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How To Handle Other People’s Opinions

by jenny sansouci on June 30, 2013

I’ve been writing kinda long blogs lately, sorry about that peeps. I guess I just have a lot of feelings. 😉

Lately I’ve been finding that more and more people have been throwing opinions at me. Or maybe I’ve just been noticing it more. It might be because I have been sharing a bit more honestly, opening up just a little bit more – and that has left me way more vulnerable to opinions from others who may be witnessing. Maybe it’s because as I grow more into who I really want to be in this world, there’s always that rough edge where the path doesn’t feel completely lit, and the unknown feels really vast, and other people’s opinions are a reflection of my own doubts as I step into previously uncharted territory. It could be that.

I remember when I first decided to quit my 9-5 job back in 2010. As much faith as I had in myself and the work I was meant to do, I was also terrified. I felt an intuitive pull so strong to go out and forge my own path that I would have gotten sick if I didn’t listen to it, but still, parts of it felt so unsturdy, so unsure, so intensely unknown. I remember walking into the office of my boss and telling him I was leaving. “How are you going to make money?” he asked. “It’s a really hard world out there, you know. We treat you so well.” I started crying in his office (not the first time that’s happened). “I don’t know,” I said, “but I know I need to do this.” As I said it, I wasn’t even sure where my words were coming from.

As I walked out of his office contemplating whether or not I was a total crazy person, all I really knew was that his words were an exact mirror of my own internal fears. At that moment I knew more than I ever had before –  if someone has an opinion or criticism of me, and I get upset or triggered by it, it’s probably a direct reflection of something I’m scared of or insecure about.

I think the more you put yourself out there and take risks in your work and in your life, the more people start chiming in. Sometimes it’s a close friend giving you some serious tough love over dinner, sometimes it’s a family member, sometimes it’s a totally unsolicited message from someone on the internet. From what we eat, to how we run our businesses, to what we’re passionate about, to who we want to date or what we want in romantic relationships, people always seem to want to give strong advice, even criticism (myself included, don’t get me wrong, I’ve got plenty of opinions). And listen, I know I ask for it sometimes by posting my random thoughts and feelings all over the internet. I’m not complaining, I get that it’s par for the course. I am, however, going through this learning experience, extracting whatever lessons I can from it, and sharing them with you as I go along. We’re in this together, after all, right?!

I see it happen a lot – the more brave and courageous and “against the stream” you choose to be with your life, the more other people will get triggered to speak up and toss their opinion into the mix. It isn’t always a bad thing. Often it’s a good thing, as it shows you what you’re still working through internally. But either way, it’s important to learn to navigate it with grace.

Do I care what other people think? Of course I do. I’m human. But I know that if I don’t navigate people’s opinions and criticisms consciously and gracefully, I’ll get set off into defense mode…which is really never cute or productive for anyone involved.

Another thing I’ve come to understand is that people are always looking at your situation through the unique lens of their own past experience. As my Dad said to me once, “everyone is the main character in their own novel.” So when people throw opinions at you, it’s also based on their own personal experience of what life feels like, what life looks like, what’s available in this life, how successful or blissful they personally believe it’s possible to be. Nobody has experienced what it feels like to be the main character of your novel, inhabiting your body, experiencing your life and your relationships from your eyes or your heart. 

So, now knowing what we know, how do we navigate these situations with grace? A few years ago I read a beautiful meditation/visualization from Dan Millman’s “The Life You Were Born To Live” that really hit home for me. I’ve referenced it ever since, whenever I struggle with this kind of thing.


Here it is:

“Visualize yourself walking along a path through a forest, striding forward with purpose and direction, appreciating the beauty around you, but headed for a specific destination. Feel your sense of purpose and direction.

To your right and left, you see people calling to you, criticizing and correcting you. “That’s the wrong way!” “You’re going too fast!” “You’re not going fast enough!” “You look funny!” “You’ll never be able to do it!”

Feel yourself completely free of all of these opinions. Continue on, your destination clear.

You come to a fork in the road.

Several people from your present life, people you often rely on, share their opinions with you. You nod in acknowledgment, then wait for a deep inner sense. You look at one path, then the other, as people yell their opinions. “Go left!” “No, that’s crazy; take the right path!”

You receive an internal confirmation, subtle but genuine, to take one path or the other. You take that path — your life path — and walk on, guided by the god of your heart.” 

Dan Millman, The Life You Were Born To Live (freaking incredible book by the way).

So what does that mean? To me it means – when people give you opinions, acknowledge them. You don’t have to rebel against other people’s opinions, and you don’t have to be a slave to them. Other people’s opinions often have a lot of wisdom in them. Take them into consideration. See if they resonate with what your heart knows is true for you. And then walk on, equipped with the wisdom of others, but ultimately guided by your own intuition.

If you like this as much as I do, it might be helpful to keep a picture of a lit path in the forest – somewhere where you’ll see it often. On your desk, in your wallet, whatever. This is the one I used to have on my desk at work years ago, when I first found the passage.

Sooooo….cool. I hope that’s helpful. Let me know if you have any opinions! I welcome them. 🙂

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Stephanie June 30, 2013 at 11:43 pm

Love this post. This is going to sound weird, but a month ago I was scuba diving in Hawaii with these big, dumb, beautiful sea turtles, and I randomly started thinking about how lucky they were…just swimming along at their own pace, knowing instinctively what they need to do to survive, how to live, where to go, etc. No second guessing, just knowing and going. But as humans there are so many different paths to take and so much internal and external chatter, that it can sometimes be hard to break through all the clutter and really hear what your own heart and intuition is saying. This post was a helpful reminder that on some level we already know exactly what we want…we just need to tune out the rest and go for it.


jenny sansouci June 30, 2013 at 11:53 pm

Stephanie, thank you for sharing, I love that!! Intuitive like sea turtles. Really beautiful.


Hayley Mermelstein July 1, 2013 at 5:51 am

Thanks Jenny! A good reminder overall and i loved the Dan Millan passage. Thanks for sharing….


jenny sansouci July 1, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Glad you found it helpful! Dan Millman is the coolest.


Anne Marie July 1, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Jenny, thank you for this. It is so beautifully and truthfully written. Totally resonated with me. You put into words what can be difficult to articulate (at least for me). 🙂

Thanks for putting your beautiful self out there! Love this post!!!!


Katie July 4, 2013 at 5:18 pm

this was amazing and found me at the exact moment my mom was giving me more opinions than I could handle…I thought i was going to burst with advice and then I found this…thank you for being so authentic and real! Love you!


Andrew November 12, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Awesome post very inspiring. The walking through the Forest visualization seems like it’ll help me anytime I have a problem handling others opinions. I’m right there with you, I dont wanna get offensive ever time someone has a thought that differs from mine, it makes me sick to my stomach actually when I do it, I wanna be accepting of everyone and their thoughts and I think this blog post helped me move along the path of being more accepting so I say thanks you!


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