Everyone has an opinion, and quite often people enjoy sharing (or forcing) their opinions with others. However, opinions are tainted because they only exist in each person’s own frame of reference. That is, each person forms their own opinion based on their own experiences and their own observations of the world. What is “right” for one person is not necessarily right for another. In fact, when it comes to opinions, this is rarely the case I believe that other people’s opinions are not that important to me, and particularly so when that opinion is about me. Other people simply do not have the same level of experience or knowledge about my life as I do and thus their opinions will never be as accurate as mine. I will ultimately know the most about my life, my thoughts, and my desires which means that only my opinion of myself matters.
Which leads me here – writing about how other people form their opinions of us, why these opinions are irrelevant most of the time, and why only your own opinion of yourself is what matters.
Opinions are just a matter of perspective
The first part to the consideration of other peoples’ opinions is to think about how they actually form these opinions. In general, all opinions are formed by a person using their own set of life experiences, knowledge, beliefs, and thoughts as the basis. That is, they form these opinions from their own frame of reference, which is completely different to our frame of reference (which is where we performed the various thoughts and actions that are being judged).
Example: The CEO and the guitarist
To make an example – imagine a successful and happy CEO of a small company walking down a busy street and running into a dishevelled looking man (long hair, beard, no shoes) who is playing a guitar and singing for the passer-bys. From the CEO’s perspective he judges the guitarist as a “bludger” and forms an opinion that he is homeless and in need of a job. He might even give him some money to help as that is what the CEO, from his perspective, thinks the man needs.
Now switch perspectives, and consider the guitarist. He’s not a bludger at all - he actually has a very nice home and enough money that he has chosen not to work. Instead he travels the world and plays his guitar. He looks at the be-suited office workers (including the previously mentioned CEO) as they pass and he feels sorry for them. He believes they are missing out on their life and forms the opinion that they must be greedy and unhappy because those are the only reasons he can think of for why they would continue to work.
Neither perspective is right, but neither perspective is wrong. Each person has a very different set of circumstances which has led them to their current situation and their frame of reference. Their perspective is built from their life journey and as such they can only make judgements and form opinions with that information. Hence why the CEO thinks the guitarist must be a homeless beggar because he simply cannot fathom someone “rich and successful” quitting their job to live a semi-vagrant lifestyle.
And the guitarist suffers the same folly. Because he was never happy at work he cannot believe that other people could possibly be happy at work. He looks at the CEO almost with contempt, believing that he is willing to exchange happiness for money even though he knows nothing about the CEO, his job, or his happiness.
The way opinions are formed
When someone forms an opinion on you they are doing so based on the extremely limited set of information they have been presented with. They align it to their past experience and knowledge and form an opinion that they think suits the situation best. This opinion has no relevance to you because it does not factor in anything else about your life and what you have gone through previously to arrive at this point. Their opinion only considers what they have recently observed.
Look at the (pretty crude) sketch I’ve drawn above. Consider yourself to be the circle on the left. The outer part is what you allow to be seen by others. This is known as your outward-facing "persona". Inside your circle is everything that defines you. That is where your past is stored. That is where your emotions live. That is where your thoughts happen and where your decisions are made.
Now look at person A and person B (the circles on the right). They exist completely outside of your circle and they have their own outward facing persona and their own internal elements. These are what they use when they form opinions of others.
The two coloured cones represent these people looking at you and your external persona to form an opinion. But as you can see, these opinions never consider the full you. These opinions that are formed by others can only look a very limited set of your external persona (remember that is only what you let them see) and they can never reach inside your circle and understand all those internal drivers in your life. As such, the opinions of others are formed solely by them assessing the limited information they can access – the small outward-facing part of your persona they have witnessed.
Of course this means that their opinion is never going to fully align with you. They never know exactly what you know, or what you have seen in your life, so they can never fully appreciate all your internal drivers and why you think, act, or do certain things.
As time goes by and you repeatedly interact with the same people, they will experience more and more of your outward persona. This will enable them to modify their opinion of you but it is still only an opinion that is formed on based entirely on your outward persona. Eventually you may “open up” and allow these people to see parts of what is inside. You may allow these people to look behind the social mask and see what actually drives you.
We do this with our loved ones, but even so we never give them the full picture. We might turn part of our persona into a window that allows them to see inside to understand what drives us. But just like a window on a house, you can never see everything that is inside from a single window. There a rooms hidden from view, and as such, even our dearest and closed loved ones will never have a complete understanding of our internal drivers. The will know far more about us than anyone else but they will still not have the complete picture.
This is not a bad thing but it is just the nature of being human. In the end we are essentially individual creatures living in a coexistent environment, sharing parts of lives through language, emotion, and action. This means that others will only ever understand what we choose to share and then only if we are skilled enough to express ourselves accurately.
Your opinion of yourself is what matters most
Therefore, what truly matters most is your own opinion of yourself. Only you know what your life has been like, what you are capable of, and what you want to achieve. Only you can see all that and form an opinion that has taken everything from your life in to consideration.
But too many people hide from themselves and avoid making assessments of their own actions. I believe that these people are functioning in a purely reactive and “stressed-out” way. They are not living in the moment, they are not aware of their own actions, and they are not consciously in control of their own life.
If you are one of these people then you need to start being honest with yourself and start forcing yourself to assess your own actions. What have you done so far in your life? Have you treated others with respect and equality? What sort of person have you been? More importantly, what sort of person do you want to be? When you start asking yourself these questions, don’t be afraid to answer them honestly for that is the only way that you will initiate positive change in your life.
Remember, your opinion of yourself is what matters most so what do you really think of yourself?