The other day a friend asked me, “How can you walk this earth independently enough to not care what others’ opinions are? Or to be free from others’ opinions and criticisms of you?”
“You can’t,” I responded.
“But if you don’t take things personally,” he tried, “then can’t you have that kind of freedom?”
“If you never took anything personally no matter what anyone said?” I asked, suspicious. “I guess that would work. But that’s impossible.”
“What do you mean, it’s impossible? If you worked at it and practiced not taking things personally, wouldn’t that do it?”
“I guess if you had the life of the Dali Lama who meditates five hours a day and has an an entourage caring for all his needs. But it’s not a realistic goal for the rest of us.”
“But you can get pretty good at not caring…”
“The object of conflict isn’t to not care what people think about you—although sometimes it may seem that way. The object is to take a hit, but not let your emotions or well-being or moods be ruled by what others say and do. We’re all going to get hurt. In fact, I want to feel hurt—it lets me know I’m not numb to the world.”
“You want to be hurt?” Now my friend had a suspicious look.
“I mean, I don’t go around saying, ‘Hurt me, hurt me. Please hurt me.’ I don’t like being hurt. But there’s no way to be in a good, close relationship without a few ugly spots here and there. It’s part of any close and important relationship. And figuring out how you’re going to deal with the various hurts without destroying yourself or your relationship is one of the keys to having the kind of relationships you want.”
“How do you do that?”
“By suring myself up! Sometimes I talk to myself and say, ‘I’m fine and my relationship is fine, even though right now it’s not in the best place.’ Sometimes I decide not to put myself in the same situation again. Sometimes I end the relationship. Whatever it takes for me to be okay.”
“I don’t know. I think I’ll still work on not caring about what people think at all.”
“And I’ll continue getting hurt, and caring for myself when that happens, in order to be closer to people.”
“Weird,” my buddy said, shaking his head.
Today, when I feel (name the emotion) I will do what I need to do to sure myself up even though I feel (name the emotion).