Opinions surround you in every aspect of life. Everyone has an opinion about something. Early in life, you focus on what others think of you. You observe your parents and those around you to see what acceptable behavior is. You use these observations to determine what parts of your personality are acceptable and what parts are not.
“How many times have you done something goofy or funny, Then looked around seeking validation?” asks Jay Shetty. “How many times have you wanted to do something, but you didn't do it because you could see the look in everyone's eyes, you could feel everyone's body language and energy, and that blocked you from doing what you wanted to do?”
Some restraint is good. Knowing when to hold your tongue or control your actions is imperative to help you make good decisions. When your obsession with others’ opinions suppresses your personality, it becomes harder to distinguish between who you are and what role you play for others.
“In some ways, you become a character,” Jay Shetty explains. “You play a role, like in a movie, and you continue to look to others for cues as to how to play it.”
How many times in your life have you acted a certain way around someone because you knew they liked it, or it was considered the right thing to do? Jay Shetty recalls a time in his life when he let others’ opinions influence him to stop being himself.
People always told Shetty that he is too friendly or too kind. Shetty saw this as a negative in his life and shied away from acting in that manner. After moving to Los Angeles, he decided he would always wear his heart on his sleeve and tell people how he felt. Whether or not they want to respond with kindness and love is up to them.
“It is a real process,” Jay Shetty explains. “It's a consistent process to take off the disguise and truly be yourself.”
In a post-pandemic world where routines are disrupted and everything you know is in chaos, now is an excellent time to let go of some of the things that aren’t working for you. Put new routines and habits in place. This is an opportunity to redefine yourself.
The pandemic has been transformative for many people. Jay Shetty says it is a time to slow down and do things differently. Life-changing experiences are happening every day for people. New perspectives are gained, and views are changed. It is a unique opportunity to transition into what you want to be because everyone is experiencing something similar during this time.
The hardest thing about change is the fear you feel over others’ reactions. Transitions provide a natural time to change. When you go from high school to college, college to a job, or from one relationship to another, you get to redefine who you are in that new opportunity.
When you redefine yourself in the same situation you are in, it can be more challenging to do, but it is not impossible. The most effective way to do this is to stop leaning on the expectations and opinions of others and start living for who you are and who you want to become.
Jay Shetty shares an example of a transition in his life that helped him live more authentically as himself.
“I gave up drinking alcohol after my 18th birthday,” Shetty explains. “I gave it up because I didn't enjoy the way I behaved when I was drunk. I also didn't enjoy the feeling. I think I used to drink only out of ego and competition with drinking games and all that kind of stuff. I didn't ever enjoy the taste of alcohol, so I gave it up. When I gave up drinking alcohol, it was really hard, because all my friends expected me to drink.”
Often people stay in the same situations for fear of rocking the boat. They do not want to make others feel a certain way, or they are unsure about the change, so it is easier to just continue in the same way.
Don’t let that stop you. Transitions provide an opportunity to make changes while making it easier for others to digest those changes.
From a young age, we learn by imitating others. It is something that is ingrained in us in such a way that it becomes a habit. The opinions and ways of others affect how we do things. If you see someone doing something a certain way, you tend to do it the same way around that person, even if you have different thoughts about how to do it. It’s quite a conundrum, says Jay Shetty.
Getting other people’s approval can give you a sense of belonging, but can take away from listening to your intuition and limits your creativity.
There are two extremes when it comes to seeking approval. The first is where you ask everyone's opinion about a situation and end up confused because you have twenty different views on one issue. This can complicate the situation even more.
The second is that you don't ask for anyone’s opinion and try to figure everything out on your own. This can lead to frustration trying to handle everything by yourself. Sometimes insight from someone else is helpful.
So how do you find a happy medium between the two?
Jay Shetty says instead of asking what someone else thinks you should do in a situation, ask them what they would do in that situation. No one can decide for you, but they can lend their thought process to handling it in a similar case.
“The first step in trying to navigate people's opinions is to not ask a bunch of people what they do or what you should do,” Jay Shetty explains. “Ask them how would you approach this situation?”
The pattern of looking to others for accepted behavior starts as children. It lives deep in our brain, but it is possible to break that addiction.
Breaking the Addiction of Approval
The need to fit in is hardwired into most people's brains, and it sends out a distress signal when we disagree with a group. We seek opinions of other people who agree with us so we feel like we fit in, and then we stay there where it feels safe. It takes practice and repetition to break the addiction of needing approval.
Jay Shetty recommends being clear with yourself about your intention to stop relying on others' opinions while making a decision. Realize that it will take determination, effort, compassion with yourself, and effort to accomplish this. It is easier in the short term to rely on others' opinions, but in the long term, you end up resenting them if things don't go your way. Just because they give you an opinion does not mean it is the right decision for you.
Jay Shetty shares an experience from when he first moved to L.A. and did not have much experience in the entertainment industry. He was excited to be around people who had more understanding that could give their opinions on how to be successful in the business.
“I let people make decisions for me,” Jay Shetty recalls. “I've always regretted that because they weren't me, and they didn't know me. It was my fault. I have to take responsibility and accountability for that.”
When you think you should ask someone else for their opinion on something, ask yourself first. How do you feel about that situation? What do you think you should do? Learn to trust your own answers.
“Being able to trust yourself starts with the basic and critical acknowledgement that you are a safe place for yourself,” Jay Shetty explains. “We talk about being able to be vulnerable with other people, but can we be open and honest and vulnerable with ourselves? If we're running negative scripts that say we don't trust ourselves and our knowledge, then we're not psychologically safe. That cuts us off from our own intuition and makes it harder to be honest with ourselves and to guide ourselves.”
Start with small decisions, like what to wear and where to eat, rely on your own thoughts and opinions to make those decisions, and ramp up from there. Once you establish trust in yourself, you won't need to rely on the opinions of others to make more significant decisions.
Jay Shetty suggests setting aside time in your day to connect with your values. The simplest way to do this is to set aside thirty minutes a day for reflection. List all your values and then rank them, starting with the most important, then describe what drives you to do what you do. Know what is important and why you make the decisions you do and provide a sense of calmness and reassurance in each aspect of your life.
It is impossible to know the future, but learning to recognize what is important to you in life will guide you when the unforeseen happens.
“Bill Gates once declared his company would never make a 32-bit operating system,” shares Jay Shetty. “Windows 10, the latest version is 64-bits. The New York Times declared a rocket would never be able to leave the Earth's atmosphere. We know how that went. Charlie Chaplin once said movies were just a fad that wouldn't last. There are so many false beliefs that we hold true because of other people's opinions and our own opinions. We're human. So of course, we make mistakes in our calculations and predictions sometimes.”
People give advice based on their own experiences. There is a belief that because we respect another person that their advice is right for us. That doesn’t always ring true. When you are learning to trust your own opinion, it does not mean that you stop caring about other people's views.
“When you try not to care what anyone else thinks, you're now caring about what they don't think, and it just gets complicated,” Jay Shetty explains. “We all have blind spots, and others can help us see them and reflect back to us what we're missing. But it's only by knowing ourselves deeply enough that we can gauge the validity and value of what others tell us. Your values and motivations can serve as a filter for other’s advice and opinions. What you want to do is to be thoughtful about whose advice matters and in what context.”
Advice from people who care about you, believe in you, and want to see you succeed is far more valuable than advice from someone who doesn’t believe in you.
Retrain your Brain
How do you retrain your brain not to let the opinion of others influence your decisions? That’s the next question Jay Shetty addresses. His answer? When you look at what others are doing, wearing, or reacting to situations, you need to pause.
“Instead of going into autopilot, you need to stop and think two words,” Jay Shetty explains. “Ask me. That's a cue to stop, and before you look externally, you look internally. Ask yourself first, and take a pause. Take a deep breath in and out. Imagine you're texting yourself or sitting down at a table with yourself on the other side, and you're asking your own opinion.”
Failure is not the end unless you allow it to be. You can be wrong in your own opinion at times, but you can learn from it and move on. Adversity and challenges are how you grow.
“When you make decisions based on your values and internal motivations there is no real loss, only gain of wisdom and experience,” Jay Shetty concludes.
More From Jay Shetty
Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode on “3 Reasons We Take People's Opinions Too Seriously” now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at jayshetty.me.