When considered all together, getting older is a good balance of what I am glad about and what I sometimes wish were no so. Of course, having more of the hair I used to have or a back that does not ache after working in the yard or to not need reading glasses are good examples of what’s on the “I wish were not so list”. Moving to the “I’m glad about list” immediately I find gratitude for knowledge not possible in younger years that has come from a broad range of life experience. I cherish the wisdom earned the hard way mostly from my mistakes.
One of the gems of wisdom I am grateful for is summed up in the words of Wayne Dyer: What you think of me is none of my business. No magic immunity from such thinking have I learned, but what others think of me plainly matters much less here in the fifth decade of my life than ever before. Bosses I work for don’t make me nervous any more (does it have anything to do with the fact that most are younger and less experienced than me?) Dressing nicely still matters, but comfort in what I have on is at the top of my list and matters ten times more than what others think of my wardrobe.
A good deal of personal growth is evident to anyone who has long known me. However, inwardly there remains speculation from time to time if I measure up in other people eyes. An often successful method I use to combat such “stinking thinking” is to self-question with this thought: How would I feel if I was literally unable to worry about another person’s opinion of me? Getting some sort of silent mental answer in response to that quandary seems to banish the need to care what others think more often than not.
Deep down I know I don’t need the approval of others. It is my ego, the fragile little pretend person within, that craves approval and fears disapproval. Even with the wisdom of years my mind will take things personally sometimes if I let it. The need to attempt to gain power through approval and disapproval games will always be there. Here in middle age I am grateful to be able to separate myself from my ego more successfully and know approval and disapproval have no real value whatsoever. In reality, another person’s thought or opinion about me is never personal, because it is never really about me in the first place. It’s about them. A person’s thoughts about anything and everything are only about them self.
Writer Byron Katie has written several self-help books that have been insightful to me. She says my business is what I think and what I feel. If I get worried about how someone feels about me, I’m in their business. And if I’m busy living in their business, how am I present for my own business? A helpful process Katie recommends to throw off untrue thoughts she calls “Inquiry”. This process I have found helpful includes four questions to ask one’s self:
1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
3. How do you react when you think that thought?
4. Who would you be without the thought?
The most intimate relationship I have is the one with my own mind. When that chatterbox in my head is stressing and screaming, I find that it will keep on doing it until I give it some attention. That sort of thinking is like a toddler in a grocery store pitching a fit until it gets attention. One way I give that attention is putting my thoughts through Byron Katie’s four questions. When I truly question their validity it’s common to find beliefs I have had for 5, 10, 30 years, even the worst, most stressful ones, disappear with regularity. Then the “monkey mind chatterbox” (my brain) slows down and living becomes easier and life tastes better.
When I can consider things objectively I see the most others can have of me is an opinion. When thinking clearly I know to elevate another’s opinion of me to the status of a judgment is simply ridiculous. No one can judge me unless I grant him or her the power of being my judge.
When I let go of worry over other people’s opinions, I become free to reflect on my own opinion of myself. Living according to my own truth is an act of self-love and self-care. When I live according to my own beliefs and stay in my own business (and out of other’s business), I find others usually will honor the truths I live by, whether they agree with me or not. To know that tidbit of wisdom is a gift I’m grateful for.
I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody. Bill Cosby
Originally posted on December 7, 2011