What other people think of you is none of your business.
I would really love to attribute this quote properly. Unfortunately, Google offers up a variety of sources, from Paul Coelho to Deepak Chopra to Ru Paul.
Regardless of who said it first (probably not Ru Paul), I think we can all agree that the sentiment is both true and terribly upsetting.
It’s true because we genuinely can’t control what others think of us. No matter what you do, someone somewhere will dislike you for sport. Luke Skywalker had haters. Abraham Lincoln had haters. Michael Jackson had haters. Haters are a fact of life.
It’s terribly upsetting because you know full well you’re going to make it your business anyway. We are storytelling machines. We can’t help but invent reasons for everything – if only I’d done this or said that or walked away or showed up, then this person would still love me.
For a number of years, I was in a relationship where the other person, for reasons all his own, had decided that I was an abusive, cruel, hurtful person. On top of that, he had become convinced that I had 100% control over whether he lived or died (among other things).
This person was important to me, so I took his concerns seriously. I worked on myself. I tried to do what he wanted me to do. But nothing I did made any difference. I thought, “Might I really be this horrible person he thinks I am?” After a while, I started to believe it.
Around the same time, I went to a parole hearing. The man whose freedom was on the line had made a series of terrible decisions 20 years earlier and, as a result, had spent virtually his entire adult life in prison. I had been on the receiving end of those decisions and had spent virtually my entire adult life freaking out that he would one day get out of jail and kill me dead.
During the hearing, one of the parole commissioners asked the man why he went to my house that night. He replied, “I just wanted to see Ann. She was someone who was always kind to me.”
Which is True?
These are two (mutually exclusive) points of view held by two people who, at one time or another, loved me.
Only one of them can be right. So which one is it?
- Man A: Thinks I’m a monster no matter what I do.
- Man B: Serves a 20 year prison sentence, but still believes I’m kind.
Which man would you believe?
I suppose, if you were strong enough, you could close your eyes and ball your hands into fists and scream, “What other people think of me is none of my business!” Hell, you might even believe it for a minute or two.
That didn’t work for me.
Instead, I started to wonder. Why was I giving Man A so much power over how I felt about myself? Why did two sentences uttered by Man B at his parole hearing feel like such a relief that it moved me to tears? And most importantly: what else was I missing?
How to Deal With Haters
Here’s what I discovered:
No matter what you do or fail to do in life, there will always be people who insist on looking at you through the big end of the binoculars. To them, you will always be two inches tall.
But don’t forget, there will also be people who insist on looking at you through the little end of the binoculars. To them, you are a giant.
Stop giving power to the people who are too stupid to hold their binoculars the right way.
Trust the people who see the good in you, because when you see the good in people, you’re seeing things as they really are.