Have you ever made a lifestyle change and had people give you a hard time for it? Maybe they disrespected you behind your back or even to your face? I had an experience like this a few years ago. I decided to make a change and had a few friends who were all of a sudden not so friendly. I remember being really upset because I didn’t know WHY they felt the way they did. Being a people-pleaser, I desperately wanted to make it “right”— I thought if I was nice enough, if I worked hard enough, if I bent over backwards to accommodate them, if I could figure out WHY they felt the way they did, that I could change their minds about me. I felt like I began walking around with this aura of desperation floating around my head like PLEASE LIKE ME! I PROMISE I AM A NICE PERSON! I AM WORTHY OF YOUR RESPECT. It was exhausting. I tried everything I could think of to remedy the situation. I tried reaching out to them—asking if they would talk to me about it. I tried convincing them that they had it all wrong—that I really was a good person. I tried talking to third-party people—maybe someone else could shed some light on the situation. I tried to act like I didn’t care—even though I definitely did. I tried being polite knowing they were still talking about me behind my back—sometimes even disrespecting me to my face (or my personal favorite—through text). I tried being as nice as humanly possible (sometimes over-the-top nice) to overcompensate, but no matter what I did, it didn’t matter. Nothing I did changed their behavior.
The saddest thing about the whole experience wasn’t the “friends” I lost. It was that I had allowed this negativity to seep into my life, and I let it steal my peace and my happiness. I wanted to be liked SO badly that it had completely consumed me. I was literally losing sleep over it, and I cared so much about what these people thought of me—people who are not in my life at all anymore. Letting negative people have that much power over you is exhausting and debilitating.
Not everyone is going to understand you or agree with your life choices. The good news is—you don’t need anyone else’s approval. Your worth doesn’t depend on other people’s acceptance of you. Because when you choose kindness, regardless of how others treat you, God (or the Universe, Buddha, Mother Nature, Jehovah – whoever or whatever you believe in) already sees you as good, and there should be great comfort and freedom in that (my friend Bree taught me that).
So much of my time has been wasted trying to win people’s approval and prove my worth. It gets to a point where your life isn’t really your own anymore—all of a sudden you realize that you are living your life for someone else, and that isn’t how it should be! You cannot prove your worth, and you cannot change what others think about you. Respect isn’t earned or even demanded—no matter who you are, how hard you work, or what you’ve accomplished so far in life, respect is not something that you can expect from others. You can only show others how YOU respect YOURSELF. People learn how to treat you based on what you allow. If you are allowing people who continually disrespect you to stay active in your life, they will continue to do so.
If a person is bringing anything but positivity into your life, you’ve got to find a way to remove them. You don’t have to be mean or rude or yell or scream or say anything at all for that matter. You can literally just cut them out of your life, and you don’t owe them or anyone else an explanation for it. Fight for your own inner peace. Because if you let it, that negative energy can and will suck the energy right out of you.
So how does anyone ultimately move past a nasty rumor or eliminate a toxic person from his or her life? Good news—you may not be able to control others, but you CAN control your own actions and behavior. Whenever I run into this issue, I (still to this day) have to make a conscious effort to stop giving it my attention. I pray a lot—I pray for them, and I pray for myself! I pray that God helps me to worry less. I spend more time focusing on the people who invest in me, encourage me, support me, and love me. I have to consciously STOP trying to gain the approval of those few negative people, and let me tell you—there is nothing more freeing. Because PSA: YOU CANNOT CHANGE PEOPLE’S OPINIONS OF YOU. You can be the hardest worker on your team, the most helpful kid in your class, the nicest person in the world—there will always be people who find a reason not to like you. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Keep in mind that when someone mistreats you, it likely has NOTHING to do with you. These people are dealing with their own issues and insecurities. Some people are sad, lonely, hurting, jealous—the list goes on. Some people NEED to put others down in order to feel better about themselves. Just be kind to them—whether you receive the same treatment back or you don’t—have peace knowing that you chose kindness.
My husband and I recently discovered this TV show called Superstore—it’s a comedy about the dynamic in the workplace (it’s similar to The Office, but this show takes place in a Super Walmart-type store, and it’s really funny!). We recently watched an episode where the boss (his name is Glenn, and he reminds me so much of myself) reads a particular nasty review about his store on Yelp. He tracks down the guy who wrote the review and brings him back into the store to try and remedy the situation (I would do this). This guy (his name is Tim) seems pleasant, and after he leaves, Glenn checks Yelp to see if Tim has updated his review. He is upset to read that Tim has written an even nastier review than before! Glenn tries again and again to change Tim’s mind, bringing him back in multiple times, but it always ends with nastier and nastier reviews—sometimes even with Tim personally attacking Glenn. The episode ends with Amy, a manager at the store, paying Tim a visit at his house. It turns out that Tim lives with his very sick mother and his home has been overrun by what appears to be dozens of wild rabbits! Not saying you should laugh at anyone living in these conditions, but just to circle back to my original point, the people who mistreat you are dealing with their own issues so try not to take it personally—even though it may be really hard.
I truthfully don’t believe that people are inherently evil or that people actually just like being mean and live to hurt other people’s feelings, but I do believe that people can be incredibly troubled, unaware, selfish, and insecure. It is NOT your responsibility to babysit people’s insecurities. You should not feel obligated to shrink yourself so people can meet you at a level they are comfortable with. Continue being yourself. Continue growing and evolving. Live your life how YOU want to. Be a nice person. Take an interest in other people’s lives and endeavors. Encourage and support them. It might be cliché, but I truly believe that you should treat others how you want to be treated. Support your friends and those around you because it is what you would want them to do for you. Choose kindness. Choose love. Choose happiness. Forget the other stuff.