I received my first hate mail. Well, sort of.
I recently wrote a guest post on how to take charge of your unhealthy eating habits at PickTheBrain, and the first comment on the article—by someone called LAR—was very negative:
“I usually like this website but this article is rubbish. Are you promoting for a weight loss company? Dieting, which, don’t kid yourself, that’s what you’re promoting here, is not in any way helpful to actual health. In fact studies show the biggest indicator of weight GAIN is a diet within the last six months.
Food is just food. There is no good food or bad food except for what you believe and seriously, tying foods, any sort of foods, as acceptable or unacceptable is unhelpful. Further, suggesting that thinking ’do you want to lose body fat?’ isn’t helpful. Why don’t you just come straight out and say ‘nothing tastes as good as thin feels.’
It’s insensitive, badly researched rubbish.”
I almost couldn’t believe that I could upset someone so much by writing an article on healthy eating!
My older brother, Jonathan, writes health articles for Yahoo! and gets plenty of hateful comments from readers. I half-jokingly said that I now understand how he feels.
His response: “Haha. Man up, Daniel. Deal with it.”
In my family, that’s the unique way we handle our frustrations and disappointments. No pity, no sympathy, no compassion.
Just man up and deal with it.
Do you like getting Facebook “likes” too much?
That one angry comment made me doubt myself. Were all the subsequent comments going to be just as negative? Was my article really that bad?
As much as I want to not care about what other people think about my writing, I realize that I still do.
It’s true—haters are gonna hate. But there must be a way I can write so that I don’t turn anyone into a hater?
I really enjoy writing for writing’s sake, but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t take notice of the comments a post receives, the number of Facebook “likes” it gets, and the amount of buzz it generates on Twitter.
And hey, before you start judging me, I’m sure you care about how many “likes” you get when you update your Facebook status.
But this need for approval can be unhealthy—dangerous, even.
If you’re obsessed about what your blog readers, friends, parents, teachers, and boss think, it can lead to poor self-esteem, destructive relationships, and bad life decisions.
I feel qualified to say that, because I’ve been there and done that. This obsession with others’ perception of us is at the root of our deepest insecurities.
How to stop caring about what other people think
It’s challenging to overcome our need for approval, and it’s even more challenging to do this in a way that doesn’t come across as in-your-face and “I’m better than you because I’m a rebel who lives life on my own terms.”
I’d like to suggest some ways we can do that:
1. Don’t focus on performance.
It seems like everything in life revolves around performance. Academic results, class rank, net worth, revenue, profit, earnings per share, Key Performance Indicators—it’s all about the numbers.
As the saying goes, what gets measured gets done.
It you want to survive, and thrive, in the real world, you need to achieve results. Effort isn’t rewarded; results are.
But life isn’t mainly about finishing the race first. It’s about finishing the race well.
If you allow your identity to become wrapped up in whether you ace the exam, close the deal, or even accomplish something exceptionally noble, you’re probably running an anxious and self-conscious race—not the way to finish well.
2. Don’t focus on position.
Position is usually the end goal of performance. You become a valedictorian, CEO or famous athlete because you’ve (presumably) performed well.
The pursuit of position is the pursuit of success.
The pursuit of success is the pursuit of significance, of a life that truly counts.
But if your focus is solely on attaining a certain position, it’s unlikely that you’ll find the significance you were looking for even if you reach that position.
3. Focus on purpose.
Even if you don’t achieve your goals or realize your dreams, you can find satisfaction in knowing that you were purpose- and principles-driven in your efforts.
When you focus on your purpose for doing things, you’ll understand that the true value of chasing your dreams is in who you become, rather than in what you accomplish.
4. Focus on the process.
Process-based, instead of results-based, thinking is the key to being completely present, to living fully in the moment.
It’s interesting that whenever you hear top athletes describe what went through their minds when they attempted the game-winning shot (or the equivalent of a game-winning shot in whatever sport), they almost never say something like this:
“I thought about how my team was counting on me to deliver in crunch time. I thought about how I would be the hero if I made the shot. I thought about how disappointed my teammates would be if I missed the shot.”
Instead, they usually say, “I thought about taking the shot the exact same way I’ve done it 10,000 times before in practice.”
Ironically, process-based thinking often yields better results than results-based thinking.
5. Give yourself permission not to be perfect.
This means that you accept yourself completely, but that you also accept complete responsibility for improving the aspects of your life you’re not satisfied with.
It means that you accept your imperfections, but not the undesirable circumstances you have the power to change.
Perfection is being the best at everything; excellence is being the best you can be.
When you give yourself permission to be excellently imperfect, you can stop worrying about whether or not you’re living up to the expectations of others, or even your own.
Build a better you. Now.
(As you can tell, I went crazy with the words that start with “p.”)
I’m surprised that one angry comment from a random person somewhere in world could cause me to reflect so much on my own need for approval.
Our insecurities really do prevent us from becoming all that we can be.
The all-important first step if you want to build a better family, a better school, a better healthcare system, a better economy, and a better world is to build a better you.
So let’s stop caring about what other people think. The world is counting on us.