When I was a kid, I learned one important lesson from my mother that would significantly define who I am: “Do what you believe is right. Do not care about what other people think.”
Consequently, I was always a person who weighed the pros and cons of nearly everything. For example, I was a child who understood the benefits of getting homework done first before playing video games. As a teenager, I felt comfortable pursuing my own interests without hanging out with questionable people. And after I finished college, I chose not to drink alcohol, even as I was surrounded by many people who did. Each time, I felt good about the choices I made, while brushing off any criticisms about them.
So how do we stay in control of ourselves? How do we resist peer pressure or other things from people that could negatively affect us? Well, I can think of four concepts we can all take to heart:
- You know yourself better than anyone else. Farnoosh Brock of the website Prolific Living has a blog post about getting to know oneself. She discusses the agonizing experience of denying her true self at her previous corporate job, which led to living a lie to impress people she didn’t care about. Then she says, “The most beautiful thing you will ever witness in your life is when you begin to unfold into the person you were meant to be from your very beginning.” Keep that in mind and you can feel free to be yourself.
- You do not need to fear humiliation or shame. Marc and Angel Chernoff, on their inspirational blog Marc and Angel Hack Life, has a post about seven ways to stop fearing what everyone thinks of you. The third one in the list is to “accept that someone else’s opinion is NOT your problem.” In their words: “How you seem to someone and how you actually are rarely congruent. Even if they get the basic gist of who you are, they’re still missing a big piece of the puzzle. What someone thinks of you will rarely contain the whole truth, which is fine.”
- You should put your own mental and physical health first. According to Everyday Health, if your emotional health takes a toll, so will your physical health. Life may be stressful with many things going on, particularly those that involve doing important things for other people, but this is a case where it’s OK to not ignore yourself. By having various outlets for relaxation, such as exercise, calm leisure activities, and spending time with loved ones, you can ensure stable emotional health that translates to being alive, healthy, and in control of yourself.
- You deserve to make yourself happier than before. Bethany Butzer at Positively Positive really says it best: “If you’re stuck in a lackluster job, relationship, or living situation, get out. Open yourself up to the idea that you deserve better, because you do. Regardless of what you’ve done (or haven’t done) in the past, regardless of how hard you’ve worked. None of that matters.What matters is being willing to take courageous steps toward living the amazing life that’s waiting for you, patiently, just around the corner.”
If you can be in control of yourself, you can go through life on your own terms, without being influenced too much by the negative opinions of others. Obviously, this is something that requires practice for many. But as someone who has been guided by the four principles above, I can tell you that it’s worth it.
Anthony Lee is a prolific writer (medical by day, creative by night), an avid book reader, an enthusiastic movie watcher, and an insightful philosopher. He joined the Delivering Happiness movement in late 2011 after reading Tony Hseih’s book of the same name, sharing it with his book club, and adopting a newfound optimistic perspective on life. He spends much of his time thinking of ways to improve the world and inspiring people with his own words of wisdom and inspiration on Facebook (AnthonyLeePhilosopher) and Twitter (AntPhilosopher).
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