Worrying about what others think of you is exhausting, depleting, and a complete waste of your time, talent, and creativity and frankly, is none of your business. One of the best ways to extinguish a great idea, a unique solution to a problem, a dream, innovation, or creativity is to worry about what others will say before allowing the creation to manifest. What a shame.
Evidence of this line of thinking was heard after I concluded my “7 Steps to Stay Woke” in my Introduce Me as Your Friend, Not Your Black Friend talk that I gave this past weekend at the Social Justice and Human Trafficking Conference. Participants asked, “What if people begin to perceive me in a way that is just not true and goes against my brand?” or, “What if people call me the ‘angry black woman?’” This type of mentality can be crippling. You might as well go ahead, find some handcuffs, and put them on because you have mental restraints that will choke the life out of you.
Why do we do this? Well, it is obvious, right. We all want some sort of approval. We want to know that we are doing a good job at our work, that our loved ones love us, and that our followers and friends “like” or want to share our social media posts. We want people to like us. Deep down inside, some of us want to go viral and be famous, have the spotlight, be perceived as experts, and to be the best in our field.
Most do not want to hurt others’ feelings. Many people do not like confrontation and desire to be on people’s good side. While all of these traits are truly admirable and virtuous, there is a clear line between being moral while running a great business and lacking a sense of self. When you completely change what you’re doing simply because you fear not receiving someone’s approval is when sirens should go off in your head. If your entire demeanor, attitude, values, and beliefs change because they are not backed by popular demand, it is highly likely that you lack a sense of self-respect, self-love, and an understanding of who you truly are.
Instead of changing course for approval, stand up for what you believe in and others will naturally follow. At times, doing what is right when everyone else ignores what is wrong can be a lonely place. It takes a lot of work to make the invisible visible. To say what you need to say to bring about peace, to love anyway, to be in discomfort to gain hope for others, and to lead a cause or a mission in the face of complete adversity. To do all that, you must be at peace with yourself. That is the narrative.
I am so grateful to have ignored the insidious looks, whispers, and side-bar conversations, parties that I would have hated to be at anyway, organizations and groups that I had no business being a part of, my negative mind-chatter, and people that required way too much energy, as it allowed me to experience some of my biggest life-changing moments. These moments include:
Marrying my husband, who just so happens to be white. We just celebrated 20 years of marriage last week.
We met in 1990, got married on September 20, 1997, and just celebrated 20 years of marriage.
Finishing my autobiography, Inspiration in My Shoes, at the risk of offending my family and others, and hushing the hidden false narrative that no one would read it.
Quitting various “seemingly” well-paying and high-profile jobs and positions, and having people wonder why I just don’t stick with one job or why I change my career path so often.
Professing my faith, even though it may offend others who do not share the same beliefs and etch me out of business opportunities that could pay me big bucks or land me a spot on a popular show.
Continuing to speak out against settling into what is easy and being a persistent positive voice, despite the popular pessimistic, demeaning, and “sexy sells” way of being.
I am abundantly grateful for many other things that I do on a daily basis while ignoring what others may think. I know that not everyone will like me. Some may call me a liar and even not trust my words. That is okay. I know who I am, and have the utmost respect for myself as I see myself the way that God sees me.
Here’s the deal. People are going to think what they will. No matter how much you try to impress them or what attempts you make at winning their approval. Do yourself a favor, know yourself and know your tribe. Be about your mission and live out your values. If you don’t have a mission for yourself, start there. Take time to write out what you are all about and what impact you want to have in your lifetime. Your values are your compass. If you are not living by your values every single day, then you are surely off course and drifting with no clear purpose. Pray and ask God to help you see yourself the way He sees you: valued, loved and completely whole, as a perfectly imperfect human being who is destined to make a difference.
What are you missing because you are worried about what others will think about you? What conversations have you been putting off? What projects have you put on hold? What new idea needs to be tried? What solutions have you dismissed? What is it? Take some time to think about it.
Diana Patton is a Speaker, Social Justice and Integrative Health Advocacy Coach, Author and Attorney. Learn more about her by visiting her website. Click here to read a free chapter of her book, Inspiration in My Shoes, or read more of her articles, here. Interested in having Diana speak to your organization? Listen to this 15 minute video and contact her.