The cost of the good opinion of others

“Who would you be if you didn’t want the ongoing good opinion of others?” ~Jaya the Trust Coach

Having the good opinion of others has always been of vital importance to me. This is even true of complete strangers; I can’t bear the feeling of knowing someone (anyone!) doesn’t think well of me. This inability to bear it is exponentially worse when it comes to people I love and am close to. Encountering their disapproval or disappointment in me just about sends me into complete panic mode.

I react to others’ disapproval with profound feelings of shame writhing through my being and an agony of fear and discomfort coursing through my veins. I often feel as if my entire body will start writhing around in an external show of my internal torture. (Although I am usually able to resist doing anything more than hand wringing when in the presence of others.)

So when I read the title of Jaya the Trust Coach’s March newsletter, You want the good opinion of others–are you sure?, my immediate response was “Yes, of course!”

Even knowing this wasn’t the healthiest of responses, that was still my gut reaction.

Then I read her article. She starts out with the reminder that avoiding the negative opinion of others at all times is impossible. Not only are we not perfect, but even if we were, we would still be misunderstood, judged unfairly, or have lies told about us. It’s just part of the human condition. So placing such a high value on what other people think of me is actually rather foolish to begin with because I’m trying to achieve the impossible.

From there, she goes on to point on the many costs of even attempting to keep everyone’s good opinion all the time. Her list includes some things that really matter to me, like my integrity, my authenticity, my freedom, my inner knowing, my peace of mind. (See her newsletter for the full list.) She’s absolutely right, too. I have paid each of those costs many times over in my failing attempts to make everybody like me all the time. I paid the costs, and it still didn’t work.

So do I really want the good opinion of others? Enough to pay the costs for something that is unattainable anyway? Really?

Given that choice, the answer is no. Even knowing that I am going to have face those moment of writhing shame, even knowing that this means sitting still and facing the fear of disappointing others, even knowing well the agony that this will bring, I still choose freedom. I choose integrity. I choose authenticity. I choose my Self.

This doesn’t make it easy. I am going to be tempted to take the easy road of pleasing others to escape the agony over and over and over again. Sometimes I’ll give in to the temptation, but sometimes I won’t. And each time I don’t and I discover that the agony is not fatal, it’ll reduce the power the temptation has over me. Each time I sit through the writing shame without rushing to “fix” things and find the freedom the lies on other side from having been true to myself, I’ll increase my courage to stand firm the next time.

I joined a book discussion group tonight with life coach Christy Diane Farr to discuss Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s The Invitation. For me, this book is all about living my life authentically even when (especially when) people around me don’t approve of the authentic me. I am excited to have additional support on the journey, and I think that working back through this book over the coming weeks will help give me the support I need to let go of my clinging need to have the approval of everyone around me.

I look forward to continuing to find out who I will be when I don’t need the ongoing good opinion of others. It will be a continuing opening into authenticity and into freedom.