You’ve been there before. Stuck between the rock of living your own truth and the hard place of the opinions of those around you. Whether those opinions belong to your spouse, your best friend, or your aunt, sometimes it can feel like you are living your life according to someone else’s rules. It can feel like you are constantly seeking someone else’s approval.
Whatever happened to those days when you did whatever you wanted to do whenever you wanted to do it? Perhaps the more important question is in regards to the days when you just couldn’t care less what anyone else thought about what you were doing. The days when you didn’t give a second thought to what you were wearing, where you were going, or what you were going to go do. No permission required to be you.
Living your best life. But then, something changed. Maybe it was an offhand comment or a sideways glance. Words or actions which caused you to pause and question yourself. What starts as only one person’s viewpoint of a tiny aspect of yourself can lead to widespread questioning within about all aspects of your life and personality.
In my own life, the opinions of others weasel their way in through a path of insecurity. A minuscule break in my self-confidence which can open a wider freeway of doubt, propelling me toward negative thinking.
The biggest manifestation of opinions leading to self-doubt in my life also involves one of my greatest passions … piano. I have loved playing piano for as long as I can remember and I spent many happy hours banging away at the keys when I was young.
I loved piano so much that when I entered college as a pre-veterinary science major, I promptly changed majors to music within the first week of class so I could study piano more intensely. Unfortunately the decision to follow my passion came with a host of unchecked negative thinking in which I began to base my self-worth upon the opinions of others.
Although I loved the piano, my practice habits were less than stellar and I dreaded my weekly lessons, in part due to my lack of preparation. I am sure that I completely exasperated my piano professor however she continued to give feedback and I began to take it personally. Each critique felt like a blow to my ego and further proof of my incompetence. Combine that with the comparisons I made between other pianists and myself and I was in a perfect storm of negativity.
At the time, I was unable to separate myself from the opinions of others and sunk into a deep pit of depression, believing that I would never be good enough to make a living playing the piano. Further adding insult to injury was the significant performance anxiety I developed soon after beginning my studies. All of this negativity stemmed from placing too much importance upon the opinions of others instead of honing in on my own truth and passion.
I had completely lost sight of my “why” amongst the flurry of constant critique inherent to studying music. The danger in putting stock into everyone else’s opinions is how insidiously it starts and the strong hold it can take on your life. It has taken years for me to process through this phase of my life and to gain perspective on the emotional cost of listening to everyone else instead of the still, small voice inside.
At the end of the day, only you can live the life you were given. Only you have the authority to make decisions which steer your life in the direction you want to go. Every time you spend energy on someone else’s opinion, you are exerting energy which could be better spent elsewhere. Valuable energy which could instead be used to push you closer toward your goals.
My call to action for you today is to think about how your life is influenced by the opinions of others. Think about what you would do if your decisions weren’t dictated by the opinions of people who aren’t living your life. Ground yourself with a solid understanding of your own “why” and use this as a compass to guide your thinking when confronted with the inevitable barrage of comments and unsolicited opionions. Stop giving everyone else the power! Stay in your own lane, run your own race, and go after that big dream!