Opinions: When to Listen, and When to Simply Say…
”Seriously. Fuck them.”
I find myself sharing that phrase with friends more consistently in recent months.
A friend who was nervous about sharing a brilliant article she wrote, because it was from her work and people in her peer circle don’t think highly of jobs?
Seriously. Fuck them.
A friend who dated someone for a bit of time, only to break up because he “wasn’t ready to date anyone,” then immediately entered into a long-term relationship with someone else?
Seriously. Fuck him.
A friend who was at a dinner party, and heard a group of women discussing and tearing apart everything about her, from her clothes down to her vocabulary?
Seriously. Fuck those girls.
I know, the phrase is a bit abrasive. For those of you with more delicate demeanors than this rough-and-tumble New Englander, you could substitute the phrase Seriously. To hell with them. Or, for the most pure of heart you could use Seriously. To heck with them. I am completely at a loss for what is less abrasive but still forceful—I don’t use those words.
The phrase has to have some venom to it, so you should adjust it to how sharp your own bite is.
The venom helps you form a quick, gut check reaction to the people whose opinions you are choosing to take into account. Similar to Derek Sivers’ and Mark Manson’s takes on the “Fuck Yes or No” rule, this heuristic for determining the importance of other people in your life often gives you an answer before you can rationalize one.
I’d love to tell you that there is an easy way to build up an immunity to criticism and judgement from others. There are a few rare souls that can totally do it—they often become serial killers.
For the rest of the non-homicidal-spree folks, what other people think and what they or do say affects us. Congratulations! There isn’t ANYTHING wrong with that.
You are a well-adjusted human capable of processing feelings and emotions and vulnerability.
Unfortunately, it also means that you are going to have to FEEL those feelings and emotions and vulnerabilities to get through them.
Feeling feelings is a frickin’ nuisance. Why, then, do so many of us wallow in them?
Because it feels GOOD. In that it feels TERRIBLE. Like ordering pretty much anything at McDonald’s: A cheap, quick, delicious thrill of a moment that you know you are going to feel moving inside you in ways that you don’t like for at least an hour afterward.
You spurt out your frustrations to anyone who will listen. You ask 479 of your friends to evaluate every single detail of your story to offer THEIR feedback on this OTHER person’s feedback. You post it to Facebook and check every seventeen seconds to see if anyone has liked or commented on it.
At the end of all that, you know what you have?
The same outcome that you had before you started the whole experience, with thirty-nine new opinions to take into account. And the same bad feelings that got you into the circumnavigating the action globe originally.
I don’t know about you, but just typing and re-reading all that made me tired. Having to actually live through it? Exhausting.
Which is why, as someone who actively tries to avoid feeling feelings as often as possible and would prefer to rationally determine all life decisions, I knew there had to be an easier way to assess the impact of other people on myself.
Let me repeat that last part, as it is the most important:
I knew there had to be an easier way to assess the actions of others on myself.
Anyone see where I’m going here?
YOU CAN’T CONTROL OTHER PEOPLE!
You can’t climb inside their head and manipulate their thoughts. You can’t force them to act a certain way. You can’t make them love you if they don’t.
You don’t have control over anyone except yourself.
Gonna leave that for a minute, to set in.
You know it is the truth—that truth that all those tasty, greasy french fries cover up.
You don’t have control over anyone except yourself.
In other words… learn to control yourself.
I use the “Seriously. Fuck them.” rule when those feelings of inadequacy and judgement creep up, because it very quickly helps me determine two extremely important things about the situation:
1) Is This Person Important To Me?
Consider for a moment: If your mom gave you some sort of brutal life advice, would your immediate reaction be: “Seriously. Fuck her.”
Unless you are an angsty teenager or a completely maladjusted adult, the answer is likely: “No, it would not.”*
You’d probably be lividly irritated. You’d be hurt by her inability to see you for who you are. You’d be frustrated by her incessant meddling.
But you wouldn’t spit vitriol at her. She’s your Mom.
As more of a real world example not about family, my editor (lovingly) tears apart everything I send her.
Aside from the fact that she is a lovely lady, she is brilliant about all things wordy in ways that I’m in awe of. She actually knows when participles dangle and how to rework sentences so they are not awkward.
I would NEVER say Seriously. Fuck her. because her critique adds to my writing, rather than detracting from it. She’s a good person to keep around to disagree with me.
I don’t always agree, and sometimes I go ahead and write what I was going to write anyway. Valuing someone’s opinion is not about doing exactly what they suggest.
It is about considering their viewpoint, how it applies to you, and if it changes or reinforces your actions going forward.
2) Is There Merit To What They Are Saying?
This is the tougher one.
With the heralded advent of Haters Gonna Hate and Whatever, Whatever, I’m Gonna Be Me rhetorics, it is easy to flippantly blow off the opinions of others.
Guess what, though?
Good decisions, great people, and successful ventures are strong enough to endure criticism.
Consider the random anonymous comment on your site or social media feed that is stupidly ignorant and mostly tangential. Disagreeing for the mere sake of disagreeing. In general, being a total jerk because you have an internet connection and a keyboard.
See how easy it is to roll your eyes and say, “Seriously. Fuck them.” to that?
What they are saying doesn’t hold any worth for you. It doesn’t add to the conversation in any elegant way. Their impact on your life does not NEED to have any impact.
Sometimes, the criticism is important. It makes you review your thoughts and plans. It is a different viewpoint to an argument you passionately want to engage in. It makes you look at something in a way you never have before.
If you cannot honestly throw the “Seriously. Fuck them.” bomb on the minefield of feedback at your feet, then you know that there is more to consider.
I would say at least 80% of the time, most feedback seems to fall into one of these two categories. Which I never realized until I started consistently applying the rule to my feelings on the situations.
It doesn’t mean that other people are evil and you should shun 80% of them. It doesn’t mean that every contradictory viewpoint is wrong.
It especially doesn’t mean you should hide yourself within an echo chamber where everyone thinks the same way as you.
This is why the rule has to be SO viciously worded. It has to give you an immediate reaction, like you’ve been slapped in the face, so that you know exactly how you want to apply it. I’m sure this has something to do with the “fight or flight” instinct, or some other brilliant psychological reason.
When abruptly forced to choose between two alternatives, we know exactly what our choice would be.
With the Seriously. Fuck Them. rule, you know exactly whose opinions matter to you and what comments or actions to consider.
Well, I’m sure they are lovely people. With good contributions to the general constructs of society. Who add value in many OTHER ways.
*This absolutely does NOT apply to abusive relationships. If people are abusing you mentally, physically, emotionally, or otherwise, then you absolutely should NOT allow those people so candidly into your life. Often easier said than done, but rationalizing that behaviour because they are close friends or family is NOT what this rule is about.