If we close our eyes for a moment and clear our minds, a picture starts to form.
Perhaps we don’t often have the opportunity to get that quiet or that still—the opportunity to free our minds from the responsibilities and worries that come with an average day of adulting.
We may never admit where our minds wander to when they’re free to do so. But when our eyes close and our minds clear, there’s a picture of the life we desperately want to be living. We crave it.
It calls to us, sings to us in our sleep. But, there are three little words standing between us and the life we crave.
You’re probably thinking those three words are: My lottery ticket.
Sure, that might help achieve some materialistic fantasies of jetting off to a private island or never working again, but here are the three words that typically stand in our way:
Other. People’s. Opinions.
I think my IDGAF (I don’t give a f*ck) is broken. Or at least it doesn’t work quite as well as I’d like. Because I have found throughout my life that, as much as I am immune to peer pressure in a traditional sense, I do consider the opinions of other people. Even if I still do what I want, I am affected by these opinions. Perhaps I’m not as brave as I’d like to be, but I’m getting there.
First of all, I should say that I think other people’s opinions are pretty important—to those people.
I’m not saying “follow your dreams” if those dreams harm you or others. I’m talking about the need for authenticity, for living lives that are true and necessary for who we are as individuals. Why do we allow what other people think to matter even a fraction of a damn when it comes to what we do?
Haven’t we all felt the weight of that judgement? How we’re not dating right, not marrying when other people think we should, or maybe even marrying earlier than someone else thinks is wise. How we should be having children, or shouldn’t. How we’re not parenting the right way or how our careers should be resulting in a certain amount of material accumulation. How we should dress and how we should smile more. Should, should, should. So many voices telling us how they think we should live.
But only one voice matters: our own.
Even if we believe in a higher power, we are responsible for following our own convictions and making the right choices for the path we’re taking.
All of those voices telling us who we should be aren’t living our lives. They aren’t walking in our shoes on our path. They aren’t facing the consequences of a single one of the decisions they would have us make, and yet they are so free with their opinions. Why do we care so much?
In Buddhism, the root of suffering is attachment. This is certainly true when we find ourselves attached to the opinion of other people. When we practice non-attachment, we can make decisions purely based on what is right for our own lives and what resonates with our own souls. We can live deep, meaningful, authentic lives when we stop worrying about how something is going to appear to someone else.
This has been particularly challenging for me. As an empathic person, I hear all of the criticisms, and sometimes I take them to heart.
But then I look back at my life, and I see that every single time I was brave and chose my own path, despite those opinions, the universe rewarded me with a deeply authentic beautiful life. Not an easy one. Not an uncomplicated existence. But a messy, spectacular, bone-deep, amazing existence. It’s the kind of life that I can wake up every day and be grateful for living.
It’s not a life that anyone else might measure as successful. Maybe a few years ago I wouldn’t have either. There’s a lot that people have had opinions about in my life :my marriage, my divorce, how I raise my children, my dating history, my boyfriend, how I dress, how I look, the language I use, and even what I write about. All of those opinions are within the rights of whoever holds them. Yay for you! But I’ve created a life for myself that I appreciate and find rewarding, and so it’s now my responsibility to divorce myself from the opinions of others. In short, to set myself free.
We don’t stop caring about people when we stop caring about what they think. We just respectfully acknowledge that they aren’t living our lives and so they don’t get a say in how we live them.
Hopefully, we have some truly good friends who will give us raw, bold, relentless honesty when we need it but, otherwise, we need to live our lives from the soul, not from the voices of what everyone else thinks.
We don’t have to tell them to f*ck off.
We can respectfully, and even cheerfully, decline to listen. We can say “no” without explanation.
We can love them, but we need to stop giving them space in our heads to impact what we do or how we do it. They are living in our heads rent-free, and yet they want ownership for what we do. It’s time to serve the eviction notices and clear our minds of everything but that dream that comes up whenever it’s quiet. Not a fantasy of what we’d do with lottery money, but the crystal clear vision of how we’d live our day-to-day lives if we really made the choices we want to make.
Maybe we’d quit a particular activity or take up a new one. Maybe we’d end a relationship or have the courage to start a new one. Maybe we’d stop watching that unsatisfying show or reading the book we can’t quite get into.
Maybe we’d live lives that felt like they belonged to us. But, first, we have to take those three little words and give them the boot.
Authentic, beautiful lives don’t have the space to accommodate other people’s opinions. They are far too full of joy and gratitude for that.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Editor: Lieselle Davidson