I don’t know why you pay so much attention to the outside world. If you pay attention to your personal interior world you’ll see that when I say that you live within your consciousness I’m not speaking figuratively or metaphorically. As I’ve said before, Stephen Hawking’s body might have been bound to a wheelchair but his consciousness has touched the edges of the known universe. And that rule applies to all of us. We would all applaud a surgeon cutting our bodies wide open to repair us just as long as our consciousness isn’t present to notice.
Because your emotional experiences take place in your consciousness via your thoughts, it is a beautiful thing to be able to genuinely wish the best for someone who would traditionally be categorized as an enemy. Because any hating or resentments or anger would be taking place in my consciousness not theirs. I would be experiencing it not them. So I can love an “enemy” and they won’t even know I’m doing it and yet it allows me to feel much better than I would if I was hating them. That’s totally in my control and the good thoughts are guaranteed to feel better than the bad ones.
Likewise, when other people are upset with you that’s something that happens in their consciousness. If you start to consider and re-think and wonder about their thoughts then you can injure yourself because now those are your thoughts too. People have lied about you to get things they wanted, or to accomplish things they thought were important, or to hide a mistake they made etc etc.. And people have given you credit for things you didn’t do, or they’ve had overly generous opinions—in the end, good or bad, every opinion of you is just that: an opinion. So there is no need for you to invest any of your lifetime in trying to manage the interior of everyone else’s consciousness.
Opinions are ideas about who you are and even the most detailed ones are based on shockingly little information when you think about the complexity of a human life and all of the reasons you did this or that thing. So someone can know someone for two months and decide they’re “slutty” when in fact the person is just going through the tail end of a divorce and it’s enormously common for most people to be a bit slutty during that am I still attractive? phase. So is that person casual about their sex or did someone see 1/10,000th of their life and paint an entire picture based on it?
You’ve all had this happen. There are all kinds of opinions out there about all of you and they differ wildly. So you can’t be all of those people so who are you? You are the thinker of your own opinion of you. You too have an idea of who you are. And keeping that version of you healthy already requires a lot of your attention so there’s no need to cripple your awareness by considering every other opinion about you.
In the end the closest thing to who you are is what you do under given circumstances. So pay less attention to what people think about you—bad or good—and focus on what your friends know about you by watching you live your life over time. Because most people’s judgments will have been gotten second hand so they can easily storm up and combine to “define” someone’s reputation. And yet those views are ultimately nothing more than a collection of thoughts in a collection of heads. Those don’t matter. Half the time people have misinterpreted your motives even if they do get some decent facts. So you can’t live your life trying to have a good reputation. You have to live your life fully as yourself, unafraid of judgment, because that is where real bravery, real character and real respect reign.
Now go have yourself an awesome day.
Scott McPherson is a writer, mindfulness instructor, coach and communications facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.