Are there situations when we should care what others think about us? Especially in the self help/development circles there’s a persistent message one should disregard all sorts of criticism and “stay strong” or “whatever a person says only reflects themselves”. The truth is though most of us do care about others’ opinions and when we’re at the receiving end, strong emotions and reactions may arise. Just as we feel good when receiving a compliment we can sense a gloomy feeling when we’re faced with negative input. I think it’d be a shame to strive for a state where we completely let criticism bounce off, what if there is actual validity and value to another’s opinion?
I don’t know about you, but personally I’ve had opinions shooting from all sorts of directions and angles in my life. Attempting to adjust and change accordingly I imagine would only lead to a clashing and chaotic personality together with confusion and exhaustion. This leads to the million dollar question: how would one decipher between when to put on the listening ear and when to shut it off?
We can never be fully certain about the accuracy or intention of another’s opinion, the most well-intended person may be wrong or the ill-willed might be correct. That aside, there is specifically one type of relationship where we might want to take in another’s perception of us. It comes from the person where I feel criticism and pointers have higher odds of being sincere, valid and credible and less likely to get us completely sidetracked.
What I’m referring to are those around us who have a track record of consistently placing our well being in relation to ourselves, first. That is, they have shown that they recognize that the individuals’ well being matters the most to the individual regardless of personal effects. Hopefully this is a given, but it’s worth stating the obvious. There are many relationships out there where one person will claim dibs on another’s wellness, requiring them to put their well being to the side to benefit themselves. This might sound confusing so let me give an example: Person A would really benefit from a move to another city on every level. Simultaneously it will mean a close friendship with person B, will be affected negatively. Person B could have Person A’s best interest at heart and encourage the friend to move even though knowing it will cause them (Person B) a form of loss.
However, there are Person B’s out there who will discourage the move because of the impact it will have on Person B. This proves person B regards their own needs and benefits of greater importance than Person A’s well being, even in regards to person A’s own life. To amplify the point, it’s as if saying “others’ lives are here to support me primarily”. In my experience, these are the same people who have a habit of calling others selfish, especially when placing oneself first, the irony!
This is NOT to say people should sacrifice themselves for others, it’s simply acknowledging that everyone should strive for their own best and supporting each other along the way even if it causes repercussions for us.
When Person B who encouraged the move has consistently shown a pattern of placing our well-being first despite them being influenced, it could suggest they are a valuable source of insights. They have shown in their actions the absence of ulterior motives and unconditional care. So, if they happen to relay their opinion or criticism, it might be a good idea to take it to heart or at least give it serious contemplation.
I truly want to emphasize the word “consistently” because it is key in this context. There are people around us that sometimes place our wellbeing first and other times don’t: it’s a mixed bag. When the “mixed messages” person utters something negative about our character for example, it might be difficult to know what to do with the information, there is no knowing where they are coming from, what’s the true agenda?
We might also be surrounded by those who have not yet had the opportunity to step up to the plate and show their true colors. Regardless if we get along great, it’s typically only when there’s a chance to show where they place us and themselves in relation to our well being, we’ll know the true intentions and quality of the relationship. And of course, we have a whole line of people who might have all sorts of opinions, advice and criticism , yet have never shown that they place your well-being in regards to yourself, first. Pinch of salt!
The “consistent pattern” applies to all forms of relationships, beyond the amount of time knowing each other, labels or status, be it a close intimate one or business like. So it might be worthwhile scrolling through past history looking for clues of whether they place our wellness in respect to ourselves first or not, before trusting their opinion.