecting us in some way. No matter how thick of shells we put on, no matter how strong we think we are, and no matter how impervious to the negativity of others we believe ourselves to be, the negative or hurtful voices of others will find ways to creep in. As we strengthen ourselves and learn to keep what others think out, those voices and opinions have a way of occasionally blindsiding us. I don’t believe any of us are ever completely immune to it.

Take, for example, dating. I am generally very confident when it comes to dating. I believe that I’m attractive and sexy, I believe that I’m worthy, I believe that I’m a good guy, I believe that I’m intelligent, I believe that I am ambitious enough, I believe I am a great catch. This confidence usually helps in that I don’t believe any woman is out of my league, I don’t believe any woman is too good for me, and I don’t believe there is a reason for any woman I take out not to like me. This is not to say that I’m cocky or arrogant, in fact I’m very much the opposite. It’s just to say that I am confident and that that confidence really tends to help me get and have some great dates.

A little while back, I was visiting my brother and his family in England. I have always been close to him and his wife. They are people I love and respect.

Before making the trip, I called my brother and told him we should all go on a double date while I was out there and asked him if there were any women he could set me up with. He mentioned the name of a drop-dead gorgeous girl that I had met some years previously and he said he would arrange it. I told him to go for it.

I arrived in England and he hadn’t made the arrangements yet, nor had he talked to his wife about it (who happens to be best friends with this woman). So, I brought it up myself and told his wife that we should make it happen. Her immediate response was hard laughter followed by a fairly rude “you and her… uhhh… no. There’s no way you two would work.”

Kick me between the legs.

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153 comments
BS_Detector_2011
BS_Detector_2011

Actually, I disagree with the premise that what other people think of you is none of your business.  If we all behaved that way, no one would ever change habits or practices that were annoying, rude or hurtful.  I agree that such a premise should not drive your life, but reputation is important, and knowing what someone else thinks about you might just be the impetus you needed to make a change that will improve your life and your relationships.   Certainly you need to take what people think about you with a grain of salt; knowing yourself, identifying your own values, and living by them in the best way you know how is part of "growing up."  However, most of us have mirrors in our homes for the simple reason that we need to know how we look to the outside world - listening to what others might wish to tell us is another "mirror" that can help us become better people. 

SanDiegoK8
SanDiegoK8

Agreed! We have a little league President who is letting what others think eat away at him and affect his life, to the point of him counting the days down to closing ceremonies for our season where he will no longer be our President and his son will no longer play for the league. How sad! He has gone too far to try and prove to others around him that he is a great guy by divulging confidential information about others to prove his integrity. He has done everything but ignore it and have faith in himself as a person and leader. If he let these words become his mantra, he would be saved. Sadly instead, the demons won't stop talking in his head.  Just let go!

Anonymous
Anonymous

Awsome post.  =)  If I cared about what other people thought (or made it my business to care), then I would have never married my wonderful husband, had (2) cute little boys, been married on a different day (both my mom & his stepmom wanted us to get married on a different day that did not interfear with their schedules!), nor would we have moved to the other side of the state for our children's safety (big city vs. small town).  All of these choices were good, but people laughed and were negative about all of them.  And you know what?  We couldn't be happier.  =)

JoanieC
JoanieC

Everyone wants to be liked, but you should never change who you are in order to get people to like you. Dan, how do you know your sister in law thought this girl was to good for you? Maybe she simply thought it was just a mismatch of personalities, or drastic differences in beliefs. Your sister in law could/should have thought about the fact that it was a date, not a marriage proposal. However, since you were there when you found that the arraingements had not been made.....you could have picked up the phone and asked Lauren herself if she would like to join you for the date.

RebeccaDalmas
RebeccaDalmas

One way to look at the 5-percenters, they may be right, or insightful, and even absolutely necessary on a social level.  Humans likely have an instinctive reflex to be suspicious of popular things, and to sometimes be the contrarian, and that helps us stay alive, on our toes, always be discontent with what we've learned so far and hungry to know more. 

Relish the dissenters.  Relish the enriching insights you gain.  Relish your own state of imperfection, relish your learning process.  Relish the diversity of views and ideas in this messy world.

MarySwisherUltz
MarySwisherUltz

I think you're absolutely correct!!!!  I do my best NOT to care what others think. I know how awesome and sweet and funny I am - if a little rough and crass around the edges.  I do wear a bra to WalMart.  I also stay out of the gossip circles.  I only have to answer to my God.  The rest of the world can go f....oops, Uh, jump in a lake.  I like me and if you're smart - you'll like me too.  And sometimes personalities collide and that's OK too.  Not everyone can appreciate my awesomeness - or yours!


VirgiePHebert
VirgiePHebert

Well, I completely agree with you. I have a brillant 11 yr old daughter who continues to be bullied by her peers. I've tried explaining to her about providing no reactions, as I  was a school teacher for 17 yrs. The bullying can be reported but it happens daily in subtle ways and eats at her self-confidence. I believe sharing your writing will help her. As to some of the other comments posted here well we all know the world isnt black and white and by the time we are adults we've realized what you have written is true and we have all developed our own personal coping skills to deal with the percentage of individuals we can not please in any given social setting.

JoanneMalone
JoanneMalone

It would be nice if people kind of adopted this in a reverse way and said "What I think of other people is none of their business, so I should keep my opinions to myself." It really has been freeing for me to realize that you can't change other people. Not that I was going around trying to change people and make them better according to me. But, when some one wasn't treating me right, or had unfair opinions of me I felt like I had to defend myself, and right their opinions. That I needed to change them so that they could see they were wrong about me. Now I just don't care so much. They are who they are and I have to accept them where they are (even if that means they think things about me that are not accurate, or I have to accept things about them I don't like) or it's time to move on. I want people to take me where I am, and to be fair I have to take them where they are. If I can't it's better to walk away then to secretly (or openly) judge them. 

JessieOrmistonHarlan
JessieOrmistonHarlan

I really needed this today.  Occasionally, I start to get in the mindset of "Nobody here really likes me.  They're just nice because it's unprofessional not to be.  They're all talking about me behind my back."  Maybe they are.  Probably, they're not.  But either way, it's none of my business, and if I conduct myself as if there is no problem, then there's no reason why there should be.

Kathleen B Shannon
Kathleen B Shannon

It is a fine line, and perhaps would be better served to be made more bold.  It is hurtful to not receive the praise and approval of one's parents.  I have had to counsel many in that regard, yet still find myself to be vulnerable to the same concept.  I have tons of people (many who are very near and dear to me) who are cheering me on, so happy for me, etc.  Not Mom.  Nope.  Every possible bullet she could create to destroy me, every completely untrue assumption she has about me, and other types of vitriol has poured forth from her from the get-go.  It hurts.  Deeply.  Maybe more than it "should."  Maybe it is time that I do set firm and bold boundaries with her...

elle
elle

This sounds swell...Except maybe for that person standing on a ledge or a bridge, whose life might be saved by what someone thinks of them. Or that kid with emotionally abusive parents who never learned to think for himself or to love himself and needs the support of other people who care. In other words, this is swell if you're great and you know it. OR...it's also swell if you're an asshole and don't want to admit it. Ha! I can Hear you. I'm not grouchy and negative. It's just that the world is multicolored, not black and white. :)

5 percent Club
5 percent Club

I'll be part of that 5% you speak of for the moment and offer an opinion on your opinion, which of course isn't any of your business.   Confidence is great. We all need it.    What others think about me IS my business in certain situations like my career.  If I didn't care what my clients or my bosses think about me, I'd probably be a janitor or mail clerk instead of an up and coming  manager.  If I didn't care about what my significant other thinks about me, I'd have stopped trying so hard to make her happy a long time ago because it's none of my business that she thinks I'm selfish and and not loving.  If I didn't care about what my friends think about me, I'd probably not try to be their friends because their feelings of me being arrogant and a snob isn't any of my business according to your belief.   And I do care what my family thinks of me, well because I love them and want them to love me.  They're my family after all.

Where I start to agree with "What others think about you is none of your business," is with everyone else that I didn't mention.

Lastly, I just find it funny how you preach about not prodding others for their opinions yet end the with a P.S. asking us about our opinions on the article.  If what I'm writing is none of your business, you just wasted 5 minutes of my morning but I'm going to believe that that's none of my business because with all due respect, you're neither my boss, my lover, friend or family.

 

Regards,

 

Member of the 5% Club

Fedelynn
Fedelynn

Dan, I have a problem with this: "Along this line, we also shouldn’t prod people to tell us why they think what they think. We shouldn’t press others to repeat something when they begin speaking and then quickly say “never mind.”  We shouldn’t demand to know people’s reasons for disagreeing. We should simply accept people’s disagreements as natural and okay, and completely unrelated to what we should be doing or thinking on our own." 

 

WHAT IF the potential date is an abuser and I didn't know because i didn't want to ask?

HSMex
HSMex

Thanks, nice article, I would like to add:

 

I am ashamed but recently i did something really wrong because of my lack of confidence, i stole a conversation from a friend, a great friend in fact, i am friends with his ex-girlfriend, i knew her from before, and she casually told me he was not ok with me going out with her, not in a date but justg the fact that we were alone, he is a great friend but i could shake te feeling that maybe he was saying some nasty thinkgs about me to her, so she would stay away from me.

 

After i took the conversation from his phone i felt so bad, i could not even bring myself to actually check it, mostly out of fear of being caught, which i was, i knew it was a question of time really, the fact that he doesn't hate me helps, but that doesn't change the fact that i betrayed him just because of what he might think of me, this need to know, this desire to find out, can be really harmful.

MLibbyDP
MLibbyDP

Just thought about this again today, and I had to laugh, because something about the post hit me wrong when I first read it, but today I realized it falls exactly into how I deal with my work relationships. I couldn't care less to know what my coworkers think of me. :)

NicholasScull
NicholasScull

Great stuff. I'm going through a similar internal battle with wondering what my conservative Catholic father is going to think of our informal, nondenominational, outdoor wedding. He's threatened to not come for several different reasons, but when it came down to it he rsvp'd. So I begun to worry about what he was going to think (the bulk of it isn't much of a guessing game here), and then it hit me: screw what he thinks. And not so much of an angry screw it, but more of a sigh of relief. It's OUR wedding. We're grown adults, and all that really matters is what the wedding does for our relationship. The bigger part for me was also the realization that he was a part time (like a weekend every 2-3 months) parent. Given that he didn't really put in the effort to help me become the man I am, why should I worry about what he thinks? It's pretty freeing and I can begin to shut the voices out as you put it. Most of the time, people with negative opinions won't share them with you anyway. That would take courage, which the naysayers tend to lack overall.

Breanna Chanson
Breanna Chanson

Dude, how did you get so smart?! I mean we've all heard the "don't care what anyone thinks of us speech" before, but I'll be damned if I've ever heard one that makes this much logical sense! And it couldn't come at a better time for me as I recently had my most biting piece of criticism aimed at my heart, I mean my blog, that came from a respected and loved source. But I really can apply everything you've said here to my situation and guess what? The things you've said prove both helpful and true! (Don't worry, I'm not shocked, I'm just impressed).

 

The point about the 2 and 5% was my favorite part- it's just so "duh" and yet it felt like new information to me. I will try to remember that the next time someone decides there's an open invitation on scrutinizing everything from my wardrobe to the condition of my soul just because they read a few lines of my thoughts. It's good to know those kinds of people and responses are inevitable no matter who is speaking and no matter what is being said... I think my recovery from the hater comments will go much smoother if I can learn to see it that way! The other thing I liked the most about his was how you were able to do it from a non-bitter/anger perspective, because that is what makes this different from (and more helpful than) 99% of speeches on this topic. I know there was some hurt involved, but it's encouraging to see that it can be worked through and seen from the kind of perspective that is transforming. You've decided to control your beliefs and perceptions since you can't control the world around you and that's an amazing thing to be a third party observer of, so thanks for sharing!

 

I so appreciate your thoughts (on all things, but on this subject in particular at the moment). I love how you help us apply the left sides of our brains to things that are often considered right brained concepts (like applying logic to our feelings). Using our WHOLE brain?! Who would've ever guessed that could be helpful?! So thanks for keeping it factual and showing us all that we can get over the opinions of others in an emotionally healthy and logical way.  Your story here was such a good example to me. More power to you, brother.

SourCandyFan
SourCandyFan

So true. A (young) friend of mine once made this statement and I've found the perspective liberating ever since. Another statement I once heard that is equally empowering ... "You can think I'm out of my mind, but I'm really just out of yours." - Todd White

Kaitlin1
Kaitlin1

I love this post.  So often I worry about what others think.  Why...I don't know?!?  Thanks for the wonderful words to think about.

Denise Murphy
Denise Murphy

I don't understand why I only get some of your blogs...I've subscribed and "liked" you but still get maybe only one out of four. Oh well, I wil just have to remember to visit your page more often! Your blogs always resonate with my soul...and this was no exception. I recently had an experience where i had simply asked for someone's opinion, an found out later he was bragging that he had told me what was what and how to run my area, that he had really "put me in my place". I had "proven" him wrong plenty of times, because I did not agree with him and simply continued to run things the way I felt necessary, but that did not matter...to him. It was actually freeing to learn it...now I feel no need to "visit" this person.. But, it was something I've learned the hard way. When you're a "nice" person, some people think they can run over you. And your job is to teach them where the wall is. People will treat you how you allow them to treat you. Thank you, for sharing your amazing perceptions on this issue!

Colyn Falk
Colyn Falk

I always find myself looking for approval. You know that head nod from others that implies 'Yea, she really did do it.' My expectations of myself alone are alarming. :-)

T.D.Richards
T.D.Richards

I have always thought of myself as someone who doesn't care what others think.  Recently I have discovered there is one exception: I care greatly about what others think when it comes to my intelligence.  I feel intellectually inferior to most everyone around me and I perceive others as treating me so.  Regardless of whether or not I am wrong in the last assumption (that others think of me as an idiot with nothing interesting to say), it is something I am currently working to change in my thought processes.  

 

That being said, I agree with most of this blog post.  However, I will say there are times when others opinions of you should be taken to heart.  Work and marriage relationships are two that I can think of.  Work, because if your boss thinks you are a bad employee, you may not be employed for very long.  Marriage relationships...I'll admit this is a bit rocky as not many marriages work out in the end.  I know this from experience.  I saw my parents go through a divorce.  In my opinion, they weren't right for each other to begin with.  :p  Anyway, in my opinion a healthy marriage relationship is built on love and communication.  That communication is fueled by occasional constructive feedback from both parties.  Constructive being along the lines of:  We are doing this well, we are doing this and it's not working so well, and this is what we need to do to improve.  I know I'm going into a gray area here, but really, I think, it just boils down to using judgement to know which opinions to listen to and which ones not to listen to (which is something I really have to ingrain into my own mind).  Sorry, I hope all of this makes sense.  I'm not very socially articulate.   

Janice Carlson
Janice Carlson

My bosses wife hates me. I've never had a conversation with this woman. It's her problem - not mine.

Julie Zimmer
Julie Zimmer

there is a quote that comes to mind: Don't let your peace depend upon the hearts of others. I think it means other people's assessments, good or bad, of you, are out there, but don't depend on that for your own assessment of your self worth. Let it be.

Robert McAllister
Robert McAllister

It has taken many years to fully realize that, if I want to be healthy and happy, I can't let myself worry about others' thoughts. I'm me, that's all.

Jenna Jones Paradis
Jenna Jones Paradis

That's one of those things that an insecure child and teen does, and for some they carry it into adulthood. I work with seniors, and I am amazed at how they have learned to shed the sensitivity to what other's think of them. They can be so blunt, and really tell it like it is without fear of other's reactions. It seems liberating somehow. As one told me, "If I can't say what I want now, when will I??" Of course being outspoken in word or action without concern for what others think can lead to being insensitive towards others.... and hurt feelings.... so it is a double edged sword.

Katie Harshman
Katie Harshman

I will be 27 next week and I often find myself still struggling with this like I used to in high school. Even worse now that I have children. What people think of my parenting, my kids, the weight I've gained, my abilities as a mom and wife. It's a hard thing to over come and I unfortunately don't know that from experience.

Ellie Hayden
Ellie Hayden

What others think is irrelevant if they don't really know you. Unless of course, the other is your boss, spouse, etc.

Julie York
Julie York

I was raised to be judgemental and has taken several life lessons not to be. I really do not care what people think of me although I do have a bit of insecurities from past reasons but proud of who I have become. I have learned the ones who do not like me is because I am not fake and I do not care ifcyou like me.

Colleen Carson
Colleen Carson

It's easy to say that it's none of my business when it is people not close to me. I've wasted so much of my life and said goodbye to so many dreams because of what my family thought of me. Many of my dreams as a kid/teen were shot down before I even had a chance to explore them because 2 people that loved me laughed about them, instead of supporting them. Now, after being at my lowest, I am about to embark on a path that can result in great happiness and the only person related to me by blood that knows is my son. When I realized not so long ago- at my lowest- what that did to my future when I was young, I vowed to never repeat that same mistake with him. When he asks my opinion, I give it in a positive manner and I never laugh at his dreams.

Stacey Clark
Stacey Clark

I used to struggle so much with this as 3 of my 4 kids are autistic. I once had a lady at a grocery store come up to me and tell me If I would only stop talking "baby talk" to my kids, maybe they could learned to speak better. I have never once in my life used baby talk with my kids. Another time a family member told me I needed to get "a better form of discipline" for my kids because obviously what I was doing was failing miserably. My kids were at a Thanksgiving get together with about 50 other relatives and they lost it before I could get them to a more secluded place. We haven't been back to a Thanksgiving since. There were MANY other instances, and whether I liked it or not, I had to develop a thick skin. When I was diagnosed with cancer, hubby had to become the "single dad" for about three years, he got a taste of it as well as I was 3 hours away getting the medical treatments I needed. Wherein I used to quietly just shake my head in amazement that people could be so cruel, my sweetheart told them in no uncertain terms to mind their own f* ing business. He was not popular, but people stopped being so blatantly critical of him. What people think of us in the privacy of their own homes or thought, well, we just couldn't care less.

Sean Lim
Sean Lim

Thanks for this great article

Michelle Gelli Ruiz
Michelle Gelli Ruiz

My biggest struggle is now that I'm 42, I realize that I wasted my 20's & most of my 30's building my life around what some shmuck-o at a bar or party thought of me. I based my evening's 'fun' on whether or not a doofus in a baseball hat smiled back at me, or if I was 'lucky' enough to give him my number. Advice: be happy with who you are & have fun with the people you are with. Stop scoping for The One. You'll find each other eventually.

Philip Francis
Philip Francis

I agree with all but one point of this one. I have a constant need for information therefore I virtually always want to know the precise reasoning when someone disagrees even if the answer is a simple as "I don't know, exactly." I have found that this sort of information, and the discussion thereof, is the only true way to understand anyone or any thing. Without it no one can say that they honestly know anyone. Some of the best friends I've had in life have been ones whom I could debate for hours with on any number of disagreeing topics. Excellent article as always. Keep up the good work.

Tanith Garner Reans
Tanith Garner Reans

Yes, unfortunately I struggle with this, almost on a daily basis :( Don't know how to break the cycle.....

Emily Deanne Ellsworth
Emily Deanne Ellsworth

No. I don't give a flip if someone doesn't like me. Obviously not everyone is going to like every single part of your personality or every decision you make. Oh well! lol

Stacey Lynn
Stacey Lynn

Opinions aren't necessarily always negative ... and hearing frequent positive opinions also has the potential to cause struggles. I have days where I just want to scream because people's high opinions make it next to impossible to convince them that you are 100% human and imperfect!

Linda Royer
Linda Royer

shared this on my page. just what I needed to read today.

Kat Greenwell Alder
Kat Greenwell Alder

Because of my past as a dancer and performer, I place WAY TOO much importance people's opinions of me, especially my appearance and demeanor. It's the only way I have gotten validation in the past, so I still seek it out. I wish I could be free of needing other people's approval (it is a ball and chain!) but I think that will be a lifelong struggle. I really liked this blog BTW, thanks! :)

Julie Thomson
Julie Thomson

Thank you, exactly what I needed to read this week :-)

Ray Liu
Ray Liu

I am not sure if i should give up to look for love.

Jessalynn Bills Speight
Jessalynn Bills Speight

i used to care a lot. then wheni started getting attacked for my adoption blog on a daily basis i had to just learn to not care at all.

JessieOrmistonHarlan
JessieOrmistonHarlan

@elle Don't forget...that kid on the ledge probably got there by putting too much stock into what people thought of him in the first place.  That's the point.

NicholasScull
NicholasScull

The song "Pork and Beans" by Weezer also comes to mind here. I recommend watching the music video, every single time these thoughts crop up.

RyanCarter1
RyanCarter1

 @T.D.Richards I have had friends and aquaintances tell me that they think that I try and belittle their intelligence. I never did this on purpose, but after being told this it made me change some things about myself. One of the most important changes I noticed was that I actually looked for how people were smarter than me. I now see intelligence as the ability to identify and solve problems. A lot of the time, I was solving problems for other people, without permission. I have always been good at solving problems that most other people weren't. On the other hand, most other people are good at solving problems that I am not. What I am trying to get at, is that you are not an idiot. Dont ever let anyone make you feel that way. If you find someone making you feel inferior, remember that you know things that they don't, and are capable of things that they aren't. And for the record, your intelligence shines through with your post.

tori
tori

@JessieOrmistonHarlan Abused children don't put themselves there by putting too much stock in anyone's opinion. Some people are bombarded with negative messages that they cannot escape or just decide to disregard whether its combined with a fist or the other person wont respect boundaries, at some point repeated negative messages can't just be disregarded or tuned out, and eventually they will become internalized. For those people being able to hear that they do matter, they are loved, they are good.... that can make all the difference. That doesn't mean the rest of us can't relax a little and start focusing on our own shit rather than letting what we assume others think to make us feel just as helpless.