Updated: Apr 23, 2019
Do you ever find yourself questioning how you should think or act based on what others might think? If you’re like the rest of us, the answer is likely yes. But is this wise? Is it effective?
There are multiple problems inherent in this behavior. The first glaring issue is that no matter how well you know someone, you are still just guessing what they will think. The deeper complication is that you are attempting to access the wisdom (or lack thereof) of another, rather than tuning in to what you know to be true for yourself.
This behavior eats away at confidence and self-esteem. Too much of a jump? Think about it for a minute. Let’s just say you’re in graduate school and thinking about dropping out. Your thought is coming from somewhere. Whether it’s coming from your wisest self or your most frightened self is your job to determine. There are multiple ways to do this (journaling, releasing, meditating, talking it out and more). But if instead of doing your work to understand what’s driving the thought, you move instead to “what’s dad going to think?” you are, in effect, saying you can’t trust yourself to determine what’s right for you. In this action, you are attempting to find an external regulator for your behavior. It’s a bad idea. I’m not discounting the value of another’s opinion, but defaulting to what others think is a game that no one wins at. Now, more than ever, is a time for accessing wisdom. And that can only come from within. So, next time you are faced with a decision, even a seemingly insignificant one, turn to yourself first. What do you think?
There’s another scenario where we worry about what other’s think. In this scenario, we’re judging ourselves for our behavior and projecting it on to another. It would look something like this: “I want chips. What’s the person at the counter going to think of me? She’ll probably think I’m fat and I don’t need chips.” And so on. It’s pretty clear that this conversation is the one already going on internally. Again, we’re trying to use someone else’s thoughts (which in this case are likely not happening at all) to regulate our behavior. It might be effective in the moment. But it’s a very temporary patch and won’t ultimately result in a positive outcome.
Where do you default to the opinions of others? What do you think would happen if you turned to yourself first?