I have had many conversations over the last year with people about other people’s opinions and how we react to them.
I do not care who you are or how old you are (or young for that matter) at some point in time you have been affected by someone else’s opinion of you. It is part of life.
First of all let me begin by sharing two things I say all the time about opinions.
“Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one and they all stink.”
“Somebody else’s opinion of me is none of my business. Nothing they think or say about me is going to change who I am or what I do.”
Those, in my world, are true statements.
We live in a society where everyone has an opinion about everything. It doesn’t matter if you are talking about religion, politics, the color of the sky, or anything in between, everyone has an opinion. Most are more than willing to voice their opinion to prove their point.
Over the years I have seen and experienced great pain over people’s opinions. It seems that most often they are masked in what most consider “concern” and are heart felt when they are said but no matter how you look at them they hurt.
Many of us have gone through life and have been wounded by some type of abuse. Whether it was verbal, mental or sexual, the abuse was there. We all carry our wounds and many times someone’s opinion of us matters because we have not healed the wounds that we carry within. It could have been our parents who abused us, a family friend, a grandparent, uncle, anyone. We walk through life hoping that we have gotten over it. We walk through life hoping that nobody else will re-open that wound and inevitably it gets re-opened whether intentionally or by accident. We are human and we have feelings and when abuse is involved the wounds are deep.
I was asked today how to get oneself to the point where other’s opinions do not matter. It is a hefty question and one I am going to try to tackle a bit here. First of all you have to look at the big picture. What do I mean by that?
Everyone has an opinion because everyone has a different perspective. Our perspective is based on the things we have experienced in our life. They are based on our spiritual experiences, our personal experiences, our heartbreaks, our victories, everything we have experienced in life, both the good and bad.
When you take the time to look at someone and see what their life experience has offered them you can see where their perspective is and why it is different than your own. It doesn’t mean they are wrong in their view it just means that it is different because their experiences are different.
Many times over the years I have heard people say to me, “my mom was abusive and that affects everything I do.” For me, and this is just me, I look at the abuses that I have endured in my life and I look at the people who inflicted them. I do my best to try and understand why they were abusive. What was their life like? What did they endure as children? Why did they act the way they did? Were there outside factors such as alcohol or drugs that contributed? How did they become the people they were and why?
There is healing in looking at your abuser and their lives. Do not misunderstand me, there is no excuse for abuse and we are not looking to dismiss the abuse but rather it is a matter of understanding what made them tick. Why they did what they did. Many times we just can’t look at them. We despise them. We can’t look at them as anything other than the monster we remember. To do so would make it where we have to look at them as humans with issues and we just can’t. But to get past their terribleness, in my process, it is necessary.
You see when you can look at the big picture. When you can see why they did what they did you take away the power they have over you. They become small. They are not all powerful. It is a painful process, no doubt, but when you can look at them and see that many times it is their own wounds that caused them to act the way they did you can begin to forgive them. It does not mean that you have to do anything other than recognize that they are or were the people they are because of the lives they had or the choices they made in life. They become human and no human is perfect.
We all have shadows. We all have done things we don’t want others to know about or things we have done that we are not proud of. Things we would rather forget. How we handle our shadows determines whether we heal them or not. I am a firm believe in embracing your shadow. I know I am the farthest thing from perfect that exists in this world. I have made many mistakes in my life. I have done many things that I am not proud of. Each of these things have affected my life in one way or another. I have had to face the consequences of my decisions many times over the years and I still do. I am far from perfect and anyone who says otherwise doesn’t know me. For me though, looking those shadows in the face and accepting them as a part of who I am, knowing that I don’t have to be perfect, that I am here to learn helps me see who I am as a person. Do I run from the things that I am ashamed of? Do I hide them from others? Do I inflict the pain that I have caused myself on others? These are all questions that when you are working with your shadow that you have to ask yourself.
When do you feel most powerful? Are you most powerful when you are demeaning another? Are you most powerful when you are facing a fear? Are you most powerful when you are standing in your truth and following your heart? Are you most powerful when you love? Answering these questions tells you where you stand within yourself. If you only find power in creating pain in another then you are not powerful at all, in fact you are weak, because hurting others is causing the same pain you, yourself endured and you have now created a pattern.
This journey, this life, is all about figuring out who YOU are, not who someone else thinks you are. We all have opinions but when you use yours to create pain then you are not one with Spirit. Instead you are trying to control and generally when one is trying to control another it is because they feel out of control of themselves. The thing is that if you can accept that there is no such thing as control and you have none you are free. I can’t control what the weather is going to be tomorrow. I can’t control my son. I can’t control what decisions he will make. I can’t control anything. Hell, I can’t even control my own feelings. When I hurt I cry, when I am happy I cry, when I am angry I cry, I can’t control it. I feel it and I cry. It is who I am. When I finally realized that I didn’t need to control my tears I realized that I was embracing who I am. I know that at times it makes others uncomfortable but that is not my problem, it is theirs.
I don’t do well with anger. I can’t handle being around angry people. It upsets me and it makes me feel pretty damned crappy. So when someone is angry I can choose to try and deal with it or I can walk away because I can’t control their anger. Control is an illusion and we all think we are the master of it. We aren’t. We can only make choices for ourselves and live with the consequences of those choices.
My point is that we can’t control what other’s think. We can try to appease them, to make them happy but at what cost? Is making them happy making you miserable? Is dealing with their opinions something you want to bring unto yourself so you can better yourself to please them? Most often when we try and change to please another we get ourselves in a position that we change this and then they find something else they don’t like so we are in a constant state of changing to please them and we never do. At some point we forget who we are because we don’t recognize the person we are looking at in the mirror. I have walked that journey and I can tell you from experience that it is a very long journey back to yourself when you don’t know who you are anymore.
Over the years I have found that when I am with someone who is trying to control or manipulate me into doing something for them I stop and check in with myself. Is this good for me? Is this what I want? Is this going to make me a better person? Am I going to compromise who I am to make them happy? I have learned to say No. We are people pleaser’s. We want everyone around us to be happy. It is an impossible task. There is always someone who is not going to like the way you did something, the decision you have made, the voice you use, the way you act. No matter what you do you will never please everyone. At some point in time you have to determine if you want your life to be one that is based on your need to please others or yours to live. It is a hard decision because you are going to upset people. When you say No it tends to make people unhappy but not nearly as unhappy as when you say Yes to please them and then feel bad because it isn’t what you wanted.
For me I strive to be the best me I can be. One that knows who she is and what she wants. I live my life on my terms. I try not to hurt people and I do my best to be happy with who I am. I love hard and I can be intense but I do not apologize for that because it is who I am. It took me years to figure out who I am and a lot of healing. Once I realized that my abusers were human and no longer had the ability to harm me I was able to forgive them. I did not invite them back into my life, I am not stupid, I no longer needed to give them power by offering myself as a sacrifice. Instead I realized that in reality they were weak. The only time they had power was when they were hurting me and they couldn’t do that anymore. Forgiving them for what they did was the easy part. Forgiving myself for allowing it was another story. As a child you are not allowing your parent to harm you, but as an adult holding onto it and blaming them for all that happens in your life is allowing them to continue their abuse whether they are alive or dead. They still have control.
My grandfather sexually abused me for many years. I was a child. He used my family, to keep me quiet. He would tell me that nobody would believe me and if I told I would never see my grandmother again. This went on for years until I was old enough to stay away from him. He would come around and I would head the other way. I did not tell anyone until I, myself, was pregnant with my first child. He was dead by then. Once I told there was a sense of relief yet I couldn’t forgive myself. I beat myself up worse than anyone else on earth could have. I told myself over and over that I should have been smarter. I should have told. I should have….. the list never ended. Somehow I was to blame for his sick and twisted actions. Then I started looking at him for the man he was. I looked at how he was a deacon of the church and when he was around others he was always the center of attention because he made himself noticeable. I looked at how when he was home he was mean to my grandma. I looked at him from an outsiders view and I realized that he was not a mentally stable man and he gained his power by hurting others.
To this day there are many that speak very highly of him. It is their view of him and that is okay. I knew a different side of him, the dark, ugly side and once I realized that his sick and twisted ways didn’t just happen to me but to others too I realized that it wasn’t my fault. I was able to forgive him. Forgiving him does not mean that I like him. It doesn’t mean that I love him. It doesn’t mean that I even want to claim him as my grandfather. In fact, I call him Satan himself. I can’t say that I have no fond memories of him. He taught me how to fish. He took me camping and I have great childhood memories of camping at the Kern River and Salton Sea. What it means is that I can now separate my memories of his sick and twisted ways from those that are fond. When I think of the good things that happened on my camping trips he isn’t a part of them. I remember exactly who he was and what he did and forgiving him for his acts never meant that I would forget. Instead it meant that I could forgive myself and move on. He couldn’t rob me of the sweet memories I have and he couldn’t make me feel powerless anymore. Ultimately I was able to forgive myself because I realized that his actions no longer had power over me.
It doesn’t change what happened. It only changes my perspective of the person that caused me pain. When you can shift your perspective you are able to see them for who they are and you are then able to begin healing. It is not an easy task to do and although we can all do it not everyone wants to. Why? Because then we have nobody to blame for all the crap we have been through or done since then. Bottom line is that most people do not want to find their healing because they have to take responsibility for their own choices and it is to hard to say “I really screwed my life up.” It is much easier to say “My life is screwed up because so and so did this to me.” There is no personal responsibility in that, it is someone else’s fault. When you start taking responsibility for the decisions you have made based on the abuse you suffered you step into your own power and your whole world shifts. That abuse no longer has power over you and instead you step into your own power and can begin seeing life from a different view and making wiser decisions. It is an arduous journey but ultimately it brings you peace within and life shifts significantly. It isn’t for the weak of heart and as I said not everyone will walk that path.
Letting go of the pain you have lived with over the years is something that each of us faces at one point or another. This life brings all types of pain. Pain from abuse, pain from loss, pain from broken relationships, there is pain in every single human alive. Letting go is something we are not good at. We allow our pain to control our every move, every decision, every single thing in life. Once you get to the point of forgiveness you always have residual pain. Something will happen that brings all of the pain back up for you to deal with. I know that for years, and even now, I have what I call triggers. Someone can use a certain combination of words and I am instantly taken back to my abusive marriage. All of the fear comes rushing back, all of the hurt I have had in my life regurgitates in my throat and I feel like I am going to vomit.
Why? Because our bodies do not know that our memories are just memories. Instead we have a built in mechanism called fight or flight. Every human has it and when we have a memory that brings fear our bodies react to it. It is a natural defense mechanism. This is why when you are thinking of fond memories your feelings are sweet, emotions flow and you feel good. When you are remembering not so fond memories your body reacts because it is preparing you to fight or run like hell.
A few of the things I do when the memories of abuse come up are to take a few deep breaths. I start there and then I take a moment and ground myself back into the here and now. Once I get my mind wrapped around the fact that this person no longer has the ability to cause me harm I ask Spirit to take that energy, that memory and to use it for good. I change the mechanism of the memory. I can talk to you about it now and have no emotion over it because the memory no longer invokes a reaction, in turn I can help you, because you are going through it yourself and I have been there done that, so to say. It is all about being able to recognize where the emotion is coming from and taking that emotion and releasing it. Some release it to Spirit, others send it into the earth to be mulched. I do both. It depends on how recent the pain is.
When I am feeling grief over the loss of my husband or the loss of another I take those feelings and I see them literally going down through my body out through my feet and I make it into an offering to mother earth, asking that I no longer feel that pain. Each time the pain is lessened. Each time I am healed a bit more. After releasing those feelings I see a white light flow in through my crown and down through my body. You never want to leave an empty space. Energy loves a void and leaving a void invites energies that you don’t necessarily want. Bring that loving energy in and fill your being with the love the Universe has to offer. Over time the pain subsides and you have shifted your perspective enough that you can move on.
Ultimately all of this boils down to not taking others thoughts of you onto yourself. They are their thoughts, their feelings, their way of being, not yours. It is not your responsibility to acknowledge, acquire or take it unto yourself to make them happy by changing for them. It is your responsibility to stand in your truth and take responsibility for your own way of being. It is your responsibility to own your own choices, both good and bad, and be willing to face the consequences of those choices. Learn to say no to others and recognize what is best for you. Believe me once people know and understand that you can and will say no their perspective shifts and respect begins to form both within and for you. You are no longer controllable and you are seen as someone who is not willing to compromise who you are to please others.
There is no reason to put a hard ass face on, when you stand in your truth people know that you are you and there is no compromise. They no longer look at you as a hard ass but rather as someone who knows who they are and can’t be controlled. Your world changes and you are now standing in your truth. Opinions of others are none of your business, that is their problem. They will no longer share them as often because much like water rolling off your back they realize that their opinions no longer control your emotions because you know you well enough to not let it bother you anymore. You find your own freedom in the process of letting them think what they want.
Go be the best you can be!
In Her Service,