Why Other People's Opinions Are None of Your Business

Nov 07, 2022

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We spend a very large amount of time and energy concerned about the opinions of others. Perhaps too much. While it’s important to be kind and take other people’s feelings into consideration, if it causes us to constantly seek the approval of others, we may have a problem.

So at what point are other people’s opinions none of your business? Where do you draw the line that states your freedom will not be inhibited by the ever-changing thoughts of others? Let’s talk about how to find and create that healthy boundary.

“Giving people permission to not like you or approve of you or agree with you, can be so powerful. And notice how much freedom that gives you. Freedom to grow… and freedom to create a life that feels like your life, not someone else’s life.”  – Dr. Sara Dill

What You’ll Learn

  • Manipulation of opinions
  • Letting go of trying to control
  • Thoughts are temporary
  • Living someone else’s life
  • Being okay with people getting it wrong
  • Understanding our need for acceptance
  • Not adding meaning

Contact Info and Recommended Resources

Interested in coaching? Sign up at saradill.com/coaching. Have any questions about the various options? Email me at [email protected]. I personally read and respond to my emails.

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Connect with Sara Dill, MD, The Doctor’s Coach


Dr. Sara Dill: I'm Dr. Sarah Dill, and this is the Stress- Less Physician Podcast, episode number 39. Welcome to the Stressless Physician Podcast. I'm your host, Dr. Sarah Dill, md. Using my unique combination of coaching and mindfulness tools, I will teach you practical ways to reduce your stress level, feel happier at work, and create a better balance between your medical career and personal life. If you are a busy practicing physician who wants to design a life and medical career that feel good to you, you are in the right place.

Hey, everyone. Welcome back to the podcast. Happy November. I can't quite believe it, that it's already November and yet it is. Fall is one of my favorite seasons, even here in California. And it's started to cool off a little bit at night, but we typically have really beautiful sunny days. I do always miss fall in New England, although, it's so interesting. So I lived in New England for many years. I went to college there. I did my residency there. I worked for many years actually in Rhode Island and in Massachusetts, and I even spent some time in Maine and I love fall back there. And now I can fly if I wanna go see it since I live back in California where I'm from.

And all of my friends and family have forbidden me from moving again, although of course I always could if I wanted to, but it's so interesting when you visit the fall and you don't live there how, I sort of like it even more because there was this thing, at least I experienced it in the fall in New England, it was really beautiful, right? The colors and the leaves and the changing seasons. But it was always tinged with a little bit of this regret or fear or something about winter coming, right? Winter was coming. And I would know that pretty soon the trees would be bare for many, many months and it would get colder and then snow, which I like the first couple snowfalls of.

And then February, I will say, is a little bit challenging for me in New England as for many folks. But it's interesting how knowledge of the future would color my appreciation in the moment of fall as well. And maybe that's also just part of time passing a little bit about the podcast episode I talked about with life is short or life is brief, right? And savoring the time, but maybe also having the knowledge that things are always changing, and this moment is a moment and then followed by another moment. So I don't know why I'm thinking about that, but that was top of mind.

So today I am really excited to talk about other people's opinions and why they are really none of our business and why we shouldn't care nearly as much as we do, if at all, about what other people think about us or what we're doing in our lives, et cetera. And I will say that this practice of really sort of staying in my own business and letting other people think what they are going to think about me regardless of whether I try to control what they think, which of course is impossible, right? We can never control, accurately, other people's thinking or opinions or anything.

Why this has made such a difference for me in my life and really has given me so much freedom to just live life based on what I want to do, right. What my thoughts and opinions are, whether I approve of myself rather than needing other people to think a certain way about me or approve of what I'm doing or saying, or how I'm living my life.

I think one of the biggest sources of stress that we have in work and in life in general, right, is other people, whether those are patients or colleagues or family, friends, neighbors, strangers, politicians, right? We have a lot of thoughts about other people, and if they would only do what we thought they should do or think what we think they should think, right, that everything would be better. The problem with that is that, of course, we can't control other people and we certainly can't control what they think about us. Right. This is true. I know with patient feedback and online reviews, yes, we can certainly do our best to have patients have a positive experience, but have you ever had that experience of going above and beyond and doing everything, maybe even more than you really should be trying to do to try to make a patient happy with you, and then it backfires and instead they're very unhappy and how frustrating that is. Right?

And so that's always a sign that we're trying to manipulate other people's opinions about us. So it's certainly something normal and universal, and I think it's something that really doesn't serve us. So I would just ask you, as we start to talk about this, just notice how much time and energy do you spend thinking or worrying or trying to control other people's opinions of you? I would guess it's pretty high. What would it feel like to simply stop caring so much, right? To simply stop caring that much, to stop worrying, to stop trying to manipulate how other people think of us, right?

Just imagine if it was just a couple little neurons in your brain and I could just sort of wipe those out. You could never really have the thought, 'I wonder what they're thinking about me. Oh my gosh, I want them to approve of me. What if they don't like me? What are they thinking about me?' If you could never think those thoughts again, what would be different in your life?

This doesn't mean that you wouldn't care at all. This wouldn't mean that you suddenly treat other people poorly or badly or rudely. Right. It simply means that you really recognize how little, or in actuality, no control we have over how other people think about us, and we let go of trying to control it. So I'm not even asking you to stop controlling what other people think about you, right? Because you don't. I'm asking you to stop trying to control what other people think about. Right, and I'm asking you to notice what it would be like if you just didn't care very much, if it was sort of uninteresting to you, irrelevant, right? None of your business, what other people's opinions are.

The way I think about it as well is that we don't even ever know how someone else really feels about us. Right. Even if someone tells you that they think you're great or they think you're terrible, or they think whatever, they could be lying. We never really know what's going on in someone's mind, right? Or their opinion could change rapidly so they could like you one day and not like you the next day based on different events.

Think about how much time you spend trying to live your life so that other people approve of you or like you or admire you, right? The way I think about this is how we sort of turn ourselves into a pretzel, or we sort of twist ourselves up, right, trying to please other people because we want other people, right, to have a favorable opinion of us. We want other people to have positive thoughts about us.

Do you make a lot of decisions in your life based on what other people will think or what they'll say about you? How would you live if you didn't care if other people understood you or agreed with you, if they approved of you, or even if they appreciated you?

What I've found as well is that when I let go of caring so much about other people's opinions, I actually find that I'm a little bit more likable because I think when we're trying to sort of manipulate or control how other people see us and think about us, we can be sort of weird and creepy. We're sort of like, I think of it again, as like tap dancing - trying to like put on a show and I'm not myself. It's tiring. And then even, say if people do apparently seem to like you, it's not really you. It's the you, you are pretending to be so that they would think certain things about you. So I find that the less I care about other people's opinions, the more it sets other people free to live their own lives without trying to control how I think about them too. And we all just have more freedom.

I like to think about how thoughts are temporary, our thoughts and other people's thought. They are not permanent. We have a lot of repetitive thoughts, but a thought itself it comes into your head and then it fades away. They're temporary. What are we doing? How much are we contorting ourselves in our lives to try to affect temporary thoughts in other people's minds? There's a quote from Byron Katie I love that I think about sometimes. I offer it to clients sometimes, and she says, 'What if everyone loves me, but they just don't know it yet?' I like this thought sometimes.

Sometimes it doesn't feel believable to me, then I might try out a different thought.That thought is from another coach of mine and teacher Brooke Castillo, and she always said, 'You can be the juiciest peach in the world, but not everyone likes peaches'. There's nothing wrong with the peach, and there's nothing wrong with not liking peaches. For me, it's bananas. I don't like bananas. Nothing wrong with bananas, and I'm allowed not to like them. So it's this idea of letting people not like you or agree with you or understand you, and knowing that it has nothing to do with you,

Can we give people permission to judge us and have opinions about us. Spoiler here, they already do. We all have thoughts and opinions and judgments. Giving people permission to not like you or approve of you or agree with you can be so powerful and notice how much freedom that gives you. Freedom to grow and freedom to create a life that feels like your life, not someone else's life. A lot of the time, I think because we care so much about what other people think, what other people's opinions are, we often discount our own and we end up in lives that don't really feel like ours, because we're making decisions based not on what we truly want to do or don't want to do, but on trying to have other people approve of us, or like us, or think certain things about us.

So just notice, does your life sometimes feel like it's not yours? That you've made a bunch of decisions that maybe were because of how much you worry about what other people's opinions are. What would it be like to let people be wrong about you?

So I often like to try on a lot of different thoughts. Thoughts that contradict each other. Like, 'Everyone loves me, they just don't know it yet', and letting people be wrong about me, letting people not like me. You can just try it on and notice maybe what serves you in that moment, right? What creates a feeling of more ease or freedom of looseness or relaxation? What feels tight and stressy. That's a thought that's not serving you.

I love the thought that other people's opinions of me are none of my business. And I know that because their thoughts are based on them and not on me. The way I know that is that if I go into a room with multiple people, they all have different thoughts about me. If I was the one who was responsible for what other people think about me, I could control it so that everyone thought exactly the same thing, and yet we don't. And we can't. So what if other people's opinions really don't have anything to do with you, but everything to do with the person thinking them.

Other people's opinions aren't about me at all. It's about them. And this I find can be such a relief when you really understand it. When you really get that. It's like letting yourself off the hook of trying to manage things that you can't manage, of trying to control things that you can't possibly control.

So something I wanna spend a little time on here as well is to understand why we care so much about other people's opinions. Why does it matter so much? So I'd ask you that. What do you think? Why do you think you care so much about other people's opinions?

One reason I think that makes a lot of sense to me is thinking about humans in general, as social creatures. We're sort of like herd creatures or pack animals. We rely on other people and we certainly have through our history and our evolution for survival. I like to think that needing approval and being liked and being part of the group or the tribe, depending on where we're sort of looking at, human evolution was literally life and death. If people didn't like you, where you got kicked out of the tribe or the group of people you were with, small groups of hunters and gatherers, small villages, any of that, it could actually mean that you were gonna die. We literally required other people for our survival.

I think this might be even more so for women who tend to be smaller and weaker traditionally, not necessarily all the time, I'm sort of generalizing, and so is that possible that that's why it can feel so terrible when someone doesn't like you or doesn't approve of you, doesn't agree with you? But I like to remind myself that it's not life and death now, at least not for most of us. Can we calm down our lizard brain, our amygdala, our fight, flight, freeze response, that sees this as very dangerous and sort of realize we're okay? It's not gonna kill us to have someone judge us in a negative way or have a negative opinion about us. That helps me a lot, sort of normalize why it feels so intense, makes sense to me, and also appreciate that what I can do now is to remind myself that it's okay, it's okay.

I also think another reason that we care so much about other people's opinions is what we make other people's thoughts about us, opinions about us mean. What do you make it mean if someone doesn't like you or someone doesn't approve of you, or someone doesn't agree with you? I think a lot of us make it mean that there's something wrong with us, that we're unlikable, maybe, that we're making a mistake or mistakes, maybe that we're selfish or we're failing in some way, or that there's something wrong with us. That's usually what I think it comes down to. That's the work to do here as well. What do you think? Do you like you? Do you think you're making a mistake?

Maybe it's more of a mistake to make decisions based on what people might be thinking about you than to make a decision based on what you truly want. Do you think you're selfish? Why is that a problem? Do you think you're failing? I find that if you like you, you like yourself, peach or banana or whatever fruit you are, it doesn't matter so much if other people like you or don't like you. And when you give up that need to try to control other people again, I find that we tend to be less reactive, less prickly, less defensive, and overall more likable, more fun to be around. More relaxed. We're not judging ourselves and we're not judging other people nearly as much. That can make us a lot more pleasant to be around. That's not the point, but it's sort of the secondary benefit that I've discovered.

So what do you make other people's opinions mean about you? What if you started loosening that pattern? You don't have to drop it right away. What if you started reminding yourself that what other people think is about them and not you? Again, otherwise everyone would think the exact same thing about you, positive or negative. If it truly was about you. I'd love for you to try this out or see what you think. Again, a lot of people worry that it'll somehow make them rude, mean, selfish, a narcissist, a sociopath. And so again, I don't think you're ever going to completely not care about other people. That's not the point. I like caring about other people. I care about other people a lot. What I work on is not caring about their opinions and their thoughts as much as I care about my own.

Even people I love. They might offer me some of their thoughts about me, and I can check and see what I think. Maybe they're right, right? That's another thing I like to do. Could they be right about me when they offer criticism or feedback that feels like criticism? Can I investigate it and check it out for myself? And maybe what they don't like about me is something I do like about me. Again, Maybe they just don't like peaches and I happen to be a peach. Maybe they just don't like cheerful people, and I happen to be mostly cheerful. I'm okay with that. I get that. It can be annoying to some people. That's fine.

Other people get to have their thoughts. Other people get to like me or not like me. Approve of me or not approve of me, and that gives me so much freedom. And it also releases me from needing to think so much about other people, and what they're doing. And if I agree with them and if I like them. I stay in my business and they get to stay in their business.

I would love to hear if you have any comments or feedback, again, feel free to email me anytime: [email protected]. Have a wonderful week and I will talk to you later. Bye.

If you are a busy practicing physician, ready to start feeling less stressed, enjoy work more and learn how to create a more balanced and sustainable medical practice and life. Sign up for a consult call with me at saradill.com. It would be my privilege and pleasure to work with you.

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