One of the things I love about getting older is I’m finding that, as the years go by, I care less and less about what people think of me.
I used to be a chronic people-pleaser. I lived in fear of people not liking me if I said or did this or that. Of people being mad at me. Of being ostracized. The me of twenty, ten, even five years ago was so afraid of “rocking the boat” and making people mad that I would routinely keep silent, stuffing my thoughts and feelings and going along with whatever. Never mind that sometimes it was my feelings being stomped on; that was okay. But I couldn’t risk even the slightest possibility someone might actually frown at me.
Now…not so much. I don’t know if I can point to one single thing or event in my life that led to my changed attitude. I think it was really a multitude of changes all coming together: getting older (and the ability to look back on life events and realize how foolish it was to put so much stock in others’ opinions); gaining self-confidence through finally beginning to realize who I am in Christ, as well as the self-confidence Kempo is teaching me; walking through metaphorical trials-by-fire and coming out the other side realizing God never let go of my hand; the love of a good man and faithful friends and family; maybe even a little peri-menopausal craziness a la “Fried Green Tomatoes”.
Not that the pendulum has swung the other way and I can’t wait to walk all over people’s feelings now. I try not to do that – especially intentionally – though I admit sometimes I mess that up. Royally. I’m human just like everybody else, and I make mistakes. The difference between now and twenty years ago is, I no longer allow people (especially people I don’t even know or don’t particularly like) to have such control over me. I’m not afraid to stand up for what I believe in and say what I think.
And I’m also not saying that I literally don’t care what anyone thinks of me. Anyone who says that is a bald-faced liar. (Whoa, that was an opinion, wasn’t it?) I care very much about what the following people think:
- God. His opinion of me, what His word says about who I am, matters more to me than what any human being thinks. It’s the only opinion that has eternal consequences. I fail Him every day, and yet He still loves me and forgives me and draws me back to Him. How can I do anything else but care what He thinks?
- My husband. Of all the people on this earth, my husband’s opinion matters the most to me. He is my closest friend, my life partner, the one with whom I weather the storm. But even though his opinion matters so much, I know I’m not a slave to it. I’m secure enough in his love for me that I don’t have to be afraid to express an opinion that’s different from his. I can say what I really think, and be who I really am, because at the end of the day I know he wouldn’t want anything else from me.
- Friends and family. You know who you are. The people around whom I can let down my hair, and whom I love to see relax around me. We can laugh together, share our frustrations, ask each other for honest advice, and receive advice without feeling attacked. We don’t agree on everything, and that’s more than okay. It’s what makes our relationships so awesome.
- My children. I put them last, because as their mom, I’m not in the business of trying to be their best buddies, but of trying to raise them to be responsible, productive adults. Yes, I want to make them happy. I want to provide them with warmth and love and security and a happy, fun childhood. But sometimes that involves putting aside my fear that they may think I’m an unfair ogre and do what’s in their best interest.
What about you? How many are reformed people-pleasers like me? How many still struggle with worrying about what everyone thinks of you?