(This a complicated subject that has taken me an inordinate amount of time to write about. Please forgive any bumbling and incoherent ideas here. I’m a work in progress.)
I’m a bit riled up about something I keep hearing/seeing on the Internet:
“What other people think of you is none of your business.”
My response to this is, “Oh? Really?” I don’t know who said this (Frankly, I don’t care), but this seems to be in response to that thing that happens when we worry about what other people think of us. You know, that thing where you start making other people’s opinions more of a priority than your opinion. As I was researching this statement, I ran across a blog post where a person stated that worrying about another’s opinion is encroaching on someone else’s property. That’s an interesting notion, but I am not sure I completely agree. My problem with this kind of statement is that it general enough for people to take too far in the wrong direction.
Having an opinion is part of being human. You know, “I opinionate (I know, not really a word. Just go with it.), therefore I am.” Or, something like that.
Here are some facts about opinions:
- Opinions are like the Force. There’s a light side, and a dark side.
- There’s no such thing as a neutral opinion.
- Opinions frequently smash together like atoms out of control.
- Opinions can be either helpful, or non-helpful.
- Helpful opinions can inform and uplift another person.
- Non-helpful opinions can tear down and disenfranchise another person.
- Everybody’s got a million of ’em.
- Some of us (ahem) are more opinionated than others.
- Some of us (again, ahem) share our opinions more frequently than others.
The notion that other people’s opinion are none of my business because it’s their intellectual property seems like an overreaction to idea that another’s opinion shouldn’t define who you are. Yes, only should define who you are. Yes other’s opinions are just their opinions. People do use them to hurt, control, and destroy other people. Those opinions should be ignored, and are none of your business. But those opinions aren’t the ones I am talking about.
I find other people’s opinions of me helpful. Even the bad opinions. I tend to view other’s opinions as an object I can hold in my hand. I can look at, ponder it’s meaning, and put it down on the nearest horizontal surface. It matters to me what other people think of me. Here’s why: if I am doing something that is a problem in my interpersonal interactions, I need to know so I can work on it. I need to wonder what other people think of me, because there is always room to grow. This part of the human need for social order. We have to define our place, and our contribution to the society we live in. If we are not actively contributing, or worse causing disruption in, to the society we belong to, we are limiting our capacity to be fully part of that society. One has to be discerning and honest about themselves to consider another’s opinion of them. One needs to be willing to face their own weaknesses and downfalls. One has to be humble enough to admit to the need for change.
So, don’t swing too far in the wrong direction. Consider other’s opinions without taking them in and letting them run like schoolchildren with scissors waving frantically in the air. Make them behave themselves and reveal truth to you. Talk to those opinions and form your own conclusions. Make good, honest changes in yourself based on those truths. Let other’s opinions help to define how you react to the world.
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