“What Other People Think Of You Is None Of Your Business”: Something Stupid My Therapist Says

“What people think of you is none of your business,” he said, and I waited for the punchline.  Because surely he was joking.  If people are thinking about me, how is that not my business?

He didn’t laugh.  He didn’t proceed with a witty joke and it wasn’t the beginning of one of his tongue & cheek Jewish morality tales he is so fond of.  

I mulled over the words.  None. Of. My. Business

I decided I had three choices: (1) get a new therapist that wasn’t smoking crack before my appointments, (2) attack his premise with my incisive logic (the result of which led me straight to his office, desperate and alone), or (3) consider if maybe he was on to something.

I didn’t feel like finding a new therapist, because that would entail a call to my insurance company, and who has time to wait on hold for 77 minutes only to be told to check the list of providers on the website– nevermind that the only three who fit my plan were no longer taking new patients.

Fighting back didn’t appeal to me either.  He was smarter than I was– after all, I was paying him a bazillion dollars to have these conversations.  So I surrendered my weapons (defensiveness, whining, and complaining about the “patriarchy”).

“None of my business what other people think of me?” I asked, hoping I’d heard him wrong.

“Right. It’s none of your business.  Like other people’s sex lives or how they save for retirement.”

I couldn’t find a loophole.  If only he hadn’t mentioned sex and money, then maybe I could have scaled the wall of his audacious statement. 

I sat with it.  Actually, I’ve been sitting with it for over ten years.  It’s become a mantra. Those words are filled with freedom– they are the parachute I use when I am in the flaming plane of someone else’s opinion of me.

  • When Outlaw Mama’s Facebook page number drops, I panic and wonder What’d I do wrong? Why do they hate me? Then, I remember: it’s none of my business.
  •  When someone replies to a comment I left on a Huffington Post article by attacking my intelligence and my morality, I feel like I might throw up.  Honestly, I want to track down my attackers to let them know that I actually am a good person with a heart and brain (and too much time on my hands).  But I don’t because what anyone thinks (or writes about me) is none of my business. (FN1)
  • Does my boss think I’m stupid? Does that stylish lady like my shoes? Does the homeless man believe me that I have no money on me? Does the clerk at the drugstore like me even though I am annoyed I had to wait 1.5 hours for antibiotics? What does my yoga teacher think about my crappy posture and haphazard commitment to her class?

I’m slowly getting it.  What you think of my blog, my writing, my children, my hair, my cooking, and my preference of big box retailers — all of it belongs under that gigantic umbrella labeled None Of My Business.

It’s freedom, and it’s a parachute I always forget I have strapped to my back.

* * *

FN1: Unless of course you commit libel or slander, in which case I will sue your ass.

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62 thoughts on ““What Other People Think Of You Is None Of Your Business”: Something Stupid My Therapist Says

    • Right? I think every blogger needs this. WEll, I guess only if you are a people pleaser like me and feel like the world will end if people don’t like me. Ok, maybe it’s just for me, but it’s my blog so there’s that.

  1. I like this a lot better than my usual mantra “I don’t care, I don’t care … wait I so care, I’m trying not to care.”

    • I wish I would have remembered this during the first 3 months of preschool when my dirty mini-van and be-banged hairstyle didn’t seem to measure up against the Lexuses and the pretty blondes (without bangs).

  2. Wow! That kind of makes my stomach hurt thinking about it! If it’s none of my business, then what the hell am I supposed to worry about now? It’s really hard to wrap my head around that one. But, you def gave me something to think about. Hmm.
    Great Post. 🙂
    -Ellen

  3. It’s funny, I had the same kind of epiphany in a counselor’s office myself. I was talking about somethings that were very stressful and emotionally taxing to me and I couldn’t understand why. Her conclusion was that it seemed I was very worried about others’ opinion of me. If I do an action, how ever right or well-meaning I thought — if someone misunderstood — I felt like tracking them down and telling them, what a nice person I really am. CRAZY. I can see that now. I think that has been the root of so much indecisive behavior. If I’m fine with it. If it’s fine between me and God — then why the heck am I so worried if someone doesn’t get it?

    • Exactly. I know. I know my heart, my loved ones and my God know who I am– and they certainly know I am not perfect– but that is enough. Or I hope I will come to believe that more fully.

  4. Ok, I can’t leave it alone. It’s one thing to wonder what people think about you, but what if it is communicated and they got it wrong? Isn’t it my obligation to correct the fallacy? Also, I am totally fine with people not liking me (I’m not all that likable after all) but I prefer to know exactly which reason they don’t like me when they – say unlike my Facebook page or block me on Twitter. I won’t try to change their opinion, but I need the information.

    What would the good doctor say about these things? Does he have a 2pm today?

    • Oh the Twitter block. Here’s why I am glad I don’t understand or really know how to use Twitter: I am hoping I will never see or know when someone blocks me because I say some even more outlandish things over there. I mean, it’s Twitter. It’s too scary. Jeff told me that sometimes people get off Facebook because they are being stalked by bi-polar ex-lovers so maybe it’s not all about me. Maybe they just closed their accounts. I tell him, “nah, it’s defintely because of me.”

  5. I had a very wise old man tell me that once. I try to remember it when I am feeling incredibly insecure. I found it also works with those uncomfortable enmeshy relationships we all have with our family members. It seems so counter-intuitive that I shouldn’t care what my sister, mother, father, reader, friend thinks of me… but what a freedom that comes with the realization!

    • Best word ever: “enmeshy” Oh lord, I want to write a post about that word. And you’re right. I do lots of justifying in my head and outloud b/c I want my family to understand the good heart that is me. Oh, you hit it on the head.

  6. I don’t know what I think of that saying. Maybe it’s true, but I don’t know if I can buy into it yet. I’d certainly be happier if I could. There’s this friend of a friend, and for some reason she can’t stand me. I’ve never done anything but be nice and it drives me crazy!! It would be nice to let it go. Can you give me the number of your therapist? 🙂

    • I know. It drives me crazy too. I have a friend with whom I’ve had a falling out. Word on the street is that she tells people I dumped her and that’s my my experience/reality. My experience is that she pushed me out of her world– with her elbows. I want to correct the record so everyone knows I am not a friend dumper. But I’m told I am not allowed to tamper with other people’s reality because it will get me a one-way ticket to crazy town.

      On Wed, Mar 27, 2013 at 10:30 AM, Outlaw Mama

  7. I’d tell you what I’m thinking of you, but it’s really none of your business, so I’ll test your resolve to see if you can not try to guess what I think of you. . . 🙂 it doesn’t really matter though anyway, right? Because I’m just a random virtual acquaintance who happens to have some of the same interests as you (writing, parenting, irreverence, etc). . . but nothing I think about you should alter the way you live your life in the least. . . your therapist sounds like a smart guy, possibly influenced Buddhist ideas. . .

    • I am pretty sure there is a loophole if a virtual friend tempts you on your own website. Under those circumstances, it can be my business especially if my therapist is out of town for Seders in far off lands….he’s definitely got some Buddha in him. The first time I met with him I told him I didn’t want to trust him in case he died (which must have made him think JACKPOT! this kid has some trust issues). To me he said, “If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him.” I went to my office and Googled the shit out of that and only understood, barely, that he was telling me to trust my process. God, he makes me so mad.

      On Wed, Mar 27, 2013 at 10:32 AM, Outlaw Mama

  8. That statement “What others think of you is none of your business” is probably the most profound statement I’ve ever heard. It cuts right through the BS most of us worry about daily doesn’t it?

  9. Whoosh. I dunno. I have trouble not caring, in any situation. Like, I still fret about that one time in the line at the market when that lady was entering the line from the wrong side and then thought I was the one butting in line (which I NEVER do) and then magnanimously let me go first, in front of her daughter. I should definitely be able to let that shit go, right? None of my business. Huh.

    One thing I HAVE learned, is that there are people who are just trolls. They literally go around the interwebs looking for people to bitch at and ways they can be inflammatory. I’ve learned to recognize and feel sorry for those people, because they really need something better to do. And I’ve decided to feel free (and thrilled, actually) to delete any such comments that land on my blog.

    • I’ve seen a bit of the trolls. They scare me and take my breath away and I think they should learn some manners. But in the end, it’s my job not to give them power because, after all, they are trolls and trying to offload their venom to me. No one says I have to take it.

      On Wed, Mar 27, 2013 at 11:25 AM, Outlaw Mama

  10. It’s easier to add “and I don’t care” to the end of it. That’s how I help myself tolerate my initial desire to track people down and MAKE THEM SEE HOW GREAT I AM. When my FB or Twitter numbers drop or I have a post that receives nothing but crickets chirping as a response, my first reaction is to use one of those apps that show who unfollowed you. But then, I tell myself: it’s not my business and I don’t care. There are so many potential reasons that it’s pointless for me to try to figure them out. And now? I add “I don’t care.” Mostly, that works because I truly don’t care. But sometimes? Sometimes I can’t help myself. Recently I was driving along and trying to make a right turn. There was a funeral procession. I sat still. Then, a huge SUV sped up and around me and blocked the intersection. I looked at the driver like WTF. She rolls down her window, flashes the orange funeral card and I yell out of my window, “I wasn’t intending to break the procession!” Why? Why did that bother me (still bother me?) Why didn’t she KNOW not everyone is an asshole, not everyone cuts into funeral processions? I still want to find her and tell her I’m not one of those people. I’m not the one she needed to protect the line of cars from. But. It’s none of my business why she thought that. She must be used to people being assholes.

    • I would still be mulling and obsessing over that too! It grips me so. But I love the I don’t care. It’s like a prayer. If I say it, maybe it will be true. One day.

      On Wed, Mar 27, 2013 at 11:33 AM, Outlaw Mama

  11. This is something I have to remind myself of often – it helps tamp down the crazy going on in my head. What am I? The thought police?
    Let’s just say it’s a work in progress…

  12. Holy. Cow. My therapist said the same thing to me, and I had very much the same response that you did. I had to argue with her – a bit – but she was right. I’ve continued to struggle with this idea, and I continue to believe that EVERYONE MUST LIKE ME. Is that wrong? 🙂

    • I don’t think it’s wrong per se, but I have done some rather self destructive things to make people like me. Pretty sure that’s wrong. Must be the trend in therapy school to throw that one at us!

  13. This is a timely post. Because my MIL is visiting, and I feel like just about everything she says has an underlying tone of vicious judgement. Which I think actually means I care way too much what she thinks of me and my parenting. But I guess it’s none of my business.

  14. You know what? I worry more about what people think of my kids. My adult daughter was betrayed by a friend she trusted a lot, and who then proceeded to turn many of her other friends away from her with a twisted account of their falling-out. It’s a relatively small community and I feel so bad for her, but there’s nothing she or I can do until the former friend eventually reveals her true self to more people.

    • I 100% see this in my future. It’s going to be searing when my kids endure this. Worse than when it happens to me, because they are perfect and I am not. Kidding. Mostly.

  15. I read this several years ago and it jumpstarted a really big period of growth in confidence for me.

    Basically it says that what they think about me is all about them. It’s not about me at all. Their thoughts, beliefs and reality are not mine and hold no truth in my world. What they think strictly points to what goes on inside of them! It’s based on their past and their experiences. Well, if that didn’t make my life easier and far less people pleasing! And it gave me the ability to allow myself to be happy no matter what others thought of me. I do my best, have good intentions and will never try to hurt another, admit my boo boos and do apologise if needed, and if that’s not good enough, oh well. Their loss! Plus, not everybody resonates with everyone else.

    You know your heart. They don’t. Obviously because if they did, they would love you! LOL!

    A couple of months ago, I realised that having the “number” of followers announced on my front page only made me question myself daily when I came in and saw the number go down or never go up. I was really unhappy when I noticed that someone had dropped me. Why?? I am awesome! What did I do?? I don’t get it! And then I would go looking for who it was (I am small potatoes so I could figure it out lol) just so I could torture myself some more with that knowledge. I removed that from my site/sight so I don’t see it when I go in there. I am way happier!! My own blog is not a numbers game, it’s for me, so don’t need that in my face.

    I agree that it’s harder to deal with with your kids. I have had to step back and let them learn from situations. They know I love them but it’s their life not mine (starting about age 12, I knew they needed to be allowed to figure things out- they’re in their 30’s now). Difficult!

    Don’t know if I helped, I seemed to have hijacked this thread lol. Words tend to run away with my fingers…. :p
    Hugs

  16. Where the hell would I start forming opinions about myself if I weren’t so concerned about what others think?
    There is no self is there isn’t self loathing born of assumptions about what other people misunderstand about me.
    End. Of. Story.
    As with Carinn said, I’m going to go think now….

  17. That is some very sound advice. On one level, I get it and I agree with it. On another, I can’t help but come up with a zillion buts and becauses for why it doesn’t apply to me in all situations and why I still need to know and discuss and worry about what people think of me.

    That is definitely a something to spend a lot more time thinking about.

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