Release from the Opinions of other People

Submitted by on Thursday, May 8, 200813 Comments

Getting released from others' opinions is the opposite of bondage. It's freedom.Do you or have you spent a large portion of your life insuring that people like you? Have you bent over backwards for people you may not even know, only to try to get them to like you? Do you or have you ever extensively worried whether someone likes you or not?

I am not sure but it seems HSP‘s are naturally inclined to codependent characteristics due to their oft uncontrollable empathy, energy reading, or mind-reading, and (for the unactualized HSP)  insecurity.

If you think someone dislikes you do you purposefully try to do things to “make” them like you? If you think that someone dislikes you, have you then secretly felt that something must be wrong with you? Do you sometimes think your life is spent wondering either what is *wrong* with you or why can’t you just *fit* in?

Have you ever pretended to be different or someone you weren’t in order to fit in, be popular, or be liked? Just knowing if they knew the real you, you would not be liked?

I am positive this was me and due to being a Highly Sensitive Person.

In this article, like a more recent article on Taking Care of Ourselves, despite societal expectations, I’m going to focus on how to begin the perception shift necessary for this freedom to occur. The opposite of freedom and release from other people’s opinions is bondage and control due to their opinions.

So if you’re currently at the whim of what people say or do and don’t know how to get out from under that enslaving mindset, I would encourage you to read this article, the article already mentioned, and even perhaps the articles filed under Codependency, Words can Harm, and the Four Agreements. At the end of this article there is a section entitled Related Posts.

Do not Take Any Words, Behaviors, or Actions Personally

The solution to not worrying about what people think about you is to think well about yourself. When you do this, you will not constantly then be needing to look to outside sources – or at least people – to fill your bucket. But if you seem to find yourself in a never-ending circle of not feeling good and caring too much about other peoples’ opinions or you seem to be the walking low self-esteemer [I was there and yes you can escape!] then keep reading.

“Fill your bucket”: This is my metaphor I speak of often that refers to the bucket being my internal vessel and the “filling” being that stuff that makes me okay. We all have an internal vessel that comprises the “who we are”. Some of us were either traumatized as children or as young adults and have a filter occupying our perceptions that have us constantly searching for external solutions to *fill our bucket.* Those temporary solutions can take the form of alcohol, drugs, approval addiction, inappropriate relationships, or anything else that is temporary but harms us in the long run.

When we look to outside sources to fill our bucket we constantly need more and more sources [or substances] because people are either ultimately self-absorbed, spiritually or emotionally sick or underdeveloped in their own way or even just plain human [and the substances become so important to us we develop tunnel vision and castrate those other healthier sources that exist].

That’s the 3rd of the Four Agreements, “Don’t Take Anything Personally.”

Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

It’s all well and good to say, “Don’t take anything personally” and then you can finally be free but how do we do that?

I’m a highly sensitive person; feelings as well as central nervous system. So, as nice as it is to simple say, “Don’t take anything personally” I believe we need to actually be taught how to shift our perceptions so that we can arrive at that place and way of thinking. That’s what I hope to do here.

How and Why to not Take Things Personally

Realities Differ. Use at your Own Risk.

When I really began to understand that every individual has their own ideas and have created [manifested] their own belief system, their own way of living, and their own philosophies, I better was able to understand how insignificant I was to their dream unless I fulfilled some role of their dream. So what that means is that yes, you *are* the center of your universe [like I am to mine] and so is it such a stretch to see how the unexamined life could get angry because I wasn’t fulfilling my role? I had abandoned myself in lieu of another’s opinion or liking of me!

Click here for the Four Agreements Category - New WindowBut I don’t want to be angry, for example, when someone doesn’t fulfill a role I have planned for them because anger is such a painful emotion for me. I also do not want to get a swollen head when someone tells me how great I am because then I have the dangerous ego vying for that person’s acceptance, and then my own opinion may go out the window. Therefore, I have decided to acknowledge that every person is the main actor in their world and is simply projecting their own reality, no matter what they say or do! Opposite this agreement is the one I used to have that stated we all have the same reality and we’re all just trying to scramble to the top of it by arranging the people in our lives to varying positions they may not want to be in.

I do well with analogies and examples and I think in pictures so let me go ahead and offer some tangible examples that may help with showing how to shift your perceptions here.

Example 1: Our perceptions make our reality. Forget “the Ultimate Reality” but just know that if you perceive a snake as dangerous and a snake is two inches from your face, you may feel fear and your reality in that moment is threatened. You freeze until you can figure out what to do. I, however, am inside my office and writing this article and the air is on and I have a candle burning and I feel peace in my reality as I write this article. So I shout through the window asking if you want a cup of coffee because the last time my reality *merged* with your reality, you were at peace on the deck. You don’t answer me. I get angry.

  1. Think: Did you make me angry?
  2. Think: Did you not answer me in order to purposefully make me angry?
  3. Think: Did I shout out the window in order to further threaten your reality?

Example explanation: No. Of course you did not make me angry so hopefully you can deduce the rest of the answers of perceptual health. Based on my own perceptions of my reality is why I got angry.

And it’s been my experience that the unexamined life *will* get angry over small things like that. But once we shift…start shifting our perceptions by examining our former agreements, we will be less prone to becoming angry over small things like this. Okay. This was a blatant example. Hopefully most people were able to see this one for the different realities experienced by both players. The next one will be a slightly bit less obvious.

Example 2: Most of us have friends based on our merging of realities and commonalities, right? I have many friends who live not according to materialism, but who have *plenty* of materialism. Most of my friends are close to my own skin shade and gender. Most of my friends come from my country of origin and most of my friends don’t dig ecclesiastical religion. So now I have to ask: But do you have friends who do not share some of these realities? I certainly do.

My closest friend is a darker shade than I am, comes from the ghetto, didn’t finish High School, struggles to get by and happens to be about 8 yrs older than I am. But we’re so close because things that matter and are important to us, we share so deeply. We share them so deeply and personally that each others skin tone, education, age differences, and economic differences don’t occur to us.

So with all that said, a real example is inviting her to come to my birthday party. She did not come. She said she would come but then she didn’t. I felt sad that she didn’t show up.

  1. Think: Did she make me sad?
  2. Think: Did she not come in order to purposefully make me sad?

Example Explanation: Because she is my closest friend in the world, I know and accept her qualities. One just happens to be HSP. If she is feeling too much stimulation, she is going to avoid further stimulation and especially when there are going to be many people there whose realities are different than hers. Yes I was sad. No I did not take it personally. And besides, she has always been there for me when it counted.

I don’t know why it seems that this world has taught us to blame external developments for how we feel on the inside. It’s grown weird to me. It’s normal for a child to do this because the child-like autonomy and really is at the whim of the adults around her. So much of society, thought, has seemingly stayed stuck in this mindset, though, well on into adulthood and this is why I say, time and time again that codependency is the fastest spreading viral sickness we have in this world. And yes, these issues – not taking personally other peoples’ words and actions – are codependent recovery principles.

Example 3: I was taking a shower and my beloveds daughter wanted to talk to me while I was showering, so she kept opening the curtain as we talked. [She is 4.] I told her about 8 times that she was going to get wet if she did not close the shower curtain. So are you surprised when she ended up getting wet? She apparently was because she then angrily shouted after she closed the curtain, “You just got me wet!” So she stormed off, in 4 year old fashion and shouted, “I’m telling Daddy!” So then I got angry at that dis-eased thinking – neverminding the whole tattle culture at that age – finished up my shower and went to find her.

  1. Think: Did she make me angry?
  2. Think: Did a socially viral meme make me angry?

Example Explanation: I got angry based on my own reality and ideas of “healthy” thinking not coming to pass in that instance – and with a child at that. And that’s really the answer for all of these. We ALWAYS get _______ [fill in the emotion] based on our own realities or perceptions.

There she was. Sitting with my beloved and staring defiantly at me. I said, “I was in the shower doing what I was supposed to be doing, with the shower curtain closed. I told you several times you were going to get wet if you kept that curtain open. You kept it open, didn’t you? Then you got wet from my shower.” She’s looking at me big brown eyes [the girl is a sponge] and her defiance – yes, she was still mad – softened. So then I looked into her eyes, “So who got you wet?” She said, “I got me wet.” It was a proud moment for me! :-) I said, “That’s right! So next time I suggest you close the curtain, what might you do?” She said, “Close the curtain.”

Example 4: I have a friend who encounters gossip and rumor on a daily basis. She seems to attract and surround herself with people who tell her that “someone said something about her.” She is fairly new to recovery – about a year sober – and it’s clear she lacks the tools in which to deal with sort of thing because when she’s finished, she basically whines a lot of “he said she said” to me. She doesn’t get that when people “speak her sanctified name” it has nothing to do with her. She, therefore, thinks then that it is her job to “get to the bottom of it” and go interviewing people asking if such and such was true or not.

She is operating from a clear case of “taking things personally” and coupled with “making assumptions” [that they will tell her the truth and that the person who told her such and such is telling the truth] and being “unimpeccable with her words” [because she’s just gone to person B and *gossiped* about person A telling her something person B said, thereby perhaps causing a conflict between person A and B when person A would have told person B the information if she’d wanted her to know it. Confusing? That’s right. That’s why this is unhealthy behavior at its finest and it’s called a Drama Triangle.]

So that when Amy, a girl Jennifer barely knows, tells her that Rick said she was on drugs so can she have some, Jennifer is now mad at her friend Rick for lying about her. She goes to Rick and he denies it. So she then goes back to Jennifer and tells her that Rick denies it. So now Jennifer recalls that maybe it was someone else – now knowing that Rick knows about what she said and she has fear of what Rick will think, whether it was true or not.

My friend is so wrapped up with what people think, coupled with her ego, that she currently thinks she can stop people from gossiping about her. Not only has she not internalized that she is powerless over people, but she is currently so insecure within her self, that other peoples’ opinions rule her existence so dramatically, that any semblance of walking with integrity is out the window. Like the 4 yr old, she thinks if she stomps her baby feet, cries, screams, and yells and blames enough people that *it* will stop. It is safe to say that her entire existence is currently at the whim of what other people think about her, what other people say to and about her, and how other people perceive her.

  1. Think: Are these other people making her life “crazy?”
  2. Think: Who is the real victimizer in her life?
  3. Think: If she thought well of herself would she be scrambling about like she does?

Example Explanation: My friend is like so many others. And before I began searching out spiritual solutions to human problems, I was like that too; So it’s not a judgment of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ but the necessary precursor to change which is acknowledgment. And if she never acknowledges that she is the one making her own self nuts, what motivation does she have to change? No, instead she’ll continue to scramble about trying to fix, manage and control other people, all the while, making herself the ‘victim’.

Example 5: Last night I was at a 12 step meeting for alcoholic recovery. A woman introduced herself as a cocaine addict and said she had no problem with alcohol. After the chairperson discussed the difference between an open and closed meeting, I raised my hand and said that in both cases, we still discuss our problems as they relate to alcohol. [That being the 5th Tradition of our meetings.] Throughout the meeting the woman “poor me’d” and insinuated she did not feel welcome because she could not talk about her cocaine use. She also made excuses as to why she did not go to a 12 step meeting for cocaine use. At the end of the meeting when she picked up a white token, I did not clap and she looked at me and cut her eyes.

  1. Think: Would it make sense for me to take her anger personally?
  2. Think: Did I take her “poor me-ing” personally? Did I feel guilt?
  3. Think: When she comes back to this meeting and shares she did drugs due to feeling unwelcome, would that be mine to own or hers?

Example Explanation: In my agreement system, I have decided to agree with the 5th tradition of this meeting. What this means is that in a meeting I have the responsibility to share my truth and my reality as it relates to the meetings truth and reality. This is what “Walking with integrity” means, and because I no longer worry about the opinions of other people, I had the courage to speak this truth. As a result, the rest of the meeting – I was told by others recovering from alcoholism afterward – was geared toward alcoholic recovery. Not to mention, I have seen many addicts go in there and expect the entire meeting to revolve around their addiction. It did not this night and I cannot help but to think it’s because I spoke my truth as it related to this agreement.

More Reasons to not Take Things Personally

Communication, Language, Culture and Education comprise a Reality

Four Agreements Book - New WindowAnd if we can look at it from this simple point of view, perhaps we can begin to notice our perceptions slowly shifting into the more relevant aspects of our lives – where it matters. These examples are rather tangible and based on communications differences, language utilization differences, culture [our upbringing and how we were raised] and our education level. From these influences, certainly it’s no stretch to add I.Q., religion, profession, outlook on life, spiritual or no spiritual life, where we live, and other differences. If we can open our mind into understanding that different people have had *their bucket of personality* filled with perhaps different things than we have, it’s easier to not take things personally.

Exemplifying Statement #1: Based on a true statistic, something like 80% of all college students polled, when asked, “Do you think women’s suffrage should end?” answered yes. If you don’t find this funny, then maybe you, too, do not know what this question means. Of course, this poll was mocking their ‘education’ but you could ask someone who very well does know what the question means and then they answer “Yes” anyway; Even that is based still on their reality.

Question: Do I believe that women should suffer? Hint: Look up suffrage.

Exemplifying Statement #2: Or let’s say I dislike that Japanese steakhouse because they behave niggardly when it comes to serving women. If you were an uneducated black kid from the South – and I was in the South – I wouldn’t use that term with you for several reasons, primarily, it sounds too close to a racial epithet that the South is infamous for. But even if not, my vernacular with kids and those educated differently in vocabulary, is more elementary so I might say ‘stingy’ or say ‘They seem to think women do not need as much food so they tend to not give us as much.” Now if I wanted to be an asshole in order to ‘teach a lesson” to this kid by evoking sadness as the price of his learning a new vocabulary word, that would be equally – in MY reality – be a highly dick move.

Question: Would you think I am racist? Or that I stereotype? Look up niggardly.

Exemplifying Statement #3: A friend thinks that women’s duties comprise keeping house, cleaning, cooking, taking care of the children and mowing the yard in addition to working outside the home. This friend also thinks that slapping a woman once in a while keeps her loyal. Based on this information, can we safely assume this friend is NOT the Professor of Women’s Studies in Gender Inequality in Antebellum Politics?

Question: Would it be reasonable to think the woman he is slapping around is the Professor?

Exemplifying Statement #4: I live in a culture that values stick-thin women. We see them on magazine covers, runways, television. We see the tabloids, with great fervor, condemning stars who’ve gotten too skinny [or too fat for that matter because there is no pleasing the tabloids is there?]. These tabloids accuse women of anorexia.

Question: Would they accuse Ethiopians or other starving countries of having too many anorexic women?

Exemplifying Statement #5: I used to have a neighbor who was a very sweet girl. [She made an appearance in an article; a memoir I published not so long ago called, “Knowing Hector” if you would like to read more about her.] She has a lower level I.Q., innocent nature, and suffers abuses from her mother. Although she is well into adult age, her thought processes and sweet disposition were more like a simplified and shy 8 year old. She thought my husband was handsome and wanted to hug him – like she was his daughter – every time she saw him. And she did. The reality, though, is that she was about 5 years younger than him.

Question: Would a sane person be jealous of her affection for their husband?

Final Thoughts on Not Taking Things Personally

It took me three days to complete this article because I am going through another round of EBV {which actually led to this article on “Taking Care of Ourselves” – which is another article discussing the release of societal expectations}. It’s probably why I decided to write this one with the focus being on the 2nd Agreement to Not Take Anything Personally.

  1. Firstly, yes there may be fear.
  2. There will almost assuredly be discomfort.
  3. Practice it anyway.

Continuing in practice will conquer the fear and assuage the discomfort. I promise. I also want to mention – in case you were looking for pats on the back – that the only people who will pat you on the back for your positive life changes will be people who simply want you to be the best whole “walking with integrity” being you can be. If you need a pat on the back, post your comment here and I’ll give you one! I think it’s important at a time like this to get as much support as we can. Even if you need to join a support group or rally the help of your friends who are on a similar path!

You will definitely not get pats on the back from people who try to control you with their opinions or actions. So don’t get discouraged if (when) this happens. In fact, take it as a sign of your growth! These people want you to continue being the agreeable actor in their world so that when you no longer show up for that role, they may stomp their baby feet and throw their baby fit! [And what have we learned? That’s their reality so let them if they want to. You, however, can control your geography. Even if you have to use your feet to express yourself by walking away.]

Until next time.


integrity is when we are the same person in private as we are in public and live according to our own spiritually guided principles instead of the principles of others
Recommended BookStore Sections: Integrity and Codependency



  • Sandra said:

    Thank you for your kind and encouraging words on my blog. I truly appreciate it. You have a great blog – I have subscribed to your RSS feed ;)

  • samsara (author) said:

    Thanks for letting me know… Sometimes time is the remedy. Other times, feedburner has not been a friend to me. I am going to see what I can do and I appreciate your letting me know Sandra. I’m going to adjust some settings.

    [Sorry my RSS is failing. Hopefully I will not take this as an indication of my worth as a human. ;)]

  • Olivier said:

    Not taking hard words personal is indeed a goal of mine. It is easy with some people, but when my family members do it, I still tend to explode (or implode).
    A noble cause and definitely something to fight for.


  • samsara (author) said:

    Ah la familia! The bonds that bind and strangle. I feel you Olivier. It’s very hard to not take them personally from family [particularly] and for me, not so much because I love them more, but because – it seems – they are the closest to me and know my weaknesses more. So it seems that in [verbally] slapping me around – they could have more of a picnic with it. ;)

    Thank Gods, though, they usually choose *not* to.

    But there again, my responsibility comes in when I know that we have more history together. So i try to show deference in not taking their words personally – as I would do with a casual friend or someone else I don’t have as much history with you know?

    My family doesn’t need to be punished by my holding them to some “higher” standard of behavior when they’re human just like every body else. I say this because I know I used to. I used to hold them to a higher caliber of “gentleness” with me – knowing how highly sensitive I am. But…they don’t deserve it. They have problems and realities of their own.

    Here’s to families!

    Gotta love ’em. Who else would? ;)

  • Wenbin said:

    Hi, thanks for your comments on my blog. I replied my thoughts to it already.

    I see that the content of your blog is of high quality too. Great job!!! :)

  • Michael said:

    It used to stress me a lot when I was young. Got a little wiser now, though. :)

  • John said:

    In answer to your opening questions – Yes. Yes. Yes. And the thing that REALLY makes no sense is that I don’t even like these people that I so want to like ME!

    Just found you place and I likey. : ) And I know a thing or two about samsara.

    I’ll be back.

    Peace. : )

  • samsara (author) said:

    I missed your comment John. God how I can relate with that! [With not even particularly caring for the people we want to like us.]

    You know I have a theory? I think it’s the ego. I do. I think the ego likes the challenge so that when these people continue to not like us it hurts more and more and bothers us more and more. [Our ego is raging you see.]

    Meantimg the *real* us…deep inside who walks with our highest good and walks with integrity and compassion and love doesn’t care for that person at all because IT [our highest self] *sees* that their ego is the one trying to hurt us!

    Therefore our highest self is minding its own business while our ego is still seeking *their* ego’s approval. Just another reason why I am convinced the “ego” is what the Bible refers to as “Satan.” [The lowest form of our self…not really our *self* but masquerading as our *self.*]

    Wow. Sorry that was wordy. I’m wrapping up an article on “What People think of Me is None of My Business” and feeling stoked.

    Thanks John! :)

  • Nicky said:

    I enjoyed reading your article. Even though I had some major probelms with one of the examples you listed, I thought overall it was encouraging and effective in getting the points across

  • samsara (author) said:

    Thanks Nicky! And I can hazard which example also I think. :\

    [I did debate over whether to use that example.]

    Yes, however, these incidents are based in my real life and [usually] made into hyperbole, that particular example – niggardly – is a real one.

    I ended up using it because I think it germane that we don’t begin hindering our vocabulary based on others’ ignorance; Especially when the point of the article is to take nothing personally. :)

    However. There will be people who do choose to take things/everything personally because they are angry to begin with.

    Thanks for your thoughts Nicky.
    I hope you stop by again soon.

  • Nicky said:

    I appreciate your thoughts and I thank Source for the opportunity to have an open, honest conversation about these issues albeit over the internet.  I think it fosters growth for all involved and that is what we all strive for in the end. That being said, I agree with you to a certain extent but I do understand that there is a certain sensitivity that needs to be used in situations like these. I speak from a different point of view based on my experiences of being surrounded by African Americans virtually all of my life. I know plenty of educated African Americans that would be highly offended by the use of that word. I remember when the “niggardly scandal” broke out in 1999 where David Howard got fired for using the word in a predominantly African American setting. I talked to many educated (assuming you’re talking about a formal education equating to holding a bachelor’s degree or above) African Americans about it. Although many people differed on what Mayor Williams’ response should have been, no one differed on the notion that it was a “loaded” word for many African Americans (educated or not) and should not have been used especially in a predominantly African American setting and especially when there are many other words available in this vast English language to effectively get his point across. I do appreciate and value your article and I am not writing this to change your opinion but rather to show you another view point.
    Thank you for your moving, thought provoking articles.

  • Sarah Fischer said:

    Oh my goodness…i wooed out loud after reading this, lol. I just discovered your blog yesterday & ive been soaking up every word. Its helping me so much to learn & start to understand the way ive been living for my whole life pretty much. Thankyou for helping me discover me & my power under a bunch of bull shit ♡ loven Sarah

  • Samsara (author) said:

    Thank you Sarah!!

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