If you want to be happy in life…quit trying to impress other people. It just doesn’t work. It has never worked. It will never work. You might be able to impress a few people. You might even be able to impress a lot of people. But you will never impress everyone.
Unfortunately for us, we’re hard wired to dwell on the negative things people say about us. If ninety-nine people give you a compliment and then one person says something derogatory about you…do you find it strange that you find yourself zeroing in on and dwelling upon that negative comment? Or how about trying to figure out why a person doesn’t like you when they barely even know you?
I’ll never forget when my wife and I moved to a new city after having recently been married. I got called to be a gospel doctrine teacher in this new ward. I had to teach on alternating weeks with that ward’s recently released bishop who also happened to be a professor of ancient scripture at BYU. I had to be that guy…that everyone would hope that it wasn’t my week to teach. Heck, I agreed with them. I wanted to hear the professor teach as well.
On my week to teach, I was about as self-conscience as you get. I knew everyone wished it wasn’t my week to teach…but I tried my best. In that class was a guy that I started doing some work for. We became great friends, so he opened up to me one day while we were in the car on the way to a job. He said, “Greg…I really couldn’t stand you when you first started teaching in our ward. It wasn’t because of your teaching that I didn’t like you…it was because of the way you look.”
I sat there in the car kind of in awe. I don’t know if he just wanted to get it off his chest or what, but I was definitely confused. I think I said something to the affect of, “Man I can’t help how I look!”
He said I reminded him of someone he didn’t like or something. Like I was an exact replica of some arch nemesis of his distant past.
But he told me that as he sat there for a couple weeks and got to know me through my teaching the class, that his feelings changed, even so much that he was willing to offer me a job.
My point is that there was absolutely nothing I could do about the way this man felt about me. There are some situations in life where people are just not going to like you. For any given reason…or for no good reason at all…they just won’t like you. Chances are that they probably don’t know you very well, and if they took the time to get to know you, you’d probably be great friends.
I was fortunate that this guy in my class opened his heart and got to know me. He turned out to be probably my best friend in that ward. But it doesn’t always turn out that way. There could have been others in that class, and many others in previous and subsequent classes that might have shared this man’s same initial impression of me.
The bottom line is that most people have a desire to be liked by other people. It’s built into our human condition to want to look and feel important to others. I always laugh to myself when I hear someone say; “I don’t care what anyone thinks about me.”
They say that, and they may put on a good front, but deep down…most of us really do care what others think. Even if it’s just a smidgen. If a person is being honest with themselves, they can see how their actions betray their statement of independence from others opinions of them. This natural tendency to worry about others opinions will continue throughout the duration of most people’s lives and probably only subside with illness or advanced age. It seems as if the only time a person truly doesn’t care what others think about them is when they’re a small child, and when they’re at the end of their life. In both circumstances, that is when a person is closest to God. And maybe that’s important to key into.
Spending your life trying to impress everyone will eventually send you into a state of despair and unhappiness. It’s an unachievable goal. We can simplify our lives right now and improve our happiness today by striving only to impress God. If you concern yourself solely with what God thinks…then the perceptions of others will take care of themselves. The people that are worthwhile in life will be impressed by your commitment to God and all that is good and true. The people that find joy in finding fault and holding on to bad feelings will sort of fade into the distance. Their feelings…that you have no control over won’t effect you in the least. Your life becomes a lot simpler. A lot happier. And a lot more fulfilling.
Your detractors actually give you a gift by providing an opportunity to live Christ’s teachings in their purest form. You’ll be able to “bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Matt 5:44)
To spend your life trying to impress others will turn you quickly into mouse on a treadmill. It’ll take you nowhere and make you really tired. So quit trying to impress others…and stick to the only being who has the right to judge you; God. And let the rest take care of itself.