When People Talk About You

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I want to share a neat little phrase with you before I get into this important topic.

The phrase is something my ex would say a lot: “All I know is what you tell me.”

I didn’t think it was neat at the time. He used it quite often really his way of stating, “I don’t believe you.” Or “prove it.”

But now, I look at this as a quite the profound little statement.

“All I know is what you tell me.”

Because besides the sneaky thoughts that end up being sentences in your mind, other people in  your life also say shit all the time that isn’t necessarily true. Or maybe it’s true for them and you come to understand that it doesn’t have to be true for you.

Either way, when people tell you something that someone else said about you, the reality is…

“All I know is what you tell me.”

So interesting.

Reflections usually are.

I want to address something that I see I have been wrapped up in in the past, and I think this comes naturally for people-pleasers. I’m personally in recovery.

I want to take some time to talk about the fact that people do talk about you.

They do it. It happens.

And that’s one of the things that people-pleasers are trying desperately to avoid.

I think one of the moments in my life that really sticks with me is finding out that my former co-workers had some shit to say about where I chose to sit in a meeting.

I would spend all of this time prepping for this meeting. I would go through all of the projects that our team was working on and develop an agenda with not only updates; also, action items. Not just about what you’ve done this week, but what are you going to do? Do you need assistance? How can we make this happen?

Lots of thought and planning went into these meetings.

I was constantly thinking about how it would all be received, yet I never considered for one second that where I chose to sit would matter to those people.

I found out that they took issue with me sitting at the head of the table.

Yeah.

Really.

They talked about me like, “Who does she think she is?”

And when I found this out, I didn’t get confrontational about it, mind you. I couldn’t really show my hand. I couldn’t actually know that they said these things about me. I couldn’t know that they were talking about me and specifically, which chair I chose in a freaking conference room.

Yeah.

Really.  

So, what did I do with this intel?

Well, the very first thing that I did was ruminate about my thoughts about their thoughts about me. Their opinions and their judgements.

Of course, I was angry and defensive with myself about it.

To be very clear, I was madder than hell about it.

I had spent all of this time planning that meeting. I did it every week.

I put a lot of thought into what I was going to wear and how I was going to fix my hair. Just as much thought as I put into the agenda that I created.

I never dreamed that the chair I chose to sit in would be an issue.

I chose that chair, quite honestly, because it’s the best way to view everyone’s faces when you’re sitting at the table. I wasn’t consciously choosing a position of power. It was more of a position of convenience. And I suppose I thought at the time that I just wanted to see everyone well and interact with them. That’s it.

Yet.

“Who does she think she is?” is what came from it.

 NOT what I was wearing, how my hair was styled, or the actual content of the meeting that I had put a lot of effort into, but the seat I chose to sit in.

Who knew that would be the controversy?

I truly allowed myself to be hurt by that. I allowed my thoughts to race and my subconscious inner mean bitch to take over, and I questioned everything about what I was doing and whether I was doing it right.

To be clear, I allowed myself to be hurt by my own thoughts about myself.

Not from the opinions of others, but from my own thoughts. Period.

Of course, I know this now, but I didn’t know it then.

What’s the next thing that I did after ruminating on my thoughts?

Well, I made sure that I never again took a seat at the head of the table. Reflecting back, I realize how sad and utterly damaging to the core of my being that decision was.

I never again took a seat at the head of any table.

Because I thought that if I changed where I sat, that my co-workers would stop talking about me. That’s all I really wanted. I wanted their approval. I wanted their acknowledgment. I wanted their acceptance.

I thought that if I could only please them, then I would feel like a whole and valuable human.

You know what they did after I changed the seat I took?

They started talking about why I changed my seat! Yes, they did. They started questioning whether or not something was said to me (which, of course, it was), and who said something, and was that the reason that I changed seats in every meeting after that!

Wow.

Just wow.

Here’s another thing that I didn’t realize then.

How utterly interesting it was to be so very concerned about which chair I chose to sit in, for a meeting that I had organized.

And you may have that thought too, just hearing this.

Yet, do you really understand, first of all, how damaging it is for YOU to be so very concerned about what everyone else thinks of you, and secondly, how you are changing your behaviors to accommodate others?

I never again took a seat at the head of any table.

Because I was terrified of what other people might think about it, or what they might say.

That is fucking tragic.

It truly is.

Because I’m thinking that I can control what other people think about me and what they will say about me, and that’s just not even rational.

It truly is not.

I have zero control over what other people think of me. Over what they will say about me. Over their own thoughts and opinions. Their words. Their actions. Zero control.

They talked about me when I took a seat at the head of the table and they talked about me when I changed my seat, wondering why I did.

Either way, they talked amongst themselves, they formed their own opinions and judgements, and they did what they were going to do.

It never really mattered what I did. All of that thought, effort, and planning that I did never mattered in the end.

That’s what I had to come to realize, and it took me years to figure that out.

It will never truly matter what I do, what I say, what I write, what I post, what I speak. Where I sit. Someone is going to have a thought about it.

And that can just be neutral.

Someone else’s thoughts about you can just be neutral.

I’m also recalling how I completely blew a job interview so many years ago. There was a question, something along the lines of, “What’s one thing about your job that you can’t stand?” and I responded without even thinking about it, “office gossip.”

Well, that went over like a lead balloon.

Because the manager interviewing me and his assistant looked at each other and then he turned to me and said, “Office gossip can be a good thing. We wouldn’t have known that Peggy’s mother is ill without it.”

Yeah, I didn’t get that job.

And it’s okay, because that job was clearly not meant for me.

I was meant to go on to bigger and better things, like being trashed for which seat I chose in a conference room.

If it seems like I’m still a bit salty over this, I want to be clear that I’m not. I’ve come full circle with it. I’ve reconciled it all in my mind, because that’s where the magic happens. In my mind.

In your mind.

That’s where your power resides.

Your power and my power.

It comes from knowing your worth and quite honestly, you can choose new thoughts to think, which is what I’ve done with this scenario and so many others.

Here’s a new thought to try on when you find out that people are talking about you:

I’m flattered.

Seriously, try that one on and see how it fits. Just like you would try on a new outfit in a dressing room. Try it on for size.

Why does anyone choose to talk about anyone else? Because they matter in some way, be it big or small.

Take it as a fucking compliment, because it is.

Isn’t the saying, “There’s no such thing as bad press?” I know we’re hating on the media these days and I get it. I really do. But think about that saying.

If someone is talking about you, even forming opinions and judgements about you, even sharing them with others, YOU are in their head. You are on their mind. That’s a fucking compliment.

Good press, bad press, either way, I’m in the news.

Love me or hate me, either way, I’m in your head.

And I’m flattered to be taking up that space, because the competition is stiff with any number of other people or topics that could be taking up residence in there.

Seriously, there is no shortage of topics.

If you find yourself the center of attention, what’s really even wrong with that?

Be fascinated by it.

Be amazed by it.

Be in awe of it.

Allow yourself to be flattered.

You don’t have to explain yourself. You don’t have to go on defense and say, “that’s not what I really meant.”

You can just be.

You can just be…yourself.

“You are not one you are a thousand. Just light your lantern. “

– Jelaluddin Rumi

Don’t be worried about shining your light. Don’t be wrapped up so much in what other people will think or what they might say to never try taking a seat at the head of the table.

Have the audacity to do whatever it is that you’re being called to do.

Because on one hand, you can have the realization that for all of the prep work of this meeting, the biggest takeaway from your coworkers is where you chose to sit, and on the other hand, you can have the realization that for all of the prep work of this meeting, the biggest takeaway from your coworkers is where you chose to sit.

They were thinking about YOU.

YOU get to choose what filters you apply to that scenario. It’s all neutral until you have a thought about it.

Other people’s thoughts, other people’s opinions? You have no control over them. Zero. Nada. Nothing. Zilch.

Make the conscious choice to think highly of yourself, even if you believe that no one else does.  Trust me when I say, that is what matters.

How you talk about yourself and to yourself matters so much more than what anyone else thinks or even what they say because that (how you talk to yourself and about yourself) is within your control.

Only that.

Now, talk to yourself right now and say, “All I know is what you tell me.”


This post is a partial transcript of my podcast, What Lights You Up – Episode 38. I invite you to enjoy the full episode and subscribe on Spotify or Apple! 

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