Living life, day-to-day, moment-to-moment, we find ourselves faced with streams – nay, torrents – of opinions imposed upon us as if they were facts. We are swarmed by the expectations of others in everything we are faced with. And in pretty much everything that happens, there’s always someone hanging around who thinks they’ve got a better idea of what you should or shouldn’t be doing than you have.

It’s known in psychology circles that the suggestibility of any given person determines how much of a sponge they are in terms of shouldering emotions and beliefs. When we go to the doctor with a problem which we’ve defined by symptoms listed on a website on the Internet (which we all do – going in the Internet with a spot and coming away believing we’ve got the measles) and the doctor (who is living a life of his own with his own issues) brazenly and flippantly tells you that you have exactly what you think you’ve got, we believe him without question. Why? Because we’re more suggestible when we are faced with someone we deem a figure of authority. We assume that, because the doctor has spent however long they’ve spent in medical school, that they are never wrong. It’s assumed that a medical professional making a mistake is impossible. If we heard, more often, about the hundreds of mistakes GPs make in diagnosis every year (1) then we would find it harder and harder to trust in these people when it comes to our health.

That is just one example though. 

It’s become so common to believe things just because they’re on the TV or on some website somewhere. We forget, when buying into the latest rumour, trend or line of products, that the only thing somebody needs to get an advertising slot on the TV is money and the agreement of the network executives – but mainly money. We forget that all you need to start a website is fingers, half a brain and enough determination to see the process through to the end. And when we’re sitting about reading/watching the latest drip-fed nonsense which just about – in the most superficial way possible – satisfies our sensory perceptions, we barely notice the trollop sandwiched in with it.

We watch a TV programme, it makes us laugh and then the adverts come on, we’re still laughing and feeling good and then a million images flash on and off of the screen. We’re comfortable in our own homes and feel all warm and fuzzy. We trust the TV because it’s in our house and it just made us laugh and suddenly we believe the nonsense the adverts spew. 

We forget that the fact that the company behind the advert has only done what it takes to put it there for a few reasons. Number one, their product is not essential for your life or happiness so they need to make an advert to try to convince you it is. Number two, the company already has enough money to buy the advertisement slot so they don’t need your sales yet the advert is still there…

The irony is that most people know this stuff already. Somewhere in the back of their minds, people know this. You know it, I know you know it. 

When we’re sitting watching the gobble-box or scrolling through our facebook newsfeeds, by now most of us are fully aware that the shite that’s being put in front of us is there to get us to invest in somebody else’s idea of how things should be. In the case of marketing, the idea of how things should be – for the marketer – is, you get poorer and they richer while they keep trying to convince you that their product, whatever it is this week, is going to fill that void in your heart that’s been left by the decrepit nature of consumerism. But I know you know that no product you ever buy will fill any hole you feel you might have for any longer than a few weeks at best. I know you know that the only way you can feel complete is by attending to your own emotional and spiritual needs in a way which is not based on money or adverts or any of that fleeting ritualised mind-masterbation.

A reflection is only as accurate as its mirror is unscatched

So, assuming you’ve noticed that the most sustainable sense of fulfilment and joy we will ever come upon is not found via anything in the world of ten thousand things, I put to you the following question… “Why do we take the words of others so personally?”

Why is it that when someone tells us what they think, there is some part of us that just fully believes them? Why do the words of others seem to affect us so much more than the words we speak to ourselves? Why are the opinions of others held in higher regard than our own?

When we get hurt by someone else’s words, we’re taking on their opinion as though it’s truth. Is it? We don’t know that. We have no real way of knowing that. Most people don’t actually take the time and effort to provide convincing reinforcements for the assumptions they make. They just say things and keep living. They just say things and then keep saying things. For a moment, while they are off living their lives doing the next thing, their words hang in the air around us like a bad smell. 

Similar to with doctors or the TV, we believe the words of others because to us – on some level – that person, whoever they are, is in a position of authority. Maybe they’re a parent or an older sibling and we assume they know better than us because they’ve been alive longer. Maybe it’s a boss or an old friend… We forget that older people have had an entirely different and entirely subjective experience of life on a planet that was much much different before we were born. We forget that an old friend or a boss both have expectations of us based on how they want us to be while around them. But if we remember all that stuff, we still treat the opinions of others as more valuable or important for one sole reason. 

We believe that because others exist outside of us they must therefore have a better understanding of us than we do. We make the assumption that distance defines the elements. We assume that everybody already knows everything we think and feel about ourselves and the world, and so assume that their expressed opinion is offered from an entirely unbiased standpoint where in they have objectively offered, with immense consideration, the statement that ruined your day.

“You look tired.”

“Don’t worry.”

“Cheer up.”

“Don’t cry.”

And so on.

Distance define the object, it does not define the elements. A oversimplified assumption or a passing judgement from someone else is rarely said with consideration for you. These things are most often said for the benefit of the ego of the person who is saying them. Perhaps they feel better about themselves if they flippantly insult you. Leave them to it, I say. And always consider the source. 

Are you taking advice from a dietician, dermatologist or a biologist on looking “tired”? Are you taking your advice from a psychologist on matters of emotional health? Even if you are, even doctors can be wrong. “Human error” doesn’t exist as a term for no reason to. If anybody has the answers, you do. But even then, consider the source.

Keep it real.

Live, love and play