Other People's Opinion of You is Actually Not About You.

I went through a pretty painful breakup in the beginning of 2012. What helped me the most as I grieved and built my ladder back to joy was continually sharing what I was learning through that tough time with my blog readers. I learned about accepting myself as I gained weight in the aftermath, choosing to take a long chunk of time to be on my own until my next relationship, and going through not seven, but what had to be seventy-seven stages of grief. What should have been a pretty awful time in my life began turning into one of my favorite ones: I was growing at a faster pace than ever, learning to love those nitty-gritty parts of who I am that I would have much preferred to lock in a closet until the end of time and having plenty of spontaneous adventure. While I was no longer blissfully in love, I knew I was in an important chapter of my story where I was learning things and making changes that would ultimately make my next love story even better than the one I was learning how to live without.

Unbeknownst to me, some friends of my mother had a different take on the whole thing. I'll never forget the day my mom called to me to let me know an old pal of hers had expressed "some real concern" regarding what she was reading about my grieving process, that she was worried I was some version of "alone" and "heartbroken" and essentially viewed my case as a rather hopeless one. Am I a basket case?  I thought silently to myself. Is it possible that maybe I should be a lot more worried about myself than I actually am? Is she right, is there something wrong with me?

The answer is no. No, I was not a basket case. No, I was not alone and terminally damned to a sad and lonely life at the old age of 22 (and it wouldn't have mattered if I was 72, either.) No, I was not crazy. The truth is, my mom's friend's concern for me had nothing to do with me: it had to do with her, and her own perspective of my life based on her own experiences (neither of which had anything to do with my actual life.)

As a blogger, I am now very familiar with the advice, concern and commentary that comes with sharing what's going on with me with anyone who will listen. Many comments are kind comments, and those are my favorite, but many also come with an opinion. Sometimes those opinions are of concern, sometimes they are lecturing me, sometimes they are giving me unsolicited advice. So now, please allow me to give you a little bit of unsolicited advice and my opinion on what I've learned about dealing with unsolicited advice and opinions:

Everyone has their own story, which means everyone is coming from a very unique perspective. One of my triumphs could be another person's worst nightmare, and vice-versa. The truth is  none of us can ever really know what another person is going through. I have given advice to the people closest to me, only to find that they chose to disregard it, made another choice I wouldn't have made myself, and wound up very successful as a result. Moral of the story? You know what's best for you, and other people usually know what's best for them too. If they don't, they will figure it out without you pestering them, and if they want you to pester them, they will likely ask. Don't let someone else's opinion of what you "should" do or how you "should" feel effect what you end up doing or feeling. That, my friend, would be a travesty. I know what my own experiences are, and I know what makes sense in my gut when it comes to making decisions in my own life. All I need on top of that is some close friends who know me and support me in my decision making process, and who won't hold it against me if I make a choice I'll later regret. All of the other voices and opinions are just that: voices and opinions.

Also, you are not crazy. Seriously though, even if you're kind of crazy, you're not crazy. Don't let anyone else's opinion of where you are in life make you think you're not far along enough, not growing quickly enough, or simply not good enough. Life is an ongoing process, it's a one-day-at-a-time journey. There are no fad diets or "get rich quick" schemes that will "finally" give you that pot of gold you've been waiting for and solve all of your problems. You're not missing anything. The pot of Gold is in the journey, not hidden on the other end of it. Don't let other people's idea of where you are or opinion of where you should be make you think that you're in the wrong place. Remember how far you have come, honor your own journey and your own story and compare yourself to no one. You are you for a reason.

I will never be done growing, I will never be done living my own life; therefore, I am certainly not going to go around commenting on your life and telling you how to live yours (unless you ask me, or are reading this, of course...) I've got way too much going on between my own ears to try and wedge myself between yours without your permission. That being said, if someone else has taken their time to give me a piece of criticism unwarranted concern or "guidance" that is clearly not about me, but about their perception of me, I give myself permission continue as I was: to continue laughing, continue growing, continue moving forward...

... and continue scrolling down the page.