If you do, you're not alone.
I, too, have a really hard time with people being wrong about me. And judging me unfairly as a result.
Or god forbid, not liking me or my choices.
I have always admired people who are not people pleasers, people who just do what they want and don’t give a damn if others don’t like them as a result.
This is not me. (I wish it was.)
This is a problem for two reasons: one, because I can’t control what they think. Much as I wish I could!
And two, it means I may not live my most authentic life in an attempt to control what others think. See above re: this strategy is often not effective.
This came up for me in my own life when I decided to quit my nurse practitioner job in Brooklyn and move to Mexico with my two kids.
My parents were already gone at that point, and my siblings were generally supportive, if not overly invested either way.
But even the judgment of people I barely knew, for example, in my single parents community, bothered me. One person said it would be irresponsible for her to make such a move because she was very focused on maxing out her retirement accounts while her child was young. She didn't say it, but I assumed she meant she also thought it was irresponsible of me to make this choice.
This wasn't even a close friend of mine. Nor a person who I particularly admire. And consciously, I scoffed at her opinion. But if I truly didn't care what I thought, why would I have spent energy defending myself against it, and why would I remember her opinion now, 5 years later?
That said, It’s easier for me – though not easy – to ignore those negative opinions when they from people who aren’t close to me.
But right now, I’m really struggling with what I think a couple of people close to me are thinking about a big life change I am making. I desperately want their enthusiastic support… and I’m not getting it.
And that's really hard for me.
I've spent two months arguing with the invisible jury that resides in my head. Arguing that they should be supportive, that they should be enthusiastic. Just because it would make me feel better.
I know this sounds kind of crazy "on paper" but I think most of us do this. It's called having "a manual" for others, a set of rules of how we would like others to act so we can feel comfortable.
My manual says that others shouldn't give advice -- because it makes me feel really uncomfortable to receive unsolicited advice -- and they should be supportive of my choices, because that is what I do for others.
Unfortunately, other people often have their own manuals, and aren't interested in consulting mine.
So the only thing left to work on in my own brain.
I don't want to like their lack of support. I still wish I had it.
So instead I am focusing on the sadness and anger that comes up when I think about not having their support.
but what I am working on is dropping into my body and just noticing and acknowledging the sadness that is coming up for me.
This isn’t toxic positivity – I’m not pretending to like it.
And I’m not trying to feel better by controlling their behavior – although I would definitely love it if they decided to change their words and actions!
So instead I am choosing the considerably more challenging but ultimately more liberating option of just allowing myself to be sad and angry.
This sounds easy but it's taken me at least 2 months of resistance to remember to do this.
And now I am trying to let go of my story of how they’ve done me wrong, and instead just saying, “wow, I’m sad. Of course I’m sad. They are really important to me and I wish things were different.”
Then I pay attention to my body, letting go of the story of why I am sad, and I just notice the sensation. “I feel sadness bubbling like a big cauldron in my chest. It feels like it will never stop.” (Brain “helpfully” offers up “you’ve been sad about this for two months, you’ll never stop being sad.”) “Shhhhh, brain. I hear you. Let’s stay in the body. The cauldron is big and it’s blocking up my chest and it’s heavy and hard, like it’s made of iron.”
After two months of fighting sadness, two minutes of feeling sadness and just allowing it, I feel a slight shift. It’s not all rainbows and daisies, but it’s not quite so heavy anymore.
I’ll keep coming back to it in the coming hours and days. I'll keep practicing allowing the sadness. I'll keep reminding myself that it's safe and even helpful to do so.
Human brains are terrified of negative emotions. We think we’ll just curl up and die if we feel them.
But the opposite is true. When we allow those big, scary emotions, we liberate them. They don’t disappear, but they loosen their power over us.
Whose thoughts are holding power over your emotions? Do you imagine your parents' disapproval? Your partner's annoyance? Your child's thoughts that you are "mean"?
You can't change what they think, but you can change how you react to their thoughts.
Want some help figuring this out? Schedule a complimentary life coaching session and I'll show you how you, too, can experience this transformation.
As for me, just a few days after trying this, my emotions about these loved ones have dropped by at least 80%. I think about them still but they get so much less air time. I am spending my energy on other, more profitable, ways to spend my time.
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Abby Wolfson is a pediatric nurse practitioner, certified child sleep consultant and certified life coach for parents. She divides her time between Brooklyn, NY and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.