Counselor's Corner: It's none of my business...what people think of me

By Fred Cavaiani

Years ago someone told me this very profound statement: “What other people think of me is none of my business.” At first I found this a rather difficult statement to accept. I have always wanted people to like me and think well of me. If someone expresses dislike toward me it is painful and I want to make sure that I will be back in their good graces. I do not like to hurt people or offend them in any manner. Of course I am not always successful at this and at times I, as everyone else, have to apologize for a misguided remark or impulsive statement or action. But that nagging, hanging on of wondering what other people may think of me or hold against me still can linger inside of me for years.

Lately though, that statement of “What other people think of me is none of my business” makes so much sense. I cannot control the thoughts and actions of other people. Their thoughts and perceptions are their own, not mine. I can’t control what a person wants to think of me. What a refreshing concept this is. The only thing I can control  is my actions toward other people. I can apologize for my mistakes but I cannot stop another person from thinking ill of me or being judgmental toward me. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

As I begin to realize this, living becomes much easier. Opinions can change from day to day. Beloved celebrities can become tomorrow’s unloved celebrities in the blink of an eye. Papers, talk show hosts, Facebook, Twitter, and newscasts can change opinions with absolutely no proof whatsoever. Subtle innuendos can make a good person look bad and a bad person look good. Tone of voice, subtle print, and misinterpreted pictures can change perceptions so easily. Gossip and hearsay can go a long way in misdirecting how we see another person.

I may be famous today and forgotten tomorrow. Success is transitory and superficial.

We cannot control the thoughts of other people. We can control how we treat other people. We cannot control the actions of other people. We can control our own actions.

Too often we worry so much about other people’s thoughts and actions that we forget the reasons for how we are thinking and acting. It is so easy to be judgmental about those who differ from us politically, spiritually and emotionally and forget about what is really going on inside of us. The more judgmental we become the more we should realize how much we really don’t know. We should all use the principles of listening so we can understand, seeking so we can find, and hearing so we can discover deeper meaning.

As the years go on I am realizing that being right is not very important and trying to convince people in my own righteousness is not very helpful for them or for me. When I can give up being concerned about how other people will think of me, I can get on to the wonderful road of having more friends without the baggage of worrying how they will like me.

What freedom there is in giving up concern about how other people see me or like me. My only concern is that I show love and respect to everyone. It becomes my gift to the world. Everything else can change. My love and care for others doesn’t have to change and can remain the one constant in the lives of many people.

Fred Cavaiani is a licensed marriage counselor and psychologist with a private practice in Troy. He is the founder of Marriage Growth Center, a consultant for the Detroit Medical Center, and conducts numerous programs for groups throughout Southeast Michigan. His column in the Legal News runs every other Tuesday. He can be reached at (248)362-3340. His e-mail address is: Fredcavi@yahoo.com and his Web site is fredthecounselor.com.

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