Their Opinions Are Just That - Their Opinions!
Updated: Aug 22, 2021
"Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never do me any harm." As a young child growing up, we often threw this statement around in school or at home as a weapon against the verbal bullying of our peers, friends, and siblings. This was our flippant or sometimes rehearsed way of brushing off hurtful words, criticisms, and insults or simply to disarm mean-spirited people. But as I grew older, I became acutely aware of the power of words. That old saying, however, was not completely right, neither was it completely wrong. What was right about it was that "sticks and stones" CAN do just that - break bones if/when used for that purpose. What was not right, was that words DO harm when used to incite any type of violence against another. But here's the kicker - words CAN only affect your psyche if you accept them or believe them. One may ask, how exactly do I accept someone's words when he/she was the one saying those things? We accept another person's opinion of us when we internalize their words and give them credence above our own. Sadly, this cycle often begins in childhood and perpetuated by the very ones who claim to love us or have our best interests at heart.
Though I am not a parent, I have had the honor (and dishonor) of witnessing the interactions of many parents with their child/ren. I have seen much expressions of love, devotion, commitment, encouragement, support and the likes. But I have also seen many parents cut their children down, like wheat ready for harvest, with words and attitudes so harsh and demeaning, that that child lost their innocent spark forever. What followed, sometimes, was a lifetime of low self-esteem, low self-confidence, social awkwardness, self-doubt, and a pitiful craving for acceptance and constant affirmation. Some children were told that they weren't smart or just plain ole stupid just because they showed no aptitude for academics like their peers or siblings. Sadly, however, these same parents never cared for, or were clueless about, these same kids' genius for creating or doing things with their hands. Many others were constantly fat-shamed or told that they were ugly while their other siblings or friends publicly received all the praise and acclaim. Whatever the context or life-situation, a child who constantly hears disparaging words, especially from people he/she trusts, will, one day, believe those words. You might ask, why? A child may reason, 'since those words are coming from my parent, my sibling, my teacher, my friend, then they must be true - my own mother would never lie to me!' A child who is constantly told to shut up will eventually believe that he/she is not worthy of having an opinion or ideas and will shut up but may find other crafty ways to seek their parents' attention. Unfortunately, a child may not have the capacity to rise above the negative impact caused by someone's opinions or words and may absorb it all.
But as an adult, how can I reorient my way of thinking and my behavior?
Choose your words wisely: Always be honest about your feelings to yourself but know exactly what to share, how to say it, and when to say it to others. Know the power of words. A word said in anger or in judgment can set in motion a lifetime of regret or sorrow. So take the time to consider your thoughts. Be quiet if you are not clear about them. Speak only when you can be concise, articulate, and measured. Be fully present in all things and know that your words, though powerful, are only your thoughts, your opinions. Make peace with the fact that no one has to accept them.
Be an active agent of construction not destruction: One of the most lethal agents of strife and division, is gossiping. It wreaks havoc in families, destroys lifetime friendships, pits coworkers against each other, and foments a hellish disposition amongst its practitioners. Gossipers have one objective in mind - gaining the upper-hand through character assassination and deceit. But they never share their true motivations with the unsuspecting listener. It's all clever manipulation. Words, however, when used rightly by an honest communicator, are agents of creation. So be intentional about affirming yourself and those around you, use positive words to communicate, and let your positive energy infuse the truth of your words. That way, those around you will be blessed by the abundance flowing from within.
The only opinion about you that truly matters is your own: Be honest with yourself but also speak positively to yourself. Reorient your self-talk. If you were wrong about something or made a gaffe, never say, 'I am so stupid' or 'I am just dumb.' These are negative affirmations. Admit that you made a mistake, learn the lesson well, and move on! Listen, however, to those who uplift you from a place of love and kindness. But reject the negative opinions of those who only seem to pop up and pop by when something has gone wrong in your life. Remember, their words are only opinions birthed from their own life experiences and from their own warped egos. You can choose to give their words credence. Or, you can choose to rely on the positive self-truths that you have already defined for yourself and accepted. The choice is yours.
Be kind to yourself: Try not to take things personally, at least, so often. This world is filled with so many negative things and people, that to walk through life relatively unscathed, is almost a myth. But I also believe that this world still has so many beautiful things and people, that finding the joy of living is still possible despite the many challenges. So understand that whatever is happening in this world, the chaos around you, or the drama in other peoples' lives is not about you. Does it mean that you should be unsympathetic or uncaring? No, not all. What I am saying is that you are not responsible for someone else's behavior or attitude. You are not to blame if someone is unkind to you. You are not responsible for what someone thinks about you. That's on them. You would not accept responsibility for my weekly garbage disposal if I threw the bags your way! So do not accept their emotional garbage if they try to dump it on you! It is NOT your truth. Reject it! Love yourself enough to not feel one ounce of guilt about it.
And remember, their opinions of you are just that - their opinions.