Recovering The SelfA Journal of Hope and Healing


Rules For Life – People Are Happy To Tell You

Welcome back to my continuing series of Rules For Life.

I thought I would open this article with a little good news. This is for anyone hesitating to follow their dream, take a risk, or just to do something intimidating. Most of these situations worry us because of our fear of what others might say. Will we suck? Will anyone tell us if we suck?

Here’s the good news: People are more than happy to tell you if you suck. In fact, they’ll tell you even if you don’t!

… Perhaps I should explain just why this is good news.

You see, last April, I made my first attempt at backpacking the Pacific Crest Trail. I decided I would record video while I was on the trail and post it on my YouTube channel after I returned.

I returned rather quickly, because I hadn’t realized just how difficult hiking the Pacific Crest Trail really is. As I promised myself, I assembled all of my video of the ordeal and posted it on my YouTube channel. Yes, I was a bit concerned that I’d look like a fool but my greater concern was that I wouldn’t learn from the experience and just brush it aside. By making it public, I knew I wouldn’t be able to simply ignore it.

My YouTube audience couldn’t ignore it, either. Before I knew it, I began seeing comments, such as:

“You literally did everything wrong.”

“Am I supposed to believe you are that stupid?”

“Got to be the worst YouTube video ever!”

And that’s just the start.

Oh, sure. I wasn’t a great fan of the negativity but I did learn an important lesson, which is not to worry too much about making a fool of myself because there are countless strangers ready to make sure I know when I’m doing it!

It’s an incredibly liberating feeling, even if you have to work your way through several layers of embarrassment before you realize it.

Think for a minute about all those things you never did because you were afraid of looking stupid or inadequate. There’s no good way to know ahead of time how you’ll come out and it really feels as though you’re stepping onto a cracked and fragile limb as you do it. What we fail to realize is that there’s an infinite resource all around us, which is the unsolicited opinions of strangers. We don’t have to solicit their opinion; they’re going to give it to us whether we like it or not.

I spent most of my life afraid of the opinion of strangers. Sometimes, I wouldn’t leave the house for fear of what strangers might think. I’d feel bad when I became the butt of their jokes. And then, I realized something terribly important: those who give you their opinion don’t care how it makes you feel. They don’t care if you’re ready for their opinion, if you want their opinion, or even if you had hoped to avoid their opinion.

People are only too happy to tell you what they think.

So, with that in mind, why not use that to your advantage? Rather than fear what strangers might think, understand that the generosity of the opinionated is only exceeded by their insensitivity. Soon, you’ll be trying new things and taking chances you’ve always hesitated to explore. You’ll have more fun than ever and feel more fulfilled, while all the while that indomitable peak we call public opinion will grow shorter and shorter until it is little more than bump in the road.

It’s entirely up to you if you choose to focus on it or not, just as it has always been. Because it wasn’t their opinion that was stopping you all along but, rather, it was the power those opinions had over you. Once you realize that, you really can do anything you like.

They’re going to talk anyway. Give them something to talk about!



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Recovering The Self is a forum for people to tell their stories. Individual contributors accept complete responsibility for the veracity, accuracy, and non-infringement of their reporting.
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