The Subtlety of Opinion Making

I can’t tell you how many faults I have, it could be many, it could be few. But I can tell you that wanting to be accepted by everyone is one of them.

I care too much what people think. I let them get in my head and tell me what to feel, what to think, what to do. I let them convince me what I should do and what’s wrong with what I do do.

I let it bother me when when they tell me I’m an exception. Not in so many words of course, they just state what they believe “average” people feel about a subject. If I don’t fit that “average” there must be something wrong with me, right?

I can’t stand to be wrong, which is a double edged sword. On one hand I’ll debate people until I am blue in the face when I think I am right. On the other I’ll fear and worry that maybe everyone else is right, which is crippling when you just want to be accepted. If I am wrong, what is right? Why can’t I seem to get it?

We are hit with a fire hose of data every moment of every day. We see more images and read more words in a day than most people in history saw in a year or in some cases a lifetime. Many people of the past never strayed much further than a small radius from their place of birth. Opinion forming was a simple process of observation. What do my parents think? What do my neighbors think? What does this book say?

Now I get to read the opinions of thousands daily. I get every point and counter point. I get bombarded with the proper use of logic and the most illogical thoughts, often by the same people and frequently in the same sentence. People get in my head. I am a people pleaser, and if I don’t agree with people I must surely be a disappointment.

No, that would be thinking too highly of myself. I care what people think about me, but that assumes people actually do think about me. People post all the time “I’m stepping away from ______ for a little while” like everyone else actually cares. Just because we get hit with everyone else’s fire hose, and we let that hose of opinion bother us, doesn’t mean anyone else is actually concerned with what we think. Sure, there are “influencers”, people who attract a following and become known for their wisdom and wit. But most of us are not those people.

Most of us are a tiny voice in a monstrous cavern filled with the roar of everyone else’s combined tiny voices.

How many opinions do I have of my own? People have told me how to think and how to feel for so long. I’ve swallowed what they said hook, line, and sinker, even when deep inside of me I didn’t feel right. I’ve become the master of “smile and nod”, suppressing my true opinions to the point of choking my own identity. No one knows the real me, frequently I don’t even know the real me. I don’t even know the me that others know. I am a fake, a fraud, a liar. All because I worry what others would think if they saw the “real” me.

But who’s looking? I hide in shame, behind the fig leaf of a smile and nod, but are people really looking for the real me? Or do they just want to spout their own noise and if I agree I agree, if I don’t, oh well? Is it shame, or is it pride? Wanting to please people is pride. I don’t want to look bad, I don’t want to be the cause of someone else’s discomfort. Everything is truly about me and my own desire for acceptance. It’s not shame, it’s fear. And fearful is not a way to live.

So maybe I will step away from the fire hose. Maybe I will narrow the voices I listen to down to a select group who actually matter. Maybe I will be able to care what others think and feel because I will be able to discern their tiny voices without the din of data from literally everyone in the world. Maybe I will flee from shame and fear and actually express myself for once. That would be a change.