We’re all constantly being judged. People glance at us and form opinions about us. Our friends, our family, our vaguest associates all have ideas of what we should or shouldn’t be doing. Often, those opinions are made very clear to us – sometimes directly (when they tell us their thoughts about what we’re doing) or indirectly (when their actions and less-direct comments show us what they’re thinking).
When we were all younger – think of high school, for example – these judgments often were the end of the world for us. The social judgments of the people in our school. The judgements of our teachers indicating whether we were smart and worthy or not. The judgments of our parents. The judgments of popular culture telling us what was cool and what was un-cool.
As we got older, we “outgrew” most of these but we often replaced them with other judgments. Our bosses. Our family and our close circle of friends. The people around us – think about the endless “keeping up with the Joneses” phenomenon.
Here’s the thing, though.
A lot of the people who judge you will never be pleased with you, no matter what you do. It will never, ever be enough. You can be a millionaire with a great career and it won’t be enough. You can have the perfect house and the perfect car and the perfect family and it will never be enough. There will always be something with which they can bring you down and reassert their sense of superiority.
Guess what? Their opinions do not matter. Not one little bit. If you waste even one second of your life trying to please such people, that’s a second you’ll never get value from and never get back.
At the same time, there’s a lot of people you might think have judged you in some way, but they really haven’t. Almost always, it’s your feelings about yourself reflected back onto you. If you don’t like some aspect of yourself, it’s easy to tell yourself that the people you meet don’t like that aspect of you, either.
The only use for these “opinions” is as a guide to how you feel about yourself.
In the end, the only opinions that really matter are your own opinions and the opinions of a very small and select group of people who know the full situation and whose opinions you’ve actually decided to care about. Everyone else? Not so much.
Drive an old car because it gets you from point A to point B the cheapest.
Use a very basic cell phone so you don’t have to pay extra for the phone or the data plan.
Live in a tiny apartment while you’re working at a low-paying but career-building job.
Work towards debt freedom instead of facing endless credit card and loan bills, even if it means not having the shiny new thing.
Throw your television out the window and read in the evenings.
Join a community group that all of your old “friends” would have made fun of you for joining.
Spend an hour jumping on a trampoline with your five year old nephew because you love spending time with him.
In the end, the only opinions that really matter are your own and those close people around you who know you and understand why you’re making the choices you’re making. Everyone else? Forget about them.
In the end, you’re the only person living your life and only a small handful of people have a significant impact on your life. The rest of them can take their opinions and their judgments elsewhere.
Focus on what you’d like to accomplish in your own life. Right now, what one thing would you most like to accomplish in your life? Don’t worry abut what anyone else thinks or says or wants from you. What do you want from your life?
That’s the very thing you should be spending your energies on. Keep it front and center, do the unexpected to get there, and ignore the naysayers.
(Of course, this isn’t saying that you shouldn’t try to make a positive first impression on people. However, being clean and being friendly will actually take care of 90% of a first impression.)