On Other People’s Opinions

This was originally published on Windrose Magazine Blog. I felt all sorts of angsty after I published my last piece and got caught up in what other people were thinking that I completely missed the point of this page in the first place. So here’s a reminder that we shouldn’t worship other people’s

Last year, I was given the opportunity to co-start a mental health initiative and grow its influence. This one small project birthed in me a greater passion to create my own platform and share my own messy stories to help others know their worth. I wish I could say I immediately started hustling to bring this vision to life. Instead, I spent hours upon hours lying in bed watching ‘Worst X-Factor Auditions.’

You see, I knew I had the potential to create something impactful. I’ve fought through my own darkness and have sat with enough friends in the thick of their mess to know that there is a whole army of people who need to know they are not hopeless. But whenever I took any steps to bring it to reality, I would get shut down by fear and sent back to the depths of YouTube.

Fear crops up all over our lives wearing different disguises to keep us distracted and stuck in one place. He showed up when I contemplated setting up the website. He banged on my door when I wanted to publish my first words to the world. He came and knocked me over when it was time to be vulnerable and tell more people about my craft. Sometimes he appeared as a fear of failure and other times as fear of rejection. But his favourite way to stop me in my tracks is to breed in me the fear of what other people think.

I’ve legitimately been paralysed from moving forward because of the things people have said about me. I’ve kept passions and desires to myself because others might say it’s ‘silly’ or I wasn’t ‘qualified.’ There have been days when I’ve been too afraid to speak up because of potential ‘backlash,’ and months where I’ve ended up alone because I’d stood up for my values. There are stories I’ve held tightly to my chest, and opportunities I’ve turned down because it would mean exposing more of my life to the public and what ‘they’ think. I could spend hours writing about the loss of support and all the heaviness I’ve felt from carrying around the things people have said about me like stones in a backpack.  

It wasn’t until I was listening to my friend share her story that it all clicked for me. With steaming mugs of chai in our hands and a half-eaten brownie sitting between us, she told me how people used to mock her on the bus because she didn’t fit in. How her teacher’s ‘advice’ was not to bother re- taking her exams because she probably get better. How no one thought she would ever clean up her act enough to get a decent job and out of the mess she was stuck in.  

“But you know what?” she told me, a smile spreading across her face. “Two years ago, I was awarded a prize for being the number one student in Journalism. I’m launching, not one, but two businesses in the summer. And I’m getting married in three months. I didn’t let other people’s opinions define me, and now look where I am.”

***

Maybe you have a history of people putting you down. Maybe your story is full of characters who treat gossiping like an Olympic sport. Maybe you’ve let other people convince you to stay small. Perhaps you received one snarky comment and ever since then you’ve been too afraid to tell the world about your craft.

Here’s the kicker: you get to choose who influences your life. You choose whose voice you listen to and whose opinions carry the most weight. Everyone will have something to say. Some people will declare it with love. Others will speak in hushed whispers intending to keep you small. Either way, you decide if you’ll let it hold you back.

The beautiful yet frustrating thing about us humans is how inconsistent we can be. Our opinions are malleable and can change from one day to the next. I can know someone for years and not feel any spark, but one day I can look up and it all changes. Because people only have a one-dimensional view of who you are. They see you through the lens of whatever experiences they’ve had and whatever baggage they’re holding on to. We’d forever be running a losing race if we tried to stay ahead of other people’s thoughts. You could do everything ‘right’ and say everything ‘right,’ and someone will still find a reason to have a problem with you.

But here’s what will never change:

You – beautifully complex you – are not defined by people’s negative opinions.

You – who are worth more than diamonds and called to be a light- are not meant to stay small.

You- who are sometimes a little messy and hasn’t got life figured out yet-  are more than the one-dimensional perspective others have of you.

Irrespective of who thinks you’re ‘good enough,’ or ‘smart enough’ or only a solid ‘6/10,’ it shouldn’t stop you from going after what you want.

It would be a great disservice to the world and to the God who created you if you hid parts of yourself away because you were scared of what people think.

So pursue your calling. Apply for the job. Post the photo. Tell your story. Don’t let the fear of other people’s judgement rob you from doing what you love. We only get this short little life to live. It would break your heart if you never stood up and moved forward because you were worried of what other people would say.

We don’t get to control many things in life. But we do get to control this.

Girl, Speak Up!

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This was originally published in The Dejure Club newsletter a couple of months ago, but it’s an issue that still continues to hit close to home. Maybe you’ve never struggled with speaking up or people pleasing. But if you have, this letter is for you. 

Confrontation makes me upset.

This isn’t something you want to figure out near the end of your Law degree. But it’s true. I hate making others feel uncomfortable, and I’m prepared to let a lot of things slide. It’s to the point where if a waiter brought me the wrong order, I would take it just to avoid making a fuss.

It wasn’t until I was sitting across from a friend that I realised how toxic this pattern of behaviour was. With latte’s clasped in our hands, he blamed me for everything that went wrong. Even though he’d misinterpreted my actions, I found myself shouldering the whole blame and apologising for everything even though he’d also played a significant part in hurting me.

Why did I do that? Why did I completely invalidate my own hurt and excuse his actions just so he could feel ‘right’? As I reflected on this, I realised I was almost always playing down my own needs and diminishing my feelings to make others feel comfortable. If someone was rude to me, I’d laugh it off. If someone disrespected me or spoke down to me, I’d bite my tongue and bury the hurt.

I don’t know how or why, but somewhere along the way I learnt to be submissive and a pushover. I don’t advocate my own needs because I’m afraid to hurt others or rock the boat. But where does that leave me?

Another friend was constantly cancelling on me at the last minute. I’d always make excuses for them like ‘they’re busy, so it’s understandable’ or ‘they have a lot on their plate, it’s fine.’ But with every ‘It’s fine’ or ‘No worries!’ text, I realised I was validating their behaviour. I was implicitly saying that it was ok for them to disrespect my time and keep flaking out on me because I’d never get mad.

Here’s the thing: if you don’t tell people their actions bother you, they’ll never figure it out. If you don’t assert your boundaries and your needs, people will continue to repeat their ways and you’ll continue to be walked over. If you don’t respect your own feelings, how can you expect others to?

I think a lot of this stems from fear. Fear that people will leave us if we come off as too difficult or not eager to please. Fear that we aren’t as ‘important’ as others. So we undermine our position, compromise on our priorities and play off our pain.

But girl, can I tell you something?

You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are worthy of being heard. You are allowed to assert your needs. You are allowed to say no.

Someone else’s age, race or position of authority does not make them ‘better’ than you. It does not give them licence to devalue you or make you feel ‘less than.’ It is one thing to give grace. It’s another thing entirely to let others take advantage of your selflessness. If you are constantly being walked over or looked down on. If someone makes you feel like your feelings are invalid or you’re unworthy – then girl, you have got to speak up!

And so, for anyone who has ever felt misunderstood, unheard, or unseen. For the ones who have been too scared to speak up. I see you. I am with you. I am for you. So now I’m standing up for myself. Yes, give more grace than you get. Yes, give others the benefit of the doubt. But stop invalidating your needs or feelings for others. Girl, speak up!


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