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I Am Not Responsible For What Other People Think About Me

Looking for approval from other people can be exhausting and futile.


When it comes to friends and family, sometimes you learn a lesson the hard way.


Sometimes your best just isn't good enough.


Sometimes you do so much for people that they take you for granted, and then when you withdraw from them because of this, they moan about that too.


Sometimes you could give somebody a dozen compliments and yet they will focus on the one negative.


Sometimes people will want your energy and happily take as much of it as they can get. Those same people will often then disappear, until the next time they need your energy or help.


Sometimes people will systematically pull apart everything you've said to them and then put it back together in the way they want to hear it, so it fits their model of the world but doesn't even resemble what you actually said.


Sometimes people will just make things up and say that you said them, when you didn't.


Sometimes people have their own agendas and issues and will do the strangest things in order to make themselves feel better in their world.


This is what people do. But, I am a person, and you are a person too. We most likely do some or all of the above some of the time too.


The bad news is that we live in a world full of people, and so by interacting in the world we inevitably encounter these kinds of problems.


The good news is that these people are our greatest teachers.


Whenever we come away feeling bruised or sore from our interactions with people it's usually because we haven't managed our own expectations. We have hopes and desires for how other people should treat us, and the acknowledgement and appreciation we should receive from them. This can be a slippy and dangerous slope that leads to nowhere good.


If we do something and look to receive appreciation in return, then we probably have slightly misaligned intentions in the first place, and we will usually be disappointed anyhow.


If we say something hoping to help people or gain thanks for our help, not only are we flirting with arrogance but we are also setting ourselves up for a fall.


Seeking approval and appreciation is really not good for your wellbeing, self-esteem and it's really bad for your friendships and relationships.


In order to feel happier in our interactions with people, we need to develop a sense of what our true responsibility is. Ultimately we can only be responsible for ourselves and the thoughts and feelings that go on in our hearts and minds. We are not responsible for what others think of us, or for what others think of what we do and say.


Now, this is much easier said than done, because we do care what others think of us, it hurts us deeply sometimes, but this doesn't mean that we have to carry this burden forevermore. We can learn to let go of everything that isn't 'our business'. 'Our business' is what goes on in our inner world, everything else is 'other people's business' and we can't do a damn thing about it. To try to would be exhausting and futile.


Can you imagine how draining it would be to constantly second guess everybody you encounter and make sure you do and say everything right so as not to offend them? And, even when you think you've been impeccable, you have no idea what they are percolating around inside their own heads - sometimes they might tell you that they are pissed off with you, other times you find out accidentally days, weeks or even months later.


It's like trying to stop the flow of a powerful river with your bare hands. Futile.


So, we have to turn the negative into a positive, otherwise, you might be tempted to run away and find a cave in the mountains where you don't ever have to deal with another human being again.


We have to use these challenging interactions with other people to become better versions of ourselves. It's like in alchemy, turning the lead into gold. Or in Qi Gong where you take the tension and blockages in the body and turn it into energy.


When we encounter a moment where we come away bruised from our interactions with other people, we first need to check where our expectations may be out of balance. If we can be brave enough to admit to ourselves what part of the bargain we expected in return, then we can see where we got hurt. We can learn from this.


Then we can strengthen our resolve in what is 'our business' and what is 'other people's business'. There's no shortcut to this, you have to realise the things you can and cannot control, and let go of the things you can't control. It takes practice. Start now.


Finally, the ultimate way to turn this around is to be grateful. Appreciate the person who you believed had caused your upset and thank them for being your teacher. They have shown you something about yourself that you hadn't quite grasped yet. They have taught you where you are still stuck, where you are getting caught. To be grateful for the lessons that they show you is the ultimate in turning a negative into a positive.


Perhaps then we can go out into the world without having to wear armour or without feeling defensive. We can step out there with an open heart and deal with people without fear of repercussions or fear of getting hurt or fear of upsetting people.


To be courageous enough to remain open-hearted in the world is the ultimate personal and spiritual victory.

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