It’s impossible to go through life and not encounter other people’s opinions. They’re everywhere. Like mindless zombies coming to eat your brains, they’re continually looming, ready to attack.
And if you’re not careful, you’re going to get eaten alive. Ok — enough with the zombie analogy but you get what I mean. If you’re not wary of how other people’s opinions are impacting you or if they’re even serving you, you’re going to be in for a lot of unnecessary pain from undeserving people.
But don’t give up — there is a shining light at the end of the zombie-infested tunnel, and it’s this: you get to decide the value of other people’s opinions. I’m sure you’re well aware by now that you create your own reality. You have a lot more control over your life than we’re lead to believe. And you get to decide how other people’s words affect you.
The question is, how though? What does that process look like? We have to be consciously aware of people’s opinions, but what do we do with them once we have them?
Start to notice how you feel
Awareness is always the first step. Start to see how you feel after your mom makes a comment about the fact that you haven’t married yet. Notice that feeling in your stomach when your best friend comments on your “boy crazy” antics.
Take note of your reaction to how your boss undermines the hard work you do with passive, back-handed compliments.
And take note of the good reactions too. How does it feel when someone lets you know how much of an impact you’re making on them? What’s your response to a loved one telling you hard you’re working?
Take note of all these feelings. They’ll be your launching pad for starting to determine the value of other’s opinions.
Evaluate from a place of curiosity, not reacting
Receive unsolicited advice from someone that makes us uncomfortable can make us feel defensive and become reactive. When we’re thrown a curveball of criticism, people often times create assumptions out of fear.
But if you react in a way that negates the other person’s words, you may be missing out on a chance for constructive criticism. I know advice like this can be hard to swallow, but you’re really doing yourself a disservice if you completely dismiss it.
So instead of evaluating someone’s opinion in a reactive state, take a few deep breaths and try to consider what they said from a place of curiosity.
Differentiate between constructive criticism and hateful comments
Criticism is defined as “the act of expressing disapproval and of noting the problems or faults of a person or thing.” Criticism is going to feel derailing and even hurt your feelings a little, but it’s essential to know the difference between what’s constructive and offensive.
Constructive criticism feels manageable. The person isn’t necessarily attacking your character more so than your actions or a particular thing in your life that could be detrimental to your well-being or goals. There is logic behind their reasoning or even facts to back up their assumptions.
On the other hand, hate is strongly opinionated, often times repetitive, and impulsively said. A person’s opinion has destructive intent when their reasoning behind expressing their words is to cause you emotional harm.
Decide if the opinion serves you
If someone’s opinion can, in fact, help you become a better person, achieve your goals more efficiently, or allows you to see things from a new perspective, that’s serving you.
Opinions like these should be appreciated and taken note of. This person is trying to help you, and their advice has a lot more value than you might realize.
But if someone’s opinion does nothing for your growth, then it might be causing you harm instead of helping. We’ll circle back to the example of a mom making comments about her daughter not being married yet. What good does that comment do for the daughter’s well-being? A whopping nothing.
Taking each person’s comment and deciding for yourself if it serves you allows you to start to consider how much value it has.
Choose to embrace or let go
Once you’ve considered whether or not the opinion is serving you, it’s up to you to either embrace it, use that opinion to better yourself or disregard it.
Deciding on how you’re going to handle a comment is going to be the most significant determinant of your emotions. A comment can either go in one ear and out the other, or you can ruminate on it for the day, sometimes even weeks. When that happens, you risk internalizing that person’s opinion and having it becoming part of your belief system.
So instead, if you decide that the comment doesn’t serve you, let it go. Don’t sit in those negative thoughts. Choose to distract yourself or think about something else. Remind yourself that the criticism is rooted in hate and does not define your reality.
People’s words are just that but if we’re not careful, they can quickly become something more. Though words can be heavily loaded with emotions, you get to decide in the end if they have value or not.