It’s not what people say about you that really matters in life. It’s what you believe about yourself.
Most of us were called “names” we didn’t like back in grade school. And most of us can still remember the hurt we felt and the stress we endured.
Unfortunately, we weren’t very good at separating perception and reality. We confused opinion and fact. We didn’t understand that just because a person perceived something or said something about us didn’t make it real.
Now you’re an adult, but you may still be struggling with this issue. You give the comments of others way too much power. You let their comments bring you down.
That’s a lousy way to live. Even though you may want everyone’s approval, you’re never going to get it. And even though you may want everyone to say nice things about you, it’s never going to happen.
So it’s time to grow up. It’s time to realize that what you believe “about” yourself is a lot more important than what people say about you. In fact, if you can just believe “in” yourself, you’ll find life to be a lot more enjoyable and meaningful.
There are many things you can do to believe “in” yourself, but let me mention four of them today. First, GO WHERE YOU ARE CELEBRATED INSTEAD OF WHERE YOU ARE TOLERATED. Don’t hang around those places that do not celebrate you. Don’t waste your entire life on people who do not value you. Move on.
Some people are out to get you. And other people just put up with you. Avoid them if at all possible. They make it very difficult for you to believe in yourself.
It’s like the captain of a sinking ship. He turned to his three remaining sailors and said, “Men, this business about a captain going down with his ship is nonsense. There’s a three-man life raft on board, and I’m going to be on it. To see who will come with me, I will ask you each one question. The one who can’t answer the question will stay behind.”
“Here’s the first question. What unsinkable ship went down when it hit an iceberg?” The first sailor answered, “The Titanic, sir.” “Good,” said the captain.
“On to the second question,” the captain continued. “How many people perished?” The second sailor said, “One thousand five hundred and seventeen, sir.” “Right,” said the captain.
“Now for the third question,” as the captain turned to the third sailor, “What were their names?”
So go where you are celebrated instead of tolerated. And then, SPEND TIME WITH PEOPLE WHO BELIEVE IN YOU. They make it easier to believe in yourself.
I’m again amazed at how people will spend time with just about anyone. They’ll spend their lunchtime with coworkers who do nothing but gripe about the company and the customers. And they’ll spend their time with “friends” who do nothing but pick them apart. No wonder these people have a hard time maintaining their self-esteem or achieving great goals.
A person does not automatically qualify as being a “friend” just because you work or live around him. A person doesn’t have a “right” to your time just because you’ve known her a long time. Proximity and longevity don’t necessarily make someone “good” for you. As Henry Ford asked, “Who is your best friend? Your best friend is he or she who helps you bring out of yourself the best that is in you.”
I can’t overstress how important it is that you spend time with those who believe in you. Avoid the negative folks if possible and when appropriate. Even if the negative people don’t say anything, I would suggest that their beliefs about you are always picked up by your subconscious mind, and their beliefs will always hurt your self-esteem and your performance.
Psychologists proved that a long time ago when they were studying the self-fulfilling prophecy. In one experiment twelve students were given plain, ordinary rats. Six of the students were told they had highly intelligent rats. The other six were told that they had the dumbest, laziest, slowest rats that could be found.
Both groups were told to teach their rats to run through a maze. At the end of the six months, the first group of students had developed the most amazing, high performing rats you could imagine. They could go through any maze with ease. The other group failed to teach their rats even the most basic maneuver.
In both cases, the rats were the same, but the beliefs of the students were different. Those who expected achievement got achievement, and those who anticipated failure got failure.
So spend your time with people who believe in you, and KEEP HABITUAL CRITICS IN PERSPECTIVE. They’re the ones with the motto, “You can’t win. You can’t break even. And you can’t quit.” What a pain!
You’ve got to keep the habitual critics in perspective. That doesn’t mean you should never listen to those who disagree with you. Not at all. Some of the best ideas come from conflict, debate, and disagreement.
I’m talking about habitual critics. Be careful of putting too much stock in their opinions. Afterall, habitual critics are spectators in life. They’re not the players.
Habitual critics are disheartened people who have failed to reach a desired goal. They quit somewhere along the path of life. So they don’t have the experience to advise you.
Habitual critics are disappointed, disillusioned, confused people. They’re hurting inside. And the only way they know how to build their lives is by trying to destroy the lives of others.
Sometimes it comes out as arrogance. They try to make themselves feel better by making you feel worse. It’s like the professor from the very elite university, who said in his prayer, “Dear God, please deliver me from the terrible sin of intellectual arrogance, which for your information means…” You’ve got to keep habitual critics and their comments in perspective.
Fourth, DON’T SPEND TOO MUCH TIME RESPONDING TO HABITUAL CRITICS. Again, that doesn’t mean you should shut out all negative feedback. If you did that you would never grow. If a critic has the right intentions, by all means listen to what he or she has to say. Abraham Lincoln said, “He has a right to criticize who has a heart to help.”
Just don’t spend too much time and energy on the habitual critics. I learned that when I first started to write these “Tuesday Tips.”
Even though these Tips are read by more than 50,000 people across the world every week, and even though the positive feedback has been overwhelming, I’ll never forget one habitual critic. He sent me several long, highly negative e-mails.
I sat down at my computer to reply to one of his many critical letters. I really worked on my reply. I wrote and rewrote my comments. For more than an hour I carefully reworked my letter to give the kindest, most professional response I could. And I still wasn’t satisfied with my response.
Then it dawned on me. I never spent an entire hour writing a letter to my parents, two of the most important people in the world to me. They sacrificed everything they had in life to make sure I had upright values, a solid education, and a chance to be more successful than they were. They never went to fancy restaurants, bought new cars, or shopped at the expensive stores. They always put my needs ahead of their wants.
It hit me. I had not spent that much time writing to two of the dearest people I know. And here I was sweating over how to respond to a habitual critic. I realized I was a fool. I threw away the letter and went on to some higher priorities.
Remember, it’s what you believe about yourself that really matters in life.
Action: Make a list of all the people who believe in you. Include people from work, from home, and every part of your life. Make the list as long as possible.
Then select five people from your list for some “market research.” Call each of them, and tell them you’re involved in a personal development program and would like their feedback. Ask them to point out two or three things that cause them to believe in you.
Most likely they’ll be happy to oblige. And you’ll be starting a very important list. The more you know about others’ belief in you, the easier it will be to believe in yourself.