A while back, I gave up worrying about what others thought of me. I can't remember just when it was, but I do remember that it was pretty darned liberating.
I likely made this decision back when I was a human resources manager. Many of the things my job required, like handling layoffs, administering discipline or terminating employees, made me pretty unpopular. As a former cheerleader and homecoming queen, I had developed a serious addiction to being liked, and that really hurt.
I would give myself a little talk on the way to work that went something like this: "You know, Jeanne, they don't have to like you, but they need to respect you. That also means you need to respect yourself." Well, in order to respect myself, I had to figure out what my most valuable role was to the organization and the people I worked with, and make sure I focused on that. My inner coach finally got through to my ego.
I was reminded of my decision recently when I picked up a book my mom gave me called "God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life's Little Detours" by Regina Brett. Lesson 29 says, "What other people think of you is none of your business."
An opinion columnist for a major newspaper, Regina Brett is criticized on a daily basis. She distinguishes humility from humiliation. She defines humility as a perpetual quietness of heart, no matter what's coming your way. Life is not a performance or a popularity contest, according to Brett.
When our niece Anna Rose was a kid, she would always show up for a visit expecting a list of chores to do. If we failed to lay out work for her, she would even become grumpy. We thought this to be a little unusual for a 7 year old, but we didn't want to disappoint her and certainly appreciated her help.
I remember one particular day when we gave her some large folding tables to clean. She was working away on her own when I happened to step up behind her to see how things were going. In doing so, I observed something I will never forget. Anna Rose stepped back, admired her work and said loudly and joyfully to no one, "Oh, I just love myself." She was so proud of doing her best work.
Wow! What a lesson I learned that day. I knew then and there that Miss Anna was not going to be one to look for love in all the wrong places.
Anna Rose has taught me many other great life lessons throughout the years. Another of my favorite Anna Rose and Regina Brett lessons is number 6: "Don't take yourself so darned seriously. Nobody else does."
If what others think of you is not your business, then just what is your business? We think it's pretty simple:
- Prepare well
- Show up
- Add value
- Respect yourself
- Enjoy your work
- Enjoy the folks you work with
- Help others add value