Bernadette Petrie tells us it was like an epiphany the day she first heard, “what other people think of you is none of your business”.

I remember vividly the first time I heard these words. It was around week three of my stay at the Priory when I spent a couple of hours in ‘the real world’ in Southside Glasgow with one of the staff members. She became one of my early spiritual guides in this new phase of my life. Chatting over a cup of tea in a café about my going home, I said, “people will think I’m a flake”. She looked me straight in the eye and replied with something that has stayed with me to this day – almost a protective super-power cloak.“Bernie, what other people think of you is none of your business.” Initially, I felt I was being told off because, as a child, I’d been scolded because of my nosiness, “That’s none of your business.” So my initial reaction was interesting, “What do you mean it’s none of my business? Of course, it is.” But she smiled and shook her head, “No, it’s not.

A few seconds later, something clicked, and when she explained further, I experienced a new sensation. It was like another epiphany, and the subsequent feeling was one of relief. It was as if I had been given permission to drop a massive sack that I’d permanently been carrying on my back. “Hold on,” I said, “You mean it’s none of my business – I don’t have to give it the amount of thought that I do, I don’t have to be concerned about other people’s reactions to me, I don’t have to waste any of my time and energy wondering about what they think of me. So it’s really none of my business? It’s not my concern; nothing to do with me. It’s their business – not mine – I can just get on with living my life?” “Yes,” she said, smiling, and my smile grew to match hers.

She was right. You simply cannot know or control other people’s thoughts – it’s a fool’s game to try, and it’s exhausting. I was exhausted from 41 years of worrying about what other people thought of me. I gave it far too much energy, so I had no energy left to be. No wonder I felt uncreative.

How about you – how does this statement make you feel? Just tell yourself, “What other people think of me is none of my business.” How would you dress, walk, and talk throughout your day? How would it change the way you behave around other people? How would it affect your morning if you waved to someone you know, but they didn’t wave back? Or smiled at someone but got little response? This would send me into a tailspin, “What have I done to upset them”, or I would feel they simply didn’t like me. People have a lot to think about and sometimes are simply lost in thought, so don’t notice the wave or the smile. They may have had a row with their partner or be worrying about money. Their minds are elsewhere; it will rarely be about you.

Instead of wondering or worrying about what other people think of you, say to your inner critic, “It’s none of my business; we are in someone else’s business here and let it go.” Consider these scenarios. You say no to someone you usually always say yes to because the old thought was, “I want their approval”. Now you know it’s none of your business – you can just say no. Job done! You need to be open about the part of you that has messed up, but you are so afraid of what other people think that you repress it. This, of course, can lead to a bigger, more complicated mess. But, now you know it’s none of your business what others think; you can connect to something stronger inside. You can step forward, own the mess, and resolve the situation far quicker. You can reply to emails when ready, without apology, instead of previously breaking your neck to reply instantly in case the sender thinks you are rude. Why the change? Because what other people think of you is none of your business. You wave to someone, but they don’t wave back. Now instead of fretting, let it go, and send them love. Repeat the words, “It’s none of my business”, and get on with being present in your day. You share something you created with a larger audience and find your work feels lighter and more honest. Why? 

Because, once again, you have remembered, “what other people think of you is none of your business.

You can buy Bernadette’s book and card deck online:
Also available from: NØRDEN 82 High St, North Berwick.