The Opinions of Others – They Don’t Matter

“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” — Marcus Aurelius

We tend to let a lot of goofy things bother us far more than they should. Most of us are guilty of this. And I’m not talking about pet peeves or annoyances that we overblow. I’m thinking more internally. A little bit of soul-searching.

I would say a good majority of us are guilty of this at one point in time. What I’m talking about here is the weight that we give the opinions of others.

Like many things, the growth and popularity of social media has inflated this problem. We put our whole lives out there for others to see. Of course we want it to look good. Of course we want to look happy.

Why though?

Especially if we are distorting ourselves. What benefit is there to trying to impress people online?

I’m not saying don’t share good news like when you get a promotion or a scholarship or just think you look good in that selfie. I’m talking about when we try to make everything look perfect.

Here’s the problem with that. It is all smoke and mirrors. We control what we put up. And no matter how much anyone posts, that is just a small percentage of that person’s life. An online persona isn’t giving you the whole picture.

I started thinking about this when I saw that someone had unfriended me. First, I had wondered what I had done to upset this person. Then a light bulb, for once in my life, kind of went off. Why did I care? I totally know I am guilty of thinking too much about how people view me. But this damn light bulb finally went off. How was this a loss to me? Would I really want to change who I was because of one person, who I didn’t really talk to at all anymore? Would it even make a difference? Did I want it to?

It just really got me thinking in a way I hadn’t before. And I think it was very insightful into myself. I’m a people pleaser. I always want to make everyone happy. I want everyone to get along. These things are not possible. This doesn’t exactly stop me from trying.

But who I am now – its worked for me. I’m all about growth and development. I’m always aiming to be better. Part of that is the perfectionist in me which I do kind of need to tone down but otherwise, I think you know what I mean. Always be learning. Always try your best.

The person I am is flawed. I’m working on it. I’ve made mistakes. Some I’ve been rectified, some I haven’t been able to.

The person I am now has also had some accomplishments I’m pretty proud of. I don’t want to come off as bragging (I recognize the irony in this), but there are definitely things I wouldn’t have accomplished without certain aspects of my personality, for better than worse.

Why would I let the opinions of others change that?

The biggest “opinion of others” that I get – and sometimes gets in my head – is my short hair. I have been told by so many people – friends, family, and total strangers, that a lot of guys aren’t attracted to short hair. So I should grow it out. Then I can snag a man. First of all, and I think this is important, we shouldn’t let any other one person define our worth. As an individual, you should define your own worth. Your self-worth should never in anyway be defined by another person’s opinion. Emphasize on “self” in “self-worth.” You define your worth. And why would I want to be a guy who will only be with me if my hair is long? Does this not sound absolutely ridiculous to anyone else? I don’t even think that this is even actually a thing.

Second, the fact that it takes me about five minutes to style my hair after showering pretty much outweighs anything else. I love that perk of short hair. I’m pretty positive that growing my hair for a guy would not make so happy that I don’t miss that benefit. Third, it’s the hair on my head. Why can’t I enjoy it? I’ll admit that I can be pretty self-conscious about my appearance. But I do think I can rock the pixie. It’s fun. It’s different. Think of Lydia in Beetlejuice,“I myself am strange and unusual.” It’s basically along those lines. Ultimately, to be honest, I’m not a patient person and probably don’t have the patience to grow it out. In case you were wondering. Whatever.

Tattoos are another big one. I don’t understand why people are so opinionated about something they don’t have to permanently live with. I also don’t know the point of telling someone how much they hate your tattoos. At that point, it’s really hard to change the tattooed person’s opinion on them. And it is also an expensive change of heart. Two of mine have serious meaning to me. And I have no problem telling someone the meaning of the one and why it is important and healing to me. The other two, I like books and writing. I also really like Star Wars,and you don’t get much more Star Wars than “May the Force be with you,” at least when it comes to quotes. In case you were wondering.

I am a huge supporter of loving yourself and accepting yourself. Be-YOU-tiful. That’s my favorite thing ever. I say it a lot. There is no one else quite like you. We all know the examples that society sets that are not necessarily obtainable. The idea that you need to check off all these boxes by a certain time in life to have it together. It happens from the time we are in high school and we tell these teenagers who have no idea where the fuck they are going to end up in the life that they need to meet an absurd amount of criteria to get the college of their dreams. Sometimes I think its too much. From this time on, we put so much pressure on ourselves that I think often we aren’t reaching our potential. We’re stretched too thin. It also starts us competing against each other. Competition is a healthy thing. But when it turns into comparing yourself to everyone else is what starts to mess with your head. We start in high school and never really stop.

I think the comparing yourself/opinions of others go hand in hand. You don’t know the full story of the person you are comparing yourself to. They don’t know yours. You are probably not going to change someone’s opinion of you. And really, most of the time, does it really matter? There are times when it matters; like in a job interview or meeting your significant other’s family. But the girl you went to high school with that you haven’t talked to since 6thgrade and looks like she has the perfect family? She might be looking at you the same way thinking about how you have a great job and she’s not using her degree in her job. When you’re traveling Europe and wondering if maybe you should have gone for that Master’s degree instead, he’s wondering if the degree is worth it. Everyone’s story and needs are different. Stop. Comparing. We don’t need the full story.

Life is too damn short to be this concerned with the opinions of others. I think a good example of this would be group fitness classes or really going to the gym in general. When you are wobbling in yoga or struggling with your weights, most likely, no one really cares. In yoga class, everyone else is probably too damn busy trying to hold the pose themselves and counting down until the next one to notice what the hell you are doing. At the gym, if anyone is negatively judging you for trying to better yourself and become healthier, they are an asshole. It is that simple. The gym is the last place anyone should be judging anyone and where you should be competing against anyone but yourself. Going to the gym or group fitness classes can be agonizing for people when it comes to their self-esteem! We don’t need assholes making it harder. Unless you are working with a trainer who you are payingto give their opinion, no one else’s matters. Full stop.

Individually, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. We really do not need to add to that by worrying what Joan from Accounting thinks of your haircut. Sometimes, when someone gives their opinion they mean all the best. But your uncle Jack who was a hippie in the 60’s (and never left the 60’s) shouldn’t be talking you down for joining the military.

I am not saying that every opinion anyone ever offers you is horrible and should be ignored. I’m saying that we shouldn’t let the opinion of others drive our opinions of our selves.Not everyone is going to like your hair. Your political viewpoints (that’s a loaded one). Or, simply, you. And that is okay! It is not possible for everyone to like you or everything about you. Sometimes you are a pearl and they prefer a diamond. It doesn’t make one better than the other. Some people are going to prefer the pearl to the diamond. You aren’t going to like everything about everyone you do like, and you aren’t going to like everyone. That’s life. And there is no reason to be rude about it. Move on. Worry about you.

Really, we aren’t as important as we think we are. People don’t think about us as much as we think, or rather, notice us as much as you might think. Everyone is just trying to do their own thing, and all of our insecurities are the same. I think a lot of it stems from what we think about others. Somewhere along the line, we all decided that we have to put this façade up of having everything together and a picture-perfect life when none of us actually do. Who are we trying to fool and why?

I saw a quote that basically said she didn’t dress up for guys to look at her; she dressed up to look at her reflection in windows as she walked by. I loved this. You do you! It goes back to my short hair example; I don’t get it cut to meet the expectations of any guy I’m interested in. I do it because I like it, I think I look good in it, and it works for me. And honestly, who hasn’t looked at their reflection walking by a window and suddenly had a surge of confidence because they just looked good? Do you.

Another aspect of this is that any confidence issues you may face are definitely impacted by how you let the opinion of others affect you. Let it go. It isn’t your business to change their opinion. As Martha Graham says, “What people think of you is really none of your business.” You have to do what is right and best for you. Not for what someone else thinks of you. I think we do this subconsciously; back to the social media spin/picture-perfect lifestyle. None of these are doable. And striving for perfection isn’t healthy. It’s not good for you mentally. It can impact you physically.

Be real and authentic and you’ll know that you are giving people that what they see is what they get. I don’t see any benefit or purpose to being fake. That has to be exhausting. And sometimes, people are just going to see whatever the hell they want to see. You aren’t going to be able to change, so you might as well just be yourself. I really hope no one takes this as be an asshole to people you don’t like because that’s the opposite of what I think. It’s not an excuse to be a jagoff – there isn’t really a reason why your authentic self can’t be at least polite. I don’t think there is much benefit to rudeness either.

This “other people’s opinion impacting how I feel about myself” is hard for me to. It isn’t an overnight change. It is hard to not be self-conscious about everything you do, especially depending on where you are in life. I can’t imagine a sixteen-year-old girl just being able to adopt this attitude with no problem. I think that ultimately, we will be a lot happier for thinking like this. Everyone isn’t going to love you. But that should never stop you from loving your life. I feel like taking a deep, deep breath and exhaling all of the negativity. Just remember – beYOUtiful.

 

 

 

 

“Girl, Wash Your Face” Review

Everyone was reading this book. I kept seeing it all over social media. People were claiming it to be life changing. I don’t really know why, but I didn’t have much interest in reading it. Eventually, I gave into the online peer pressure and rave reviews and picked up a copy of Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis.

It didn’t change my life.

There were actually times  that I really didn’t like Hollis or the message she was giving.

But the one thing you have to give her 100% credit on – that woman is totally authentic. Rachel Hollis is completely real, honest, and open and she has my complete respect for that. It is not easy to just put yourself out there. Especially in a freaking book which people are paid to criticize. And running a website and blog as popular as hers – we all know the internet is unfortunately filled with trolls and just plain mean-spirited people. Rachel says she got to a point that she no longer reads what people say about her or her writing.  I think the majority of us could benefit from the mindset. She writes to write. As a writer who cares too much about the opinions of others, that is definitely something I could benefit from adopting into my think tank.

There were parts of the book I loved. I don’t know if my expectations were too high, but I had anticipated that it was going to be life changing. Everyone kept singing its praises. I could relate to its messages for the most part, but there was just something I couldn’t put my finger on that bothered me.

I just feel in some ways she sang her own praises too much or that she was full of herself. But! At the same time, this lady had no problem identifying her flaws and that is a hell of a lot harder to do. Maybe it is just an awkward balance? Some of it I couldn’t relate to because I’m not married or a mother yet. I had heard others say they couldn’t relate to it because they past that stage in their life. So I’m wondering if the book as a whole is targeted towards a very specific audience – but that is only to get the full message. A few of the people who told me they absolutely loved it are in  similar spots in their lives and can relate to some of the situations more than I can.

The other part I was most uncomfortable with was her attitude towards drinking and how it related to parenting. She grows past her mindset, but it was kind of scary that she got to that point. What is scarier is wondering how many people have the same time of mindset; that they need to consistently drink to relax from their kids. Now, my parents still tell me I “drive them to drink.” But saying that and acting on it to the point it becomes a problem are two totally different things. However, this example also made me think about whenever I say I need a drink from work. It offered perspective. This wasn’t exactly an area of my life I thought I would reevaluate, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing either.

Another aspect of the book that I couldn’t totally relate to were the religion mentions. While I was raised Catholic, I’m not a super religious person and I would call my relationship with religion “complicated.” But if that works for her, hey, go for it. She also didn’t come across preachy, it was just another aspect of her life. Someone asked me if the book was religious and I kind of didn’t know how to answer. There are a lot of references to God, but it’s not like she is saying “the only way to succeed in life is if you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.” It is not that kind of book. It is more of a “Hey, God’s got my back and I’m going to trust him.” I never felt that she was pushing it onto her readers, which I think is a cool and effective way to explain what works for her. Because, let’s face it, the first thing ANY self-help or personal development book should admit is that not every method they suggest is going to work for every single reader. Might not be the best selling point, but I think readers would appreciate the honesty.

Honesty is my biggest takeaway from this book. Rachel shares a very raw and real version of herself with the reader. You see her at her best and at her worst. She admits to transgressions that pretty much all of us do – like wondering why someone won’t parent their screaming child in a public setting – but then acknowledging that we don’t know what is going on behind the scenes. There’s a million reasons as to why the kid is screaming and why the parents aren’t simply sweeping the kid and going back to the car for a timeout. Sure, sometimes it might just be lazy parenting – but it really isn’t our place to judge. I think that most important message I got from the book was to be honest with yourself and the situations around you.

Hollis gives great suggestions and outlines how to reach your life goals. I also like how she prefaced her lists with “Things that Helped Me.” It goes back to what I said before. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all on how to get your shit together. Her suggestions might work for you, or they might lead you to develop your own methods. Some of them might seem obvious, but at the same time it’s like a slap upside the head. If it’s so obvious, why aren’t you already doing it? Why didn’t you write the damn book?

Some people might take these lists as the most significant message of the book. Not me. Her honesty and the rawness of some of her stories really had an impact on me, such as the judging other parents thing. That led into hey, let’s stop judging one another. That concept went into women stop judging other women. To the women reading this blog, we know that we are all pretty much guilty of that. Oh, on that same note, Hollis then points out that we need to stop competing and comparing against each other. We all know this. But sometimes seeing it printed on paper helps get the message across. So we should thank Rachel for that. She puts uncomfortable truths out there. But sometimes we need that.

Another story that really got to me that I think everyone should read is Rachel and her husband’s struggle to adopt and their experience with the foster care system. Adopting is not an easy process. And, I didn’t know this until recently when a friend adopted a child, often you have to foster before you can adopt. As Rachel shares, this can be a brutal and heartbreaking process. My heart broke with theirs and my eyes were opened. I don’t know how the process can be improved, but there has to be something better.

Ironically, I think writing this review gave me a different opinion on the book. I didn’t love it and it didn’t change my life. However, I learned from it. There are lessons and tips to take away. Some stories stuck with me more than others. This is probably the most I have ever felt comfortable criticizing an author or book, so take that for whatever it is worth. It didn’t change my life, but I did enjoy reading it. I read it in less than a day. Hollis knows how to keep her readers engaged. Ultimately, I would recommend reading this. It might not turn your life upside down or sideways, but I think most women, although primarily in the 20s and 30s demographic could take something from it. Give it a shot.

 

Finding Motivation in Failure

I find inspiration in the Rocky and Star Wars movies. I can find motivation in a lot of movies and books, but those two in particular. Sometimes a simple quote or dialogue or monologue or movie scene can be just what you need to get out of a rut. Like Kenneth Branagh’s St. Crispin’s Day Speech in Henry IV. Watch it on YouTube. Super motivating. Makes you think you can take on an entire army. That’s the type of feeling I’m talking about. Give you that extra push, light the spark, whatever you want to call it. I keep a folder of photos on my phone of inspirational quotes and quite a few are from movies. Just something to call to when I need a little extra.

Lately, it turns out, I needed that extra. Probably more than a little bit. I need motivation and perspective.

I thought I had this figured out. I thought I had it beat. That I was going to come back stronger before and that I had overcome this mental battle against myself. I had hoped that my brain would stop fighting itself, that the torture of hating myself would end,  and I could live in peace.

I was wrong. Like, really wrong. And this time, when I fell I fell hard. Getting up took time. Falling, however, prompted some serious self-reflection. And I am pretty sure part of it was long overdue.

There’s a difference between surviving and living, managing day by day versus enjoying the world around you. I was getting by each day but not really gaining anything from it. I wasn’t drowning but I was just keeping afloat.

I thought I had experienced a failure. And it angered me, it upset me, and it broke my damn heart. I’m a perfectionist. When I set a goal, I’m pretty hell bent on achieving it. I’m fairly this certain this is how I ended up in a Master’s program at Penn State right as I started work full time. Perfectionist and overachiever combined with anxiety isn’t the best combination. It’s a dangerous combination.

I was told I hadn’t failed, and I totally can see that point of view. I get it. But damn if there isn’t part of me that’s still down. My logic is that anything but completion of a goal is failure. I hadn’t done what I set out to do. Incomplete. It was a failure.

I was very angry and disappointed with myself. I thought that I had disappointed others who believed in me when others didn’t. There is part of me that still believes that, and I have a hard time letting this go.

Heeded my words not, did you? Pass on what you have learned. Strength, mastery, hmm, but weakness, folly, failure also. Yes, failure most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is. Luke, we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters. -Yoda.

But! Like I said. This led to some serious self-reflection. I was told that it isn’t failure until you give up, full stop. I’m also really stubborn so that wasn’t really an option on the table. But I realized then I could keep going. Hearing that failure doesn’t happen until you give up was like the light bulb going off in my head. I still had a chance.

I have some more Yoda thoughts to share. In The Empire Strikes Back, after Yoda lifts the X-Wing from the swamp using the Force, Luke says that he can’t believe it. Yoda replies “That is why you fail.” I have watched this movie literally countless times. Yesterday (when I began writing this post) it occurs to me that Luke failed because he didn’t believe he could complete the task using only what he already had, i.e. the Force. It goes back to “Do or do not. There is no try.” It’s kind of a cliche; that the power or ability you seek is within you all along. It took me 26 years to make this connection. And that maybe, it applied to me too. That between my anxiety and lack of confidence, I was setting myself up for failure.

You had the power all along, my dear. Glinda, the Good Witch

I have thought a lot about myself and my mental illnesses and how they impact my everyday life. And I realized that I am not as well as I thought I was and I’m not living, I’m just getting by. My anxiety is holding me back in a lot of ways I hadn’t considered before but are definitely more obvious to me now. What I’m doing isn’t enough or working well apparently. I thought I was beating the depression and anxiety down, but now I’m pretty sure that I was just suppressing. And there is a huge difference between the two. When its suppressed, the darkness can still get out through the cracks. It’s like a shadow following the light. Eventually, the shadows eclipse the sun. But, as first theorized by English theologian and historian Thomas Fuller, as quoted by Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight, and another version of which is attributed to Victor Hugo, It is always darkest just before the dawn. So, I guess I believe that there is still hope that I can beat this. Guess sometimes you need a breakdown to see what is really going on.

I had to take a good, hard look into myself and ask what bothered me about this failure. Not just this specific instance, but overall. What did failure represent to me? How did I think it defined me as a person? And then, where did my anxiety fit in? What was holding me back from all the things I wanted to do? Some things that I should be able to achieve? Why wasn’t I taking that extra step to do more, be better? And that’s how I found the problem with self-confidence too. As cliche as it might sound, I really think that by not believing in my own ability and giving myself a chance, I was setting myself up for failure. I was listening to the bitch that is depression and anxiety and letting it bring me down. Letting the bitch tell me that I didn’t deserve success, that these goals were out of my reach. That is was out of my league. Such a long way for me.

This was kind of a game changer. I was really close to giving up. As much as I would have hated it, I think I was going to walk away. But this little bit of self-reflection kind of allowed me to gain new perspective.. I thought I understood the hold that mental illness had over me. It’s been a six long years with it, but I thought I knew its tricks and lies. Apparently, I didn’t. Apparently, mental illness is something I have to obliterate the shit out of. Not just suppress or contain. I need to knock it out.

Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that, and that ain’t you! You’re better than that! Rocky Balboa.

So what was my big revelation? Fighting and beating this isn’t something I can do alone. Depression and anxiety might be attacking me in an internal struggle, but that doesn’t mean the fight itself can’t be external. It is so hard for me to talk about how I feel and my problems. It is much easier for me to write about it, hence this blog. It is so hard to describe but I am not exaggerating when I say it fills me with despair, hate and a restlessness caused by anxiety and nervousness. I am never calm and content. But I have to keep fighting.

I need someone to show me my place in all this. Rey

I am not really sure how to get better about talking about this to others. But I also know that I need someone on my side. I know I am not alone, but there are definitely times where I can’t imagine feeling anymore alone. It’s hard to know who I can reach out. And it’s not that I don’t want to reach out. I don’t know if I just need to do it and start talking? Still trying to figure this one out.

One thing I do know that I don’t want to do but that I have pretty much accepted that I have to do, is go back to therapy. I hate therapy. I know people that have loved therapy and therapy has changed their lives. That has not been my experience. For awhile, I did have a great therapist. Then she had to make a work change and left the practice I was at. Haven’t had a fit since, and boy that is frustrating, trying to find a therapist. It really left a bad taste in my mouth. Just getting an appointment can be a process in itself. But I don’t really see a route where I don’t end up in therapy again, so we’ll see. Admitting that I need to go back to therapy is progress for me, I think.

Your focus determines your reality. / Concentrate on the moment. Feel, don’t think, use your instincts. Qui-Gon Jinn

There has to be a way to settle my mind. I have always wanted to get into meditation and practice it consistently, but it hasn’t happened. I need to get into that. I know that there are apps for it and I plan on using those, but I also think that yoga and just kind of being out in nature can help. This is definitely going to be a combination of things. Yoga, going for walks and hiking has helped clear and settle my mind before. I think I need a more conscious effort on that type of thing.

The nerd that I am, I am also going to read. I have read more self-help books in the past year or so than I ever have in my life, and I’m looking for more. I previously had reviewed Erin Falconer’s How to Get Shit Done, and I just picked up Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis because I was seeing it everywhere. But I’m always looking for more books in that area! I also want to pick up more books on meditation. That’s the best way I learn. It might sound weird, but I feel like I definitely have to rework and challenge my mind. Put the negative fire caused by depression and anxiety out. Knock it down.

If this is something you wanna do, and if this is something you gotta do, then you do it. Fighters fight. Rocky Balboa

Another thing that I am pretty sure of is that this is more than just a mental battle. I am fairly confident in saying that there is a physical aspect to this as well. I know that I “feel better” after a workout, but I think I need to redirect my approach on it. What I don’t have from working is more energy; I am always tired no matter how much I sleep. That is definitely something that I want to figure out because I am going to guess if I feel rested, I might be at least a little more pleasant with the world (I really do try to be pleasant in day to day life. I am sorry to those who get the brunt of my attitude) and myself.

Post-college, I have gained a lot of weight. Much more than I am happy with. I had tried Weight Watchers, it worked for awhile, I fell off, tried again, and they changed the system and I didn’t like it. I think now I’m just going to go with the “eat less crap” method. Really start that moderation is key lifestyle, because I don’t see a reality where I completely cut out beer and ice cream forever.

See that look in their eyes, Rock? You gotta get that look back, Rock. Eye of the tiger, man. Apollo Creed

The benefits of a strong body shouldn’t be underestimated. As Thomas Jefferson once said, A strong body makes the mind strong. We all know the numerous benefits of exercise. But I feel like I know what Apollo is talking about here. That drive, that fight for something, whatever it is. Everyone’s reason is different. All that matters is you gotta keep going. I lose that look, that passion, and I need to get it back.

Working my body is going to be just as important as working my mind. I think gaining literal strength and endurance will be great for me mentally, it’ll be a more tangible way of seeing progress. Being able to see progress will give me motivation. I go to the Y now, but I am going to get a personal trainer through there. I also want to look at trying things like CrossFit and Orange Theory. I want to build muscles and endurance. Running is another habit that I want to get into. Before, I didn’t really have a plan and I think it is because I was holding myself back. I was listening to that diseased voice telling me that I didn’t matter and had no chance of succeeding. Again, I wasn’t trying to beat the crap out of this. I was letting myself be defeated by it by just suppressing it, kind of hoping it was going to go away. Maybe it, ironically, seems crazy, but it is important to actually have a plan. I really hope I don’t sound like a broken record. But I think it took this breakdown to look at myself and realize where I was and how much further I can be. Now is as good as any time to really beat the shit out of this. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? I don’t have any desire to push those limits anymore so I figure lets see how strong I can get from this. It is going to take a lot more self-reflection and some serious criticism of myself and some hard, physical work too. But at least I know that I don’t have to do this on my own and that things can, and will, get better. And I’ll be better for it. Thanks for reading my ramble.
It’ll turn out alright in the end. You’ll see. Mrs. Potts