What do you do with others’ opinion of you?
When I was younger, I took it seriously and tried to please people. It was exhausting, it was foolish and it had to stop. As a grown up, I can’t be bothered about what people think of me. It’s like, Taylor Swift sang this for me:
But I keep cruising
Can’t stop, won’t stop moving
It’s like I got this music
In my mind
Saying, “It’s gonna be alright.”
‘Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off!
So yeah, I shake it off me and carry on with life. But hey, I’m only human and sometimes, things do get to me. How can they not, when it comes as a brutal blow, or as something so cruel that it leaves you stunned?
Last month, I received a Facebook message from a school senior saying she wanted to “get in touch” and see how I’m doing. I said something like I’m fine, you look stunning, I miss school so much and similar lame things, and she suddenly sent me lines after lines of obnoxious things like – and I quote – “I heard you wrote a book. Everyone has written a book Aditi. 3 out of my 5 friends have written books. So don’t tell me about the book. Tell me something else.”
All this, when I didn’t even once mention my book in the 2 minute chat, or even that fact that I write.
I didn’t have an answer for her, so I closed the chat window and got on with life. Till date, I have no idea what made her so mad at me and I tried to shake it off. Fuck what people think, right?
But it bothered me. And the fact that a snide comment by someone who doesn’t even matter bothered me, bothered me more. It’s a vicious circle.
This brings me to a recent incident.
A couple of days back, amidst the super business of a short trip and seemingly glamorous event and conference-calls-from-the-airport kind of a day, I found myself with a girl I know socially. “Your work sounds stressful. How do you manage with your kid?” she asked.
“As parents, the husband and I make sure that she is never without at least one of us. So I come home at 1 PM – which is when she returns from her school, and I work from home for the second half. When I absolutely have to stay at work till later, my husband schedules his day around the kid. And when I have to travel, my MIL or Mom come over and help us out with the much needed grand parents time.” I said. “It sounds complicated, ha ha, but we manage.”
If you know me, you know I said this in my typical friendly and happy way. There was nothing show-off-ish, or grumpy-and-complain-y about it. But she gave me an odd look of annoyance and said something that made the independent girl in me (and okay, let’s also include the Feminist in me here) wince visibly.
She said, “Magar iss sab ki kya zaroorat hai Aditi tum ko? Your husband is earning na?”
Translation in English will roughly mean “But why is all this (meaning my work, my passion, my pursuing my talents slash dreams) necessary when your husband is earning?”
I am generally quick to respond to idiots and to smart-ass remarks, but this one left me blank for a few long heartbeats, while I stared at her, hoping that she wasn’t serious and we will laugh any moment now, High Fiving each other. Nope. She was serious, and she expected an answer. I blinked several times.
I didn’t know how to respond to that, which is a bizarre thing in itself because I always have a response but that’s besides the point here.
Why is my working necessary when my husband earns, she asked me, looking slightly annoyed by my sheer audacity to work after giving birth (C-Section, mind you!), to travel on my own (exactly what she was doing but oh, not married and no kids so I guess it was okay for her!), and to fail to see what’s wrong with it (still have no clue what annoyed her about me but eh, can’t please everyone and I already have a minion-army writing me fan-mails per hour so my ego is well fed.)
I just gave her a look, ending the conversation.
But. It bothered me.
I didn’t have an answer for the second girl either. This was not an idiot, this was a girl who voices her views on everything from politics to pop culture to popular hair care brands. This was not a smart-ass remark, there was something very nasty and hurtful about it.
And the bullshit she said and the negative vibe that rolled off her like waves of the sea I had just visited, bothered me.
I know, I know, I should have said something and I’m an idiot of the first order but my brain stopped working you know? I just couldn’t get past her massively outrageous and totally out of line comment about my life, about which by the way, she knows nothing about. Like I said, I just know her socially. She has no clue what it took for me to get where I am. It might not be a good place, or a spot one would boast about, but I got here on my own.
I work too much, and I spend every possible minute with my kid while doing so. My actual friends who have met my daughter will also tell you this. I enjoy my work and I can NOT sit idle. I have this thing about always doing something. I dream BIG and I work very hard. And most importantly, I know how to live a happy life. If you know me personally, you know I am right. I am never rude or nasty, I am pretty much always having a good time.
But is that my story? Is that all to me? No, obviously.
I have struggles and issues that people know nothing about, and my journey till here is not exactly a book that you can read and review on your blog. It’s not pretty, nor is it easy. I have my scars and my struggles, like every damn person on this freaking planet. Both these girls, who knew nothing about me, delivered judgements. I was accused of doing something everyone has done – write a book, of going out and working, and travelling, and having a life even when I have a kid.
In the mighty opinion of someone who’s favourite book is ‘Five Point Someone’ (I checked her Facebook Page), my writing a book is something so dreadful that she had to make the effort of having a Facebook chat with me to tell me this personally.
And in the well-rounded opinion of an unmarried-with-no-kids woman who is older to me, I was guilty of doing my thing “despite having a kid and slash or my husband earning”.
Both of them made me sounds cheap.
Is my life not fruitful because I’m doing what everyone else is doing?
Am I working for my hunger for money?
Am I neglecting my baby for my ambition?
Is my husband’s earning not enough for me?
Is following my passion a bad thing?
Is any of this her damn business?
No, to all.
But it still hit me unexpectedly – Not the mean things they said, but realizing that at 32, I am still bothered by others’ opinion of me. I should know better than to give the slightest shit about anyone who tried to kill my buzz, right? Well.
I am not ashamed to admit that a few times, it gets to me and I do worry about what people think. It is natural, we are social beings and we all want to be liked. But sooner than later, I bounce back.
Remember, we can’t all win Miss Congeniality. It is a sub-title and where’s the fun in that? I say rub a few people the wrong way, piss them off, let them think of you badly and let them judge you unfairly, but go for the damn title. Win the damn race with your own rules. Do your own thing. Fuck what others think of you.
The opinion of others, they say, is the most irrelevant and also the most powerful factor in human behaviour. Most of us are often found saying, with a dismissive wave of a hand, that we don’t give a rat’s ass to other’s opinion of us.
What bullshit! It is human to care what people think about you, I know from personal experience. But I also know that it is a waste of time to dwell on it for too long, or to doubt your own self basis the opinion of others.
Being bothered by what someone random says about you, or an opinion that someone has of you, is as pointless as my baby-proofed dining table.
I hope you know that this is not just these two girls. They are references to all the others who say things that are judgemental, cruel and in a bad taste. I am blessed with good people in my life, and I have so much love in my world that when every once in a very rare while such nasty people come my way, I feel stumped.
Honestly, I would never say something so demeaning to anyone, but hey, that’s just me. And even I will bring the claws out if you’ve pissed me off. Like, maybe write about it on my blog? heehee. And like my close friends (who are way more than 5, thankfully) say, maybe they are jealous of me or they think I am weird. Possible. People don’t need logic of reason to be hateful.
So yeah. Everyone must have their own reasons to do or say whatever shit they do. Or say. And the entire point of this post is that the opinion of others should not matter. It will bug you for a while, but eventually it will fade and only how well you lived your dream will matter, how much love you gave and received in a lifetime will be remembered – not the opinion of others and similar bullshit.
If it is not uplifting, productive or positive – what others think of you or your choices in life is none of your business.
Surround yourself with people you love and who love you back, and distance yourself from sad people who bring you down with words. Know that you will never please everyone. Know that the opinion of others does not matter. Do your thing, be yourself and shine bright, darlings!
And to all those who judge me for being a working mother, for following my dreams, for living the life I designed for myself and enjoying every bit of it with my family – and for evey other thing that I choose do in life – I give you the great Dorothy Parker:
But now I know the things I know,
And do the things I do;
And if you do not like me so,
To hell, my love, with you!