A Few Good Men

by Jason Stotts

I was recently was having a conversation with one of my friends, Sandy, and we were talking about whether you should care what others think of you. This got me thinking about whether there is any role for outside evaluation to enter into your conception of yourself or whether your idea of yourself should be purely internal.

The way I see it is like this:

If you care what everyone else thinks of you then you will have to try to pander to the whims of everyone, which will not be possible since people will always hold divergent positions.

To make matters worse, the majority of people are ignorant and do not know how to give an objective evaluation – this leads them to only give a subjective evaluation, which further exacerbates the situation as any action will necessarily please some and displease others.

So, if you try to please everyone then you will end up pleasing no one. Thus to worry about what everyone thinks is a worthless endeavor that will only serve to retard your life.

The conversation then took a different turn with this question: “But doesn’t it seem as if there is some role for outside evaluation and/or validation?” At that point in the conversation we did not come to a definite conclusion, but after thinking about it later I must say that I’ve come to have an opinion on this issue.

While my initial reaction was to say deny such a proposition and say that there is no role for outside evaluation, after much thought I’ve come to reevaluate my hasty position.

It seems to me that evaluation by others is important and necessary as long as these others are able to give objective evaluations. If they can do so, they render us an invaluable service as it is sometimes quite hard to be objective about ourselves. Not that I’m saying that one cannot be objective about oneself – I certainly believe that it’s possible and becomes easier with practice, but there are times when others who know us well can understand us better than we can understand ourselves since they can view us from a different perspective.

Also, to have others who we view as good people, people who we admire and who have qualities we value, give outside objective confirmation to our conceptions of ourselves can be very beneficial and can serve to reaffirm our self-image and strengthen our conviction of our worth as individuals. It cannot give us self-esteem, but it can serve to reaffirm it.

So, there is some role for caring about what other people think as long as they are good people and they can be objective in their evaluation. If they are not or cannot, then their opinions are nothing more than sophistry and illusion and should be committed to the flames.

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