The Importance of Not Letting Your Life Be Dictated BY The Opinions Of Others *

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It seems like throughout history and to this day, many people have been concerned about what others might think of them. Many people seem to also be concerned about “fitting in” and doing what others do, maybe because they feel like “that is what you are supposed to do” or other potential reasons. But is this necessarily the best thing to do for your individual situation ? I argue no. People can be very diverse in terms of background, life experience, interests, lifestyle etc. and “cookie cutter” lifestyles are not always the best solution for everyone. If it was, perhaps we would all be required to only watch baseball, eat only chocolate ice cream, and only watch action movies  (to give a rather extreme example). And for some people, that might work out great, but for many others it would not. This is why it is so important to not let your life be dictated by other people’s opinions *.  It is important to do what is best in your situation and not just copy someone else.

I remember when I was in school, I had what I would describe as a rather large nose. I would get made fun of for it from time to time and as you can probably imagine, and it was not the most fun experience. I was also very self conscious about it. Thinking back on it, it probably wasn’t even as shockingly large as I imagined it was, but in my mind I remember it being a big deal. When I got out of school, I decided to get plastic surgery. Perhaps it did improve the “appearance” of my nose (Although even that could be argued).  However, thinking back on it now, I think I was missing a bigger point. In addition to having a “large” nose, I was also not very confident, quiet, shy, and afraid of what people might think of me. This in fact was probably the bigger issue. I was very self conscious and extremely afraid of what people might think of me or what they might say. There were some kids in my school who were “fat” and “short” and had tons of acne etc. etc. However, the difference was that some of these kids were confident and didn’t seem to really care about what other people thought of them, or at least gave the outward appearance that they didn’t. And the interesting thing was that I don’t remember these kids getting made fun of for their “fatness” or their “shortness” or the “acne”. Granted, I think some of these kids were bullies in the school and/or were trying to cover their insecurities, but I seriously doubt that all of them were. I believe that some of them were just confident kids who didn’t really care so much what others thought of them or their physical attributes etc..

The point is that it’s not really about trying to fix your physical appearance to get the approval of people or to try to fit in. It usually doesn’t lead to anything good anyway. At the end of the day, you are still reliant upon what others “think” of you and how they might react. This goes the same for life choices. For example, should a person become a lawyer just because everyone else in their family is a lawyer? I argue no. Of course, sometimes people get pressured into doing certain things from their family, friends, etc.. While I don’t encourage disowning your family in order to do your own thing, I believe that there are a number of ways that people can do their own thing and still maintain friendly relations. I’ve heard many stories where people’s families were at first extremely unhappy with a decision, but as time went on, they became much more accepting.

While in general, it is great to not really care what other people think of you, there are a few exceptions I can think of.  The first one is probably a relatively rare one. This exception is when somebody has feedback for you that might actually be useful or helpful for you. This is not when somebody is just judging you or making fun of you with no basis. This is when somebody has something  to say that could actually help you in some way and maybe they have a legitimate point. This may well be worth listening to, but I don’t know though how common this sort of legitimate feedback is.

Another exception would be that if by “being yourself” and not letting your life be dictated by the opinions of others *, you are doing things like stealing from people, sexually assaulting people, or otherwise harming people.  In addition, another problem could be if you have a true pathology or something similar and are suicidal.   

It’s sad to hear that people who are LGBTQ, poly, childless by choice, single by choice, and many others, seem to have it hard sometimes, even in this day and age. For these people, it is even more important for them to not let their lives be dictated by other people’s opinions *. This is a way that they can have a higher chance of being happy in their lives. I remember watching a TV show a while ago where one of the characters, whose biological sex was male, was wanting to transition and started wearing stereotypically female clothing. He was made fun of a lot for this at his school and was even attacked once. He was so upset by this that he decided that he would go back to wearing stereotypically male clothing. When he did this, his situation did not really change much at all. In fact it seemed to get worse. The way I remember it, he continued to be made fun of at school,  only now it was for wearing boring looking “male” clothing and for deciding to go back on his original idea. In this situation, it seems to be a case of “damned if you do, and damned if you don’t”. So, if that is the case, why not just do what you feel is best for your own situation?

Some people could always find something to judge you for or make fun of you for, whether it is being fat, gay, short, tall, poly, black, and the list goes on and on. I personally doubt that someone who is happy in their life, free of insecurities, and comfortable and confident with themselves, will feel a need to put someone else down in order to try to make themselves feel better. This probably happens more with people who are unhappy with their lives and are insecure. And if this is the case, why base your life decisions on their views? 

* Credit: Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and the Art of Living Foundation

Eugene Belilovsky
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