Jul 20, 2020

What Other People Think of You

by Aspen, Trainer of the Things

There is a quote I really love, and it has helped me a lot in my life. “What other people think of you is none of your business.”

I learned this when I was separating from my husband, working 70 hours a week, and had an infant at home. I had to take on all of his responsibilities at our store and my workload was awful between my full-time job and my business. My aunt volunteered to help take care of my four-month-old baby. Because I was working 12 hour days, I would call her in between jobs to check if she wanted me to pick up the baby and take it with me to the store. She always said no, and I was so grateful for her help. 

Then one day she came to me and told me she couldn’t watch my baby anymore, that it had been very unfair of me to expect it of her, and that I was extremely entitled to ask so much of her. I was SO hurt and confused about how I could be so misinterpreted. She had volunteered every single time, I had reassured her it wasn’t necessary, that I would figure out something else if it was too much for her, and regularly checked in to make sure I wasn’t asking too much. I called my mom, my aunt’s sister, and asked tearfully if I was acting entitled. My mom laughed and said I was the least entitled person she knew. We talked through it and she helped me realize that my aunt was putting her own unresolved trauma onto me and that her interpretation of me, clouded as it was with her own issues, was not even close to reality. 

That was one of the most hurtful, but eye-opening experiences I have ever had. It helped me understand for the first time why you really shouldn’t care what people think of you because they see you through a lens that is shaped by their reality, not yours. So it is rare that they see you clearly for who you are. 

The reverse is also true. Along with “What other people think of you is none of your business,” goes “What you think of other people is none of their business.” I have recently seen a number of posts online of well-meaning family members seeking out individuals whose choices they disagree with. Whether it was getting a tattoo, leaving a religion, or choosing a lifestyle the family member didn’t agree with, the family member would write their deepest expressions of concern that the person’s choice would, usually, lead to eternal damnation. This is not helpful or appropriate to express to the family member making choices you disagree with. People’s choices are their own. Believing you have the right to let them know you disapprove is entitled, and only hurts the relationship. It does nothing to change their behavior - in fact, feeling unaccepted by family means they are less likely to be influenced in the future. 

I am not talking about if someone is very close to you and can lovingly help you recognize your own shortcomings, giving kind feedback that can actually benefit you. That is a different story and worth taking under advice. It’s when someone has an opinion of you that they share inappropriately or judgementally that is a problem. It’s ok to kindly let them know that’s not appropriate. What they think of you and your choices are none of your business. If they try to make it your business, you have the right to let them know they crossed a line and establish a boundary for your relationship.