What you Think About Me Is None Of My Business

Happy SMART Day Everyone!

Back in the early 1980s, there was a New Thought minister in San Diego, CA named Terry Cole-Whittaker.  She was and still is a very vivacious speaker who was so popular that she even had her own Sunday morning TV program.  During that time, she authored a book called, “What You Think of Me Is None Of My Business.”  Although Terry’s path changed rather dramatically in the years that followed, one of her legacies is this idea.  It doesn’t even matter if you’ve read the book or not—the title alone is something that I refer to on many occasions.  It would certainly be SMART for each one of us to regularly remind ourselves “What others think of us is none of our business.”

Now before you get defensive and try to claim that you don’t care what other people think of you—let me ask you a few questions.  Do you work at any job or spend any time during your day doing anything you don’t like to do?  After all, if you didn’t care you’d never do something you didn’t like to do, right?  Or, do you wear only clothes  (or no clothes at all!) whenever or wherever you want?  Again, if you don’t practice complete freedom, then who are you doing it for?  Do you follow every whim you have?  Do you eat, drink and make merry exactly as you choose?  The answer to all of these is probably—“of course not!”  That’s because even though we might want to live a bit differently, as social creatures we realize that it’s often important to compromise some things in order to live in harmony and peace with other beings.

Sadly, we often get so comfortable learning to live with those we care about, trust and love, that we end up doing all sorts of things others think are right for us—instead of what we feel called to become.   Just like other habits we create in our lives, the habit of conforming to other people’s expectations can quickly lead to a life-habit, where we have no clue who we really are or what we even want.  Worse yet, we go through life trying to second guess what others are thinking and creating drama where none even exists—all the while wasting our existence.

Examples of this show up every day by how we raise most children.  From a very young age, girls are praised for being accommodating and nice.   The more girls are praised for being obedient and submissive, the more that behavior is reinforced in them.  Boys aren’t expected to be so obliging, but they too are heaped with expectations that ask them to be compliant or risk rejection and abandonment.   To avoid conflict and gain acceptance, all children learn to fit in to their family and their peer group’s requirements.  Even children and/or young adults who think they are being very radical and adventurous usually do so just to fit into a particular group or “family” where they feel accepted.

So, if we are all “trained” to live within family units and care what others think, how can we ever hope to break out of the bonds that bind us?  A few suggestions to help along the way are:

#1 Develop your own inner guidance—and then listen to it!  Several weeks ago I wrote a blog post explaining how most of us are outer directed rather than inner directed.  It’s rather clear that if we are spending large portions of our time listening to what others think—be they our friends and family or the nightly news—then we are outer directed and always going to be looking outside ourselves for approval, acceptance and safety.  However, if we take the time to develop a close relationship to our inner Self—call it your Soul, your Holy Spirit, or Alicia—that will allow you to be true to your essential being.   The closer our relationship with Self, the less likely we will be to be pulled off course by other people’s opinions.

#2 Be about your own business.  This suggestion is a popular one with author and speaker Byron Katie.  Katie continually suggests that much of our unhappiness comes from resisting what “is” and trying to change it.   She teaches that we spend far too much time thinking about other people’s “business” and not enough on our own.  Consider, if you are attempting to alter or change someone else all the time—you are focusing on his or her business—and not on your own.  The big problem is, we can’t do anything about someone else’s business—so we are just wasting time and energy on them instead of what we can influence—ourselves and our “business.”  Plus, it’s very likely that if we are listening to their opinion of us—that too is focusing on their business and not our own.  Let others think and do what they must—and be about our own business.

#3 Be relentless about discovering your own purpose and passions.  As author Martha Beck says, our soul’s purpose is like a guiding North Star in our lives.  Chances are good that if we aren’t clear about our purpose, we will be swayed by the first convincing argument or manipulation we hear.  Unfortunately, there is plenty of evidence showing that people without a North Star can be directed to do all sorts of things (as radical as killing themselves and/or others).   When guided by our own North Star, we will be much less likely to even notice the voices and suggestions of those who would lead us astray.

#4 Stay conscious and aware of your motivations and choices on a daily basis.  This is a suggestion I write about in just about every one of my posts.   That’s because I believe it is critical for us to stay awake and aware as much as possible.

Of course, most of you are probably familiar with these “tips.” But if you’re like me, you could use a regular reminder of how important they are.   As a writer, it is very tempting for me to work hard to attract and please those I hope read my words.  However, if I end up paying more attention to what I think people want—and less attention on what I feel called to write about—there is a very good chance both of us will be unhappy.  Instead, as I write about those things I believe deserve to be communicated, I am following my own North Star.

It doesn’t’ matter whether you’re a boy or girl, young or old, rich or poor, or any one of the 7+ billion people on the planet, we are all being constantly bombarded with conflicting arguments to behave one way or another.  Our challenge as spiritual beings having a human experience is not to ignore the people and events in our life—but also not to let them determine who we are and where we go from here—and definitely not how we think about ourselves.  As caring and compassionate people, we can daily do our best to share our Light and resources, and remember that what you really think of me is none of my business.


For another perspective on this same idea, please go to my other post:  Self-Esteem & Self-Image–What’s the Difference & Why Does It Matter?


“There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.” ~Howard Thurman

“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” ~Anna Quindlen

“To be nobody-but-yourself—in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else—means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” ~e. e. cummings


Filed under Meaningful, Responsible

6 Responses to What you Think About Me Is None Of My Business

  1. Pingback: Rightsizing Your Finances—A SMART Way To Manage Money

  2. …. great post, thanks for that. Terri came up with a great title for her book,and I’ve herad heard about “What You Think Of Me…” from couple of people.
    You ask some good questions, yet I believe listening what others have to say may be relevant, becouse we want to get feedback about out actions as well.
    It’s a really great post about self esteem 🙂 I find self worth a study, a bit like digging through all that I’ve learned through my life to the open and strong person inside. I might call it a proces of re-discovering or re-education.

    • Hi Danka….thanks for stopping by SMART Living and joining the conversation. Yes, Terri’s book is a classic and I highly recommend it. Of course you’re right that some people can offer us great advice…but if we live our lives trying to make others happy at our own expense it will never work.

      I also really like your idea about calling the process “re-discovering or re-education”…that’s VERY true. ~Kathy

  3. While I was reading this article, I felt my rebellious inner self kicking in. Something said: “No, I think she’s wrong here.”

    I realized that your second paragraph failed to speak to me as a person who is often, but not always, internally driven. I think it is very easy to spend one’s day doing things that we do not like doing because we believe we ought to do them…not for others, but for ourselves.

    I may not enjoy spending my weekends reading and writing, but I enjoy being a graduate student and giving up my weekends to academics comes with the territory.

    Further, what I think is right (based on a personal judgment of rightness) and what I think is fun can be at odds. There’s no rule in the universe that says my internal motivations cannot conflict with each other. Isn’t this the basis of most moral dilemmas? I am very sympathetic to Kant’s misanthrope here. There’s no reason to believe that this conflict has to stem from external factors.  

    It is perfectly possible to perform acts we do not like and do not want to do based on internal expectations.

    I think it is worth reminding your reader that feeling torn or mixed about doing something will not disappear just because we are not basing our decisions on other people’s feedback. Maybe it just means that the dilemmas we face will be more authentically our own, and the decisions that we make based on these dilemmas will have a deeper and more meaningful impact on the process of self-actualization. 

    On another note, I love your advice on establishing oneself as an internally driven person. As you put it, I really appreciate the reminder. It helps to refocus the priorities.

    Most of the advice I give other people (paradoxically) emphasizes minding one’s own business. I really think this is the key to happiness. I get this idea from Plato, who thinks that having the right sort of internal motivational structure as an individual is all that is necessary for that individual to realize the good.

    For a person to find true happiness, true self, or true goodness, that person needs to look to his or her own internal motivational structures. The world is simply not built around making us happy, so we have to find that direction within ourselves.
    Sherri Lynn Conklin recently posted…Its Not What You SayMy Profile

    • Hi Sherri,

      Thank you for your thoughtful and in depth comments to this article. And trust me, I am quite happy if anything I write provokes others into thinking that they either agree or don’t agree with what I’m trying to communicate. As you say, you already tend to be internally driven–while I have to confess that for too much of my life I haven’t–and that of course is mainly where I was coming from when I wrote it. And even though I know the points I was making in the article, and am getting better and better at it, I still need to be reminded all the time!

      I also appreciate your other views about the paradox we all continually face between doing what we think we should do–and doing whatever we want in the moment. Those pulls can often be at odds. And as you say, the pressure to conform to expectations can be both internal and external. But I do know that being clear and aware on where the pressure is coming from, and whether we consciously choose to participate or not participate, is critical. And yes, that would likely make you both more authentic and help you become more self actualized as well.

      Some of these thoughts tie into my most current post about trade-offs and opportunity costs. The more we are aware of what our choices mean to us–both the ones that are fun and easy, and the ones that are far more difficult–then the more authentic and self-actualized we are on any given day.

      I agree with your statement that the world is NOT built around making us happy–but I do tend to believe that it is a bit more ambivalent than that, and is set up to allow us multiple options. Want to be happy?–okay, here are those options. Want to struggle?–okay, here are those. Want to just exist?–no problem, same thing. And to use a rather overused cliche…each of us has been dealt a hand of cards–some good, some pretty bad–and it’s up to us how we play them. Like you say, “we have to find that direction within ourselves.” One thing I do know for sure is that I prefer to spend time and hang out with others who strive to find that direction within themselves.

      Thanks again for the input you offered on this article. And like I said, feel free to disagree and say why with anything I’ve written. A primary motivation of all my writing is to stimulate thought and awareness–so I welcome all such comments in the future…. ~Kathy

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