Here’s a little secret: one of the most relaxing things you can do for yourself – better than a spa vacation in a remote mountain area or trolling a fishing line by your kayak in the Sea of Cortez – is to let people be wrong about you.
I know – it sounds crazy, right? But think about it. How much mental energy goes into protecting our image, defending our stance, or worrying about what other people think about us?
Answer: a shit-ton.
Here’s a quirky thing you might not know about me: I received a near-perfect score on the “logic” portion of the Graduate Record Exam (the GRE is a hideous, multi-hour test you have to take for most graduate program admissions). You might think, “Wow! That’s awesome, Ana! You’re life much be so much easier because you’re all logical and shit.”
Life is actually harder when you not only feel you are right, but know you are often right. This is because most of the time, us humans are super illogical, so no amount of logic can easily change our thoughts, behavior or how we feel. We do things not based on our rational brain, but on how we think something will make us feel. And most of us want to avoid hard feelings, so we do super illogical things like overeat when we are stressed out about trying to lose weight, or snap at our partner when we want to grow closer to them.
So you see: the way people think – and the way people think about you – actually has nothing to do with logic (which is super frustrating for someone with a very logical brain;) You will likely never be able to convince them they are wrong, because they don’t actually think what they about you because they have a logical reason for why they are “right.” They think what they do about you because of how it makes them feel.
So your partner, who swears you never told them about the party tonight and defends it to their core (even though you know you told him 2 weeks ago)?
It likely won’t help to repeatedly describe the exact details of when and how you told them. Why? Maybe they need to believe it wasn’t their fault that they forgot so they can feel good about themselves. Who knows! But the point is, life will get much easier if you let go of trying to convince them otherwise. Just help them get their pants on and get out the door.
Your (read: my) online hater who writes you a scathing email about how lovely your life must be since you grew up with a silver spoon in your mouth/have a rich husband who supports you/(insert made-up story here)?
It won’t matter to write back and say, “Um, no. I grew up poor and in the ghetto and with a schizophrenic father and a mother that took her stress out on me. And I make more than my husband, thank you very much.” They need to think that about you for a reason. Anything you do or say likely won’t help, because they don’t want to feel differently.
This goes back to one of the main things I teach in my Ziji Up! confidence course: our thoughts create our feelings – and only YOU can change your own thoughts. When people have a thought about you in order to avoid experiencing a hard feeling, trying to change their thoughts about it with logic will be like Sisyphus rolling the proverbial boulder uphill. Don’t bother.
THEY need to go in there and change their thoughts when they are ready and willing. When someone is avoiding a hard feeling, they are NOT going to let you in their head to mess with that unless they are good and ready.
So you see, it’s easier to just let go of what other people think of you. It has nothing to do with you. It’s them. It’s about how they not just want – but need – to feel about themselves in that moment. And trust me: we all do this.
When I know I am right about something and my husband thinks otherwise, I often say to him, “But that doesn’t make any sense!!!!” (followed by a deep, guttural growl and the suppression of the GRE-style logical reasoning to accompany it). And truly, it doesn’t. But that doesn’t matter.
The reason I think it’s so important for me to be right is because I am doing the same thing! Oh, the irony…
I think correcting his thoughts about me will make me feel better. Loved, seen, heard, understood…all those “good” things that seem like important and valid reasons for arguing back. But what’s really happening is I am creating more distance between us, and more suffering as a result – in him, and in me.
So next, time, I can focus on letting go of what he thinks about me, even when it’s something wrong and “bad” about me. The ironic thing is that allowing wrong thoughts about me would allow us to grow closer. I can let go, move on, and he will feel a nice “victory” and we can get on with having fun in life.
The same kind of freedom happens when we don’t react to anyone else who has negative opinions about us – and when we don’t let what others think about us affect the way we feel.
The next time you start obsessing about how someone is thinking something “wrong” about you, remind yourself that it isn’t about you. They want to feel better in that moment, and they need to think that about you to keep it going.
You know the truth of yourself.
You have the capacity of a big, open heart that can let people think wrong things about you – because you know they are hurting in a big or small way, and that they need that “win” for the moment.
So go on: let people be wrong about you. There are way better things to be thinking, feeling, and doing.
That is true freedom…
Here’s to you feeling it!