I believe that we generally waste a great deal of our emotional energy when we worry about the opinions of others. It is a sad fact, but we are raised with the idea that what others think of us is important. We also believe that our standing in society is determined by something external to ourselves.
Imagine if we could raise children with such a strong belief in themselves that they don’t need to seek validation external to themselves. I’m really not sure if this is possible in the society that we have created. Sadly, we have created a society where we have isolated ourselves and we are taught from a very young age to compete.
This is why I believe we yearn to go back to how we lived when we lived in small communities and villages.
When we lived in small communities and villages, we needed to cooperate with each other, and we did what was best for the greater good of the village. When we moved away from village life, we created an isolated and competitive lifestyle which doesn’t serve anyone.
For this reason I have devised some tools for myself to help me integrate this new lifestyle and place emphasis where emphasis is required. For example, I can avoid being offended or hurt by the statement of another if I use a symbolic target to demonstrate or pinpoint where that individual actually fits in my life.
For this exercise I have used a multi-colored target. Let’s start with the very center of our target – the yellow bullseye. In the yellow bullseye are all the people that I care deeply about. These are my very close friends and dearest family members. I care deeply about their opinions and input from the people in the bullseye of my target. I would be upset if I hurt their feelings and what happens in their lives is important to me. These are relationships I nurture and take great care of. These are the people that care about me and I care about them.
These are people who I know have my back and who’s backs I have.
Now we move to the red part of my particular target. These are people that are still close to me, I care about them we go out together have meals together and they had fun together. their opinions are important to me and their advice is valuable and important. People might move from the red part of my target into the yellow part or even further away depending on what’s happening in my life, or in their lives. Sometimes circumstances change, people move away, or we just simply outgrow each other – and that is perfectly okay.
Now we have the people in my life in the blue part of my target. These are acquaintances, people I work with, the local person at my grocery store, or the person behind the counter at Pick n Pay that I generally greet and say hello to. Although I am agreeable and friendly to people in the blue circle of my target, their opinions generally do not influence my life and I’m not really affected by things they say or do.
Now we come to the black part of my target these are random people that I encounter on a daily basis. They may comment on my Facebook posts or I could be sitting at an adjacent table at a restaurant, or any other random individual that crosses my path.
These are the people whose opinions don’t matter at all.
If we can get to a point where we understand that it’s only the first two circles in our target of people who we interact with, whose opinions should bother us, or whose advice we will take or whom we care deeply about, we can let go very simply and very easily of those random opinions of others that should really not affect us at all.
Let me give you an example. After writing and having my first book published a comment was glibly posted on Facebook saying, “Don’t think you’re God because you have written one book.” Initially I was quite taken aback by this comment and then I remembered my target. I could comfortably ask myself which area of my target does this person reside in? once I put that in perspective, I could let it go.
This person did not even make it onto my metaphorical target, therefore her opinion is of no consequence to me.
This does not mean that one has to be a victim of the opinions or hurtful comments of those in the first two circles of our target. This is where true authenticity comes into play. If we are hurt or offended by the people closest to us, we can indeed learn to point it out kindly and with compassion and discuss the issue clearly, without causing further hurt or pain. It is very often our inability to raise a painful subject with compassion and understanding that creates conflict within our close relationships.
I hope the metaphor of a target helps you to decide whose opinions you will attach value to and whose opinions you won’t. It is very liberating too let go of the opinions of others.