How Do I Honour What I Believe and Care Less What You Think?
As someone who sought approval as a way to feel safe, disagreement with others has always felt very unsafe to me. So getting comfortable with another person’s opinion that is contrary to mine — especially if it is about me — has been quite a journey.
Tony Robbins says “Whether we feel pain or love depends on three things: our story, our strategy and our state; and changing any one will change the other two”.
I had a big story going on about other people’s opinions and what they meant for me. A recent email from Lisa Romano really sums up the worst of the story, she said:
“If you are like most people, you’ve been pushed around by somebody who thought they had a right to control, manipulate, harass, devalue or minimize you. Perhaps this person was a parent, a sibling, a partner, a friend, or a boss you have known. Whatever your unique experience and circumstance, most likely having someone try to make you feel bad about yourself may have worked to some degree.
Again, if you’re like most people and you are not a raging narcissist, chances are when someone you knew pushed your buttons, for a moment you may have wondered if what this person was saying was true. If this person accused you of something you were not guilty of, or if they deliberately gaslit you, blameshifted, and messed with your head, there may have been a moment where you questioned your reality.”
Lisa is an expert on codependency and narcissistic abuse, so she is used to working with people who seem to attract experiences like this to the degree it’s a pattern in at least one their relationships; thus reinforcing a painful story.
She says “Many of us can get caught up trying to get an abusive person to admit what they’ve done, but it never works. All an abusive person will do is deny, pretend, and gaslight you even further…and if you don’t quit trying to find resolution, an abusive person will discard you, or worse.”
This is precisely the sort of intensive personal growth bootcamp I have attracted into my life a few times, ultimately I believe to help me let go of the need for approval. And to allow others to have their own opinions — be what they may — without it taking up my whole time and attention.
Rebbeca Zung says that when she was dealing with two covert narcissists in her professional life, this is precisely how she felt. She says:
“It’s a constant siege. You’re always feeling like you’re under attack, always on the defensive, like you can never get ahead. They are always lining up the flying monkeys, not providing the documents they are supposed to, ignoring the court orders and getting away with it; lying, lying and more lying and everyone seems to be believing them.”
And now, on a more macro level, I find myself living in times where people are becoming more polarized. Those unvaccinated in New Zealand face a life of exclusion from the December third when the government begin a new system. A key part of this is the introduction of vaccine certificates which will be digitally recorded, stored and shared on a national system.
The Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, when asked whether New Zealand would ever follow Austria’s example of mandating the vaccination for everybody, was quoted in a national newspaper this week as saying “ No. It is just not something we would do.”
And yet, as part of the new vaccine certificate system, businesses are incentivized to deal only with vaccinated people in a very clear way. Businesses that choose to deal with unvaccinated people face restrictions in how they operate. Businesses will be also given verification apps to ensure that those people vaccinated have had both initial shots and 6 monthly booster shots in order to still qualify as “vaccinated”.
For those who haven’t got these, there will be access to groceries and emergency medical services, everything else will be either off the table or restricted depending on what alert level the country is in.
For example, the local swim school (at an outdoor pool) says people over the age of twelve must be double vaccinated and this, apparently, is across the board with all swim schools and teaching complexes in New Zealand. If the child is under the age of twelve and parents are not double vaccinated, then children must be dropped off and parents will not allowed to enter the premises.
A post I have previously mentioned came to mind again when I read this “Kind of weird I have to explain this, but taking things away from people until they agree to do what you say isn’t giving them a choice, it’s punishing them until they concede to your demands. Normally we would refer to this type of behaviour as manipulation and abuse”.
So on the macro level, choosing to remain unvaccinated at this stage may be the greatest challenge yet in integrating others’ opinions. Big story, feels painful right?
How do I change the story? In the context of the broader picture I understand there has to be division before there is unity, and all is well. In the words of Abraham Hicks “This isn’t about what you do or don’t do. You either line up with taking it and take it, or you line up with not taking it and don’t. Just don’t decide not to take it and push against — or decide to take it and push against — because it is the pushing against that takes your freedom and your wellbeing and your joy”
What feels right for me might change, at each decision point I’ll be leaning towards the path of least resistance. Each to their own without a need for assertion I say, some people are more afraid of the vaccine than the illness, others are the opposite, and others still are afraid of neither or both. Remember the old adage “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still”.
While it’s healthy to consider others’ feelings and circumstances, it is not healthy to consider them above my own. I was always abandoning myself to satisfy others until I finally learned about healthy boundaries and some strategies around implementing them.
I heard a snippet from Teal Swan this week that was examining the word healing, because by saying that something needs healed is to make it wrong, and therefore creates resistance to it. The key, she said, was integration.
I think this is the key when it comes to others’ opinions too.
As I said in How to Reclaim Your Freedom Instead of Feeling Trapped the commonality in this issue is freedom, which I discerned by zooming out of the issues and looking at people’s differing fears and motivations and taking a broader view.
Despite the emotional entanglement of my approval seeking habit, one positive was that it also taught me to reconcile contrasting views. Conflicting viewpoints drive me to go wide and deep to reconcile what I am hearing but doesn’t resonate. The point of commonality is what I’m always looking for, what is in within what is being said or felt that I (inner me) can agree with? It taught me that — on one level — I am not you and you are not me and yet — on another level — we are one.
This is about integration, a good strategy. I can hold that your opinion is valid and — at the same time — mine is also. In the past I have always known this, but in the words of a friend of mine, the gold for them this week is knowing they can have a different point of view to another and not need to change it (or what they are doing) in order to please someone else.
All of this though is much easier when my state of being is in a place of love rather than pain as Tony put it. In Learning to Surrender, Sarah Blondin says “The more we constrict, the more worry and burden we pick up along the way. The denser we become, the more we sink like rocks to the bottom of our river. We then ground ourselves in the turbulent waters rather than allowing ourselves to be carried to the cool, calm waters”.
The words I hear when I tune in from a more relaxed state are “Let go”, and imagining myself being carried along in a stream helps to let go of worry, let go of others’ expectations, let go of others’ opinions and let go of seeking others’ approval.
In order to honour what you believe, what can you change right now about the story, strategy or your state of being in order to care less about what others think?
If you enjoyed reading this, you may enjoy What If The Thing You Dread Is Actually Your Dreams Trying to Unfold?, When Life Is Uncertain It Feels Good to Take a Positive Step, Ask No One to Be Different So That You Can Feel Good, What Do the People in Your Life Have to Teach (Good and Bad)? and Reclaim the Sweet Spot of Being in Your Element. To be the first to receive these posts, you can also opt to subscribe to my blog.
How Do I Honour What I Believe and Care Less What You Think? was originally published in Be Yourself on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.