It was a little embarrassing, but I told him that I worry a great deal about what others think of me. I take things very hard and their comments, direct or indirect, often have a large impact on my mood. Dharma thought about what I told him and then replied with one of his frogisms, "Tadpole, the frog who cares what others think will always be their prisoner. It is a frog's nature to care what others think. Everybody wants to be liked and accepted. But when we allow their thoughts and reaction to muddy up the water, we miss out on a great many things. Excessive worry can have a negative impact on your well-being, son."
My beloved friend and teacher then listed ten reasons why we shouldn't worry so much about others think and say.
1. It's not their life. We each have our own life to live and living it to please others is a great way of wasting our precious time. In his play Hamlet, Shakespeare wrote, "Above all things, to thine own self be true." And while others are entitled to think and do what they want...so are each of us. At the end of the day, we have to be happy with our own thoughts, words, and deeds.
2. Others don't know what's best for you. Other than your parents, no one else is as invested in your life as you are. And after we grow up, our parents' advice can still be important but we have to "step up to the plate" and decide for ourselves how to live our lives. The only way we learn is by doing. Sometimes we make mistakes but that's just part of the learning process.
3. What might be right for one, might be completely wrong for you. It's important to recognize that someone's opinion is most likely based on what they would do. And that's the problem. They're not you. Each one of us will have our own set of standards by which we live our lives. We must all do what's right for us. Vive la différence!
4. Worry about what others think will keep you from your dreams. If you're constantly worried about what others think, you'll never have the time, energy, or will to follow your dreams. You'll most likely wind up following their dream, instead of your own.
5. We are the ones stuck with the end result. In life, each of us has to face the consequences...both good and bad...for the decisions we make in life. We are the ones who go to bed every night with our own conscience. No one else.
6. Everyone's thoughts change on a regular basis. We are constantly changing and our brain's our in flux. that's the amazing thing about brains. Our thoughts can be changed. Everyone's thoughts, ideas, and views change over time. So it's fairly likely that that one who thinks badly of you at the moment will, in all probability, think better of you in the near future.
7. Life is simply too short! We each get one life. And time is too short and too precious to worry about what others think. Living our own lives and being free to be who we are is what counts. When we stop worrying about what others think, then we are free to enjoy our lives to the maximum. Worrying what others think puts us in a prison where the bars and terms of our sentence keep changing.
8. Often, we reap what we sow. It's entirely possible that worrying too much about what other people think of you can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Many of us indulge our need to be like by others to the point that it can actually dictate the way we behave. We become "people-pleasers" or so submissive that our own individual personalities fade away. We become someone other than who we really are. This can have disastrous results. Instead of being liked by those we are trying to please, the behavior you use as an attempt to ensure you are liked may actually cause you to be disliked.
9. And this one's the real kicker. Others don't usually care as much as we think they do. They're so busy living their own lives and worrying about their own problems that they simply don't have the time or inclination to give our behaviors as much thought as we give them credit for. It is a sad but simple truth that the average person filters their world through their ego, meaning that they think about most things in terms of “me” or “my”. What this means in long run is that unless you are or have done something that directly affects another's life, they aren't thinking about very much, if at all. And, lastly...
10. It's impossible to please everyone and that's the hard truth. If we can't please everyone, then it's only important that we please ourselves first and foremost.
I asked Dharma how to stop caring about what others think. He said there are many techniques for retraining your brain. He believes that the best one is to remember that others, both frogs and humans, have been hurt by life and hurt beings tend to hurt others. Remaining open to their "helpful" suggestions while still being true to who we are is probably the quickest way to overcome the need to please. In the end, each of us must do, think, and act in a way that reflects our own beliefs and values. It's okay to listen to the advice of family and friends; to weigh it in making our decisions. The trick is to care, just not too much. It is, after all, our life and we need to feel good about who we are. Consult others. Consult experts, if needed. But ultimately, make the decision that rights for you; the decision that you can live with and feel good about.
Dharma's message was given me the motivation to continue on as I am, no matter what others think or say. In some small way, I hope his words can help you, too.