“You are what you love, not what loves you,” Donald Kaufman says to his brother Charlie, both played by Nick Cage, in the 2002 film Adaptation. American actor, comedian and motivational speaker Kyle Cease employs this line in a recent video post called “Why People’s Opinions of You Aren’t Real”.
Do you obsess about others’ opinions of you? I had an instance not so long ago where one person – someone close to me, who I had respect for – provided an extremely negative opinion on a project. By then, I’d compiled many enthusiastic endorsements for it. Anyone else who’d come into contact with it, and felt either ho-hum or appalled by it was, thankfully, not saying.
As project deadline approached, my fiancé B said, “Why is it that the, what is it? Three percent of total reviews?”
I did some quick math. “Could be five to ten percent.”
Irritated, B shook his head. “I think it’s three. But still. How can you let one negative over-shadow so much positive?”
At the time, I thought it was my pessimistic tendencies, but after some research, I’ve decided I’m probably not the only one who does this. In Tom Moon’s 2009 paper “Are We Hardwired for Unhappiness?” we’re told that the amygdala, an ancient brain structure, assigns responses to stimuli. “It is neurologically primed to label an experience as frightening and threatening. Once it has flagged an event as negative, it immediately stores it and compares it to the record of old painful experiences, and if it finds similarities, it signals alarm.” So, negative is registered immediately while, according to Moon, it takes five to twenty seconds to register positive.
Perhaps just being aware of this is helpful? Will make you less pessimistic, more objective?
But what does Kyle Cease mean when he says people’s opinions of you aren’t real? They are certainly others’ reality, right? What, objectively, can we do about them?
After reading several articles on the subject, I’ve come up with an easy-to-remember acronym, to help you get to the “you”ness of you, so when making big personal decisions you can confidently tell the naysayers that their opinion isn’t reality for you. I call it TRUE ME:
T – The Teacher is within you. Says Deepak Chopra, “If you’re really spiritual, then you should be totally independent of the good and bad opinions of the world . . . you should have faith in yourself.” Tova Payne, of Lifehack, says, “Inside all of us is a deep intuitive knowing that gives us solid information on what is best for us. When you listen to that deep knowing, you will feel a sense of joy, expansion, and deep peace (even if the choice is a little scary and out of your comfort zone).”
R – Risk/Reward. Who stands to lose? To gain? If it’s a deeply personal decision, you. Only you.
U – Uniqueness. Embrace that about yourself. What’s right for others might not be right for you. When others judge, it’s from their perspective. You don’t know what goes on in their head, just as they don’t know what goes on in yours. As Kat George says in Bustle, “They don’t know you. You know you. So you do you.”
E – Evolution of self. I think most would agree that we are here to learn, to grow, to find deep meaning in our lives. And by doing that, by staying on course, we add authenticity to self. We avoid living a lie.
M – Muscle building. The skill of personal decision-making is akin to a muscle. You don’t want it to atrophy, do you? Work that muscle. Make it stronger. Regularly relying on your own ability to make decisions builds confidence. You know you’ve made good decisions in the past, right? You also know if you didn’t, you learned. Right?
E – Expend Energy on self, not on what you know or imagine others’ think of you. Everyone can’t be pleased. Some will like you, some will not. Some will like some decisions and not others. When you think of the myriad decisions we make on a daily basis – the clothes we wear, the foods we eat, the business choices, the career choices – we know it’s impossible to please everyone. Says Payne, “Simply knowing this gives us the freedom to act honestly in our lives.”
We all want a little freedom, don’t we? Space where we don’t feel confined, but know that when we let loose, we’re still of sound mind and body? Getting back to Cease, that’s what he’s searching for in his video. “Where’s the middle?” he asks. “The part of you creating, having a great time? Can we be more like we were when we were kids?”
He prefers the “inside-out”ness of childhood, as opposed to the “outside-in”ness we experience as adults, when we succumb to the pressure of peers, society. He argues that if we’re always looking for things outside of ourselves to complete us, we will always be victims. “Everything has to change to make you happy,” he says. If we excel at self, have a little fun, and let go of the results we think we want, he feels they’ll show up when they’re supposed to.
Easy for Cease to say. I saw the ads paying for his videos. I say, keep your day job, work toward your dream job, and have your childlike fun on the side. Like Dr. Margaret Mead in Chocolate for a Woman’s Soul. Writer Ann McGee-Cooper says, “Studying with Dr. Margaret Mead, I noticed that she enjoyed a different quality of energy. She worked circles around the rest of us, even though she was thirty-five to forty years our senior!”
Mead’s secret? “I suppose it’s because I never grew up . . . while fooling most people into believing that I have!”
You think you need energy for play, but the reverse – energy from play – happens. Decide, like Donald Kaufman, that you are most definitely not the stuff that loves, or does not love, you back. You are what you love.
Website picture is of my daughter Randelle staying youthful by standing on her head on a rock in beautiful Tantalus Provincial Park, B.C.
Sweet! Thanks so much Rita! You hit it out of the ball park every time.