“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” Marcus Aurelius
During my first year of college, I had to register for a required English course, but the only available class was with a professor whom almost everyone hated.
Some people warned me that if I take this class, I would fail. But, I had no other options and had to take it. To this date, it has been one of my most favorite classes, and I aced it!
People told me that this professor was terrible, strict and mean. On the contrary, he turned out to be very helpful, passionate and inspiring.
My first job after college was a bit rough, but having a colleague who was as stressed and unhappy as I was made things a tad easier.
We counted the days till we could quit together. The day came when we were supposed to resign; I submitted my papers but she, on the other hand, still works there till today.
Before I took my coaching training, many people advised me to think twice, some people even said: no one is hiring a coach in this economy!
Do you see my point here?
People love giving their opinions, projections, and perceptions.
Whether they’re intentionally trying to sabotage you or they actually think that they are doing you a favor, the impact is the same.
I do it too. I tell people my experiences with professors, jobs, courses, restaurants, concerts, etc. I am even doing it now in this blog post.
There is nothing wrong with that, right? So what is this article really about?
It is about the wakeup call which I had a few years ago and which changed my life forever.
It happened when I came to the realization that if I am not careful enough, people’s opinions will ruin me.
“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” Oscar Wilde
Other people’s opinions become harmful when they begin to impact our lives negatively and when we start assuming that they are a reference to how things will be for us.
- When we fear to take a risk because we know people who have done that and have failed.
- When we fear relationships because our friends were left heartbroken.
- When we think twice about following our joy, because a lot of people tell us that it is a mistake.
- When we do not pursue that job opportunity because someone worked there and hated the work environment.
- When we choose our majors based on what our parents want us to study.
I have met a lot of interesting people who tried to impact me in one way or another:
- I had colleagues who used to love showing up on Monday mornings with ‘bad news’ about the company, to stress me into believing that this week is going to be bad.
- Stressed parents assured me that my life would be over when I have kids.
- Members of my family convinced me that we are just a very unlucky bunch, actually the term used was ‘cursed’.
Few more beliefs that got thrown my way:
- Finding true love is a fantasy.
- All men cheat.
- No one loves their job.
- Trust no one, not even your own mother!
- Money never comes easy.
- Some people are born lucky.
- Positive thinking is actually bad for you.
- Always expect the worst so you don’t get disappointed.
- Not every one can follow their dream.
And the worst one: il faut souffrir pour etre belle → you must to suffer to be beautiful, or something like that.
All utter BS.
There are thousands of people proving the complete opposites of those beliefs and experiences.
I met people who are making money while playing on their PlayStation all day.
I know people who have always expected the best and have never been disappointed.
True love exists, and I can vouch for that.
And the less you suffer, the more beautiful you are.
Don’t take my word for it, deep down you know it.
I did not know this for a long time.
I was highly impacted by the people around me.
I decided things based on how my elders had experienced them and seen things.
I got influenced by my friends and social groups.
The Icing on the Cake
There came a point when other people’s impact on my world was getting worse.
A few years ago, an older friend of mine was giving me a ride back home. I was 23 years old with no career direction, heartbroken, confused and I was crying.
I opened up to my friend hoping to get the ‘everything is going to be okay’ lecture so that I could dry up my tears and linger in some form of bearable depression.
However, this friend took a left turn and said: “Layan, I hate to tell you this, but life only gets worse. It never gets better.”
As I was wiping my tears, my brain did not register those words.
I thought I heard wrong; I even asked:
My friend continued to say: “Yes, life is going to get worse, and as you grow older, you will face more pain and disappointment, so really buckle up.”
I was in shock. The thought that this might be true was horrifying!
Three things were made clear to me that day:
- Never ask that friend for a lift ever again;
- I want to change the planet I live on;
- Life sucks.
My Wakeup Call
A few days later, I was confiding to a family friend. She was a beautiful lady in her early 50s, with an amazing family and a successful career.
Our conversation changed my life forever. I was telling her how my life would continue to suck.
I gave her examples from the common people we knew, and how things kept getting worse for them, and that it could only mean the same for me.
She questioned my beliefs and asked me: “Who told you that these people’s experiences are the truth?
“I don’t know”, I replied with hesitation.
She then said something along these lines:
“You know that life is not what your family and friends have experienced; you get to have your own experiences and perspectives? And it is a big world out there with endless possibilities that are not all struggles and failures. There are people who are living the exact opposite of these examples that you know!”
Silence fell between us after she said those words. And I was quite surprised. I went into some sort of internal disturbance.
Deep down, I thought I knew it is indeed a big world; I knew there are other possibilities out there, but did I actually believe it would be possible for me?
I stared into space and realized how confined I felt, how I had placed myself between four invisible walls built from fear and hopelessness that was highly influenced by others.
Even though I knew this, I needed to have a good reminder.
How I Lead My Life
Changes started slowly yet powerfully.
The major noticeable thing was that I started to spend less time with people who affected me negatively.
I know this has become a cliché, but it is actually challenging. To cut ties with people just like that, but as painful it was, I noticed the difference in my world and ‘luck’ after I gradually spent more time with the people who brought the best in me.
Other changes were mainly mindset shifts:
I refused to believe that I am unlucky, or that true love does not exist, or that I need to suffer to be beautiful.
I started questioning the ideas and beliefs that did not feel right to me.
When I have decisions to make, I do my research and maybe ask the experts if needed, but more importantly, I am learning to trust my intuition as a final call.
People’s experiences are helpful and at times, necessary.
But, be wary of how much other people’s beliefs and opinions are affecting yours.
Question everything that does not feel good to you, and seek your truth!
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” Steve Jobs
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