“It’s Not Your Business What Others Think of You” Is the Most Profound Wisdom You Can Learn — Here’s Why
I’m not sure when I first read or heard the mantra, “it’s none of your business what others think of you,” but I can tell you that it has been popping up in my newsfeed for a while now. I hear it on TikTok. I see it on memes on Instagram. I listened to an author the other day talking about her writing process on some podcast, and she mentioned it. It seems to me that the universe truly wants me to drill the meaning behind these words into my head.
“It’s none of my business what others think of me.” It sounds pretty simple at its core, right? But when I tried to put this into practice, I could immediately see how hard-wired my brain has become to obsess over what others do think of me.
You see, I’m a people pleaser. I’m an Enneagram number five. I’m an introvert. I’m all about shoving my emotions as far away from me as possible. I prize a complete lack of drama in my life — in fact, I break out in hives when I am forced into confrontations. I flop and flail in my head for days after I feel personally attacked by the comments of others. Me caring about the crap others think has always felt like my business. That is until it didn’t.
“What others think about you ain’t your business, sis,” a TikToker said while staring at the camera. It felt like she was talking directly to me. And I wondered, how do I genuinely and earnestly apply this wisdom to my life?
As a person who works hard to avoid confrontation and drama, I don’t tend to have many conflicts in my life. I can’t complain; this smooth sailing feels pretty lovely and keeps those hives and sleepless nights at bay. But then I had a rocky interaction online that left me feeling upset. It was also a golden opportunity to test out this trending wisdom about drawing boundaries in my mind.
Some drama was dragged to my doorstep, and it rocked my inner world.
A woman I know in both my professional and personal life had left a nasty comment on one of my private Facebook posts. I had shared a link to a reported piece I wrote for a popular national magazine. In it, I had to interview several experts and weave their ideas into a generic yet relatable narrative to show readers how the science I was referencing could be helpful in their lives. It was a straightforward reported piece that took research, interviews, writing, fact-checking, editing, and publishing. I may have been the author, but I had a stellar team of colleagues helping to make that piece shine.
So, what did this woman write that was so insulting? First of all, she clicked the laughing emoji, which felt to me like a subtle f*ck you. Then she wrote, “it’s so cute that you still think of yourself as a journalist, yet you publish mommy blogs like this lol.”
I was immediately humiliated and horrified by the comment. I was so embarrassed that I deleted my post and avoided Facebook for a few days. I had worked hard on that piece, and it had been praised by the senior editorial team who published it, yet this woman basically just told me that my work was amateur hour. She disregarded my skills and didn’t recognize the amount of time and effort it took to get that article from an idea that I pitched to a glossy digitized feature piece.
Her comment felt like a sucker punch. I never saw it coming, either. I had never known this woman to be irritated by my work. I couldn’t begin to tell you what she thinks of publishing or even why she took a shot at me in a semi-public way.
What’s worse, I had a gut-wrenching back-and-forth in my head about whether or not I should unfriend this person. She isn’t some online friend who I have never met. She exists in my real life. Her kids and my kids are friends. Unfriending her might have social consequences for me. My mind spun with worry about responding, what to feel, and how to avoid this horrible person.
I walked through all kinds of scenarios on how to respond. I could have pointed out that I had worked in a newsroom with seasoned editors and journalists. I could have shown her my portfolio that includes thousands of published articles that span ten years, some of which have won awards. I could have even quickly Googled the term “journalist” and then asked her on what planet she seriously did not think that what I do isn’t professional journalism? Is it because she sees that I also post memes and mom essays? Does her dim-witted imagination not understand that I have multiple jobs in this thing called a writing gig? Can she even f*cking read, or does she go by the headline only and then leave asinine comments? I bet her kids hate her. Why did she say such a terrible thing to me? What did I do to her? Jesus Christ, how does she not know that that magazine isn’t a blog. Idiot.
See? The thoughts that spiraled out of me escalated rather quickly. No matter how calm I tried to be about this woman’s insulting comment, I wasn’t able to contain the simmering rage I felt. The shower arguments in my head marched on. I was getting myself worked up into a tizzy of clap backs just waiting to be unleashed on this person.
“What others think about you ain’t your business, sis.”
How I wondered, do I apply this mantra to the boiling internal anger and embarrassment that I felt over this woman’s mean-spirited comment?
To start, I reposted my article on my private Facebook account. In the caption, I wrote, “I’m proud of the work I get to do with my incredibly talented team.” And then — I didn’t check that post again. I left it alone. I muted the woman in my messages so that I couldn’t read any aggressive comments if she decided to hurl them at me again; her opinions are none of my concern, right?
Whenever I started to think about this woman, I would interrupt my thinking with, “stop giving her free rent in your head; she didn’t earn that space.” It took a ton of effort, and the prickly thoughts came at me like shrapnel at first. But after a few days of intentionally reminding myself to stop caring about her comment, I noticed that the intruding thoughts about what this woman said to me and my fear about what she thinks of me petered out.
I stopped caring.
I also restricted her access to me so that we are still technically friends on Facebook, but she can’t see anything I post unless I set it to public. Because f*ck her. I can choose to put distance between us, and I don’t have to worry about what she thinks or let her energy take up space in my head.
There’s a powerful flip side to this mantra.
If that woman’s thoughts about me are none of my business, then the opposite must also be true. My thoughts about her are none of her business. When I realized this, I found a sense of power in a situation where I once felt powerless and fearful.
Sure, I could bad-mouth this person to my circle of friends. I could leave equally nasty comments on her posts. I could even call her up and tell her directly how awful I thought her attitude was. But the power I chose to wield instead is to simply not allow her into my head or my social life.
I didn’t tell our mutual friends about her comment on my article. I didn’t say nasty things about her in front of my kids. I decided that I would stick to my new mantra and not allow this person to contribute to my self-worth in any way shape or form. And by giving myself permission to hold that much power in this situation profoundly shifted how I understand my relationships. Being a people pleaser has meant pleasing other people — so what if I started people pleasing just me?
I will not give people free space in my life where they can mistreat me.
There is a kind of freedom that comes from internalizing that line of wisdom, “what other people think of you is none of your business.” It freed up my head and heart and gave me the self-confidence and power to make choices about how I respond to jerks who try to tear me down. Boundaries are an incredible tool.
When I stopped giving a shit about the wrong people in my life, I noticed that I had more attention and energy for the people whose opinions truly matter to me — because what they think of me is my business because we accept it is.
That woman doesn’t take up an inch of space in my head anymore. And when I bump into her in public, which happens from time to time, we smile politely at each other and exchange quick pleasantries. What I think of her is none of her business. But better yet, what she thinks of me is just plain none of my mine either.
And that feels pretty damn drama-free, just the way I like it.