How to not be bothered by other people’s negative opinions of you? I have this bad habit of being overtly conscious of what other people think of me. It robs me of peace of mind and I often make wrong choices.
Being balanced and centered in the face of the opinions of others about ourselves is one of the most challenging aspects of human relations and self-awareness. Adding to the natural sensitivity we have about how others feel about us is our own tendency to imagine what we think others think of us!
So let’s start with the acknowledgment that we, in our egos, are overly-sensitive to the opinions of others. With this as our starting point, I recall Swami Kriyananda (Ananda’s founder) saying from time to time: “Most people are wrong (in their opinions) most of the time.” I also remember him telling a charming story of a college friend of his, Rod, who was very susceptible to imagining what others thought of him. Rod’s mother said to him: “Rod, let’s face it. Most people aren’t that interested in you!”
Thus we have the simple facts that 1) Most people are wrong in their opinions of others, and 2) Most people are more concerned about themselves than about others. A third fact is this: most of the time we only think or imagine that others hold certain views about us. Therefore: right away, then, we can begin to distance ourselves from our own reaction because of the lack of substance around what others think. If someone criticizes you today, they may praise you tomorrow. They may even forget what they felt last week when you irritated them in some way.
Moving along the line of our responses is another point of view: what if that person’s view of you is correct? Maybe you’ve been given a great opportunity to see something about yourself that you could work on or correct or improve. Isn’t that potentially a good thing? A saint once bemoaned the death of his most persistent critic as someone from whom he learned the most from. Put another way: do you want to be praised all the time? That would be a kind of prison, wouldn’t it? You would naturally doubt a flatter’s wisdom or motive and thus discount the praise or indulge in it and become a complete fool lacking any self-awareness.
Far up the scale of consciousness, we have the soul’s point of view: the soul is eternal, pure, and ever perfect. Yogananda wrote “Praise cannot make me better, nor blame make me worse. I am what I am before God and my conscience.”
Meditation, prayer and service will help you live more in your own center: a center from which your conscience and self-awareness will inform you more truthfully than the opinions of most people.
For now, don’t fret over your own sensitivity. Instead, use it as a prod to become more centered and more self-aware. Examine each perceived critique to see if it could be true. If true, then use it to improve yourself. If false, then discard it. You can say to a critic, “Perhaps you are right. I’ll consider your point of view.” Don’t do the usual thing of fighting back by giving critique in return or ranting in self-justification. Be silent or quiet. Later, when calm, analyze yourself to see what is true. Be courageous in your introspection but also clear and self-honest.
And lastly, avoid the temptation as best you can to be critical of other people. It may be that being criticized is something you attract or have attracted from past actions.
Always the best solution is to seek the truth in God alone. Befriend those who know or at least seek God and seek the truth. Truth is beneficial. It is not unkind. The highest truth is that we are the eternal Atman, made in the image of the Infinite Spirit!
Blessings to you!