the tyranny of our opinions

photo by me.

i’m a man of many opinions.

i have so much to say about everything i see, feel and experience, that it’s impossible for me to ever express it all. there's simply not enough hours in the day to unravel, sort and explain each of my passing opinions.

behind each of our opinions is an intricate web of stories, a soup of emotions and memories that each go on to influence something else. they're an interconnected tapestry of deeply personal ideas, inspired by all that we encounter in our daily lives.

one impression always gives rise to the next.

the depths of our thoughts are infinite.

while endless opinions may continuously pop into our minds, it still doesn't mean that anyone wants to hear them, especially if they’re unsolicited, or irrelevant to the context of the current moment. oversharing our opinions is a fantastic way to get us into trouble with those around us, especially if they’re voiced spontaneously or aren't properly considered.

therefore, being mindful of what we voice is one of the most powerful social skills we can develop. it can save us from embarrassment and prevent unnecessary arguments. it can save someone’s feelings whom you didn’t intend to offend. being mindful of our speech also helps us listen more attentively, in turn helping us to learn.

when we're more intentional with our speech it allows us to suspend judgement and not make hasty decisions. we become more compassionate communicators when we give pause before we instinctively respond.

when we're mindful of the words we speak, others will want to listen.

but, where do our abundance of opinions come from?

when we absorb our present experiences and mix them with our relevant memories — including all of the lessons and stories we've attached onto them — we interpret this stimuli with a newly formed opinion.

we often confuse these opinions as being knowledge, but they're not. they're strictly our personal point of view. we need to disregard the notion that our opinions reflect absolute truth. our opinions are not fact. they only represent a certain shade of truth, one that can only be seen from our limited perspective.

opinions are not fixed. they’re not solid, and they have no form. they’re malleable concepts of our minds, intrinsically linked to both our current knowledge, and our past experiences.

the more knowledge you have, the more diverse your opinions will be. also, the more varied your experiences, the more robust your opinions will be as well.

the more diverse your opinions, the closer to truth you’ll become.

the higher you climb, the more you’ll be able to see.

each of us has an instinctive opinion on every single sensation we perceive. most of the time we're running on auto-pilot however, so we don’t even realize what most of our opinions are. our subconscious creates an opinion, then places it into a little filing cabinet in our minds, ready for it to be referenced at a moment’s notice, for whenever it might be needed.

we all have opinions of what feels good and bad, of what’s right or wrong, of what's decent or profane, and of what's funny or sad. we have opinions of the people we meet and whether they’re interesting or boring, witty or rude, stylish or plain. we have opinions of the taste of tofu, cilantro and spicy food. we have opinions of the weather, religion, politics and the daily news. we have opinions of the cars we drive, the music we like, and everything we buy and consume.

our opinions run the whole gamut of human emotions, but what is it that makes an opinion something you’d vigorously defend, as opposed to one you couldn’t be bothered to waste your breath over?

the temperature of an opinion depends on how long it was baked in your mind. its temperature depends on the degree in which you personally align yourself with it. for instance, if you think it somehow defines you, then you’ll be much more vocal in its defence. meanwhile, if it's an opinion of something you couldn't care less about (such as, what shade of blue those curtains are), then it’s something you wouldn’t give any second thought.

ask yourself, what is the flavour of the opinion's ingredients? in other words, what is its temperament? is it fun or frivolous, whimsical or dreamy? or is it full of fear, anger, resentment or jealousy?

the more fiery and heated an opinion’s emotion, the more intense you will guard it.

therefore, if we want to be at peace, then our goal should be to always keep our opinions level-headed and cool.

but why are we so overly sensitive when someone's opinion doesn’t jive with our own? isn’t that to be expected, especially considering there's over 7 billion people, each with their own views towards... eveything?

the truth is, some people are so overly fixated on trying to force everyone to think exactly like them, that they feel threatened when people don’t share their identical point of view. they're offended by the contents of other people's thoughts.

how absurd is that?

we need to stop comparing how our opinions stack up to those of others.

Theodore Roosevelt voiced the consequence of this behaviour beautifully when he said, "Comparison is the thief of joy”.

before we even have a chance to notice them, our opinions often get hung up on irrelevant things that send them tumbling downhill. one of these stumbling blocks is when we become obsessed with finding something similar from our past to compare to what we're experiencing in the present. we do this instinctively, in hopes of better making sense of the actual moment we’re in.

the truth is, we’re always comparing.

“this is fun, but not as much as that time when…”

“this is tasty, but i think i liked it better when…”

“that was pretty funny, but it kinda’ reminded me of…”

“i’m not very good, she’s far better than me…”

"i could never do anything even remotely similar to what Janet’s done…”

sound familiar?

when we compare, we make gross assumptions and we gloss over a truth that’s unrivalled by anything else.

we need to remind ourselves that every moment is unique. each one is beyond compare!

if we disassemble our internal comparison machine however — our ego — then we’ll finally be able to experience the present moment in all of its fullness and complexity, with no restrictions, unbounded by comparisons or flawed opinions.

it's natural for our egos to feed on other people's opinions of us; we're social creatures after all, we all just want to be liked. but when we place our happiness in the hands of other people's opinions, we set ourselves up for failure.

we harm ourselves when we place our well-being into someone else’s power.

when it comes to happiness, nothing matters more than how we feel about ourselves.

conversely, if you happen to have an outspoken, blatant disregard for anyone’s opinion other than your own, then you risk shutting yourself off from the rest of the world. in doing so, you become hostile to other people whose beliefs are just as valid as your own.

when we have staunch, resolute opinions and refuse to let them be swayed, they'll always cause us to suffer. when we become attached to our own opinions as if they're our own flesh and blood, then we feel any wounds inflicted upon them just as acutely as if they were. we end up reacting to someone’s opposing opinion as if they punched us straight in the gut. we feel as if we're under personal attack.

but people's opinions alone cannot harm us, it’s only our reactions to them that cause us pain.

do you want a recipe for less stress and anxiety in your life?

stop holding onto your opinions so tightly.

this isn’t to say that you shouldn't have any opinions at all (surely, an impossible task), but that you shouldn't attach your happiness directly onto them.

don’t define yourself by your opinions — strive to remain open and receptive.

practice the skill of whole-hearted listening, and be mindful of any body language you might have that could indicate otherwise. for instance, we become tense when we close ourselves off to other points of view. we furrow our brows and grimace. we cross our arms, tap our toes, and impatiently huff.

we end up hearing nothing at all.

instead, be like bamboo. bend, but do not break. be deeply rooted, yet flexible. spring back after experiencing adversity.

a person who refuses to consider an opinion other than their own brands themselves a fool, destined to the folly of their own conceit and ignorance.

our overly rigid opinions make us condescending and judgmental, and our bull-headed opinions trick us into treating others poorly when their views don’t match our own. as a result, we handicap ourselves with unproven, unfair and untrue allegations that we magically create in our minds.

we tell ourselves a story, and then we believe’s like putting blinders on that limit us from seeing the actual truth.

“The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.”
—Leonardo da Vinci

at their best, our opinions offer an unshakeable belief in our wildest dreams. but at their worst, they condemn others for theirs.

opinions inspire us to believe in our imaginations. they give us a desire to discover, to invent and to build. they convince us to create seemingly preposterous things from simple seeds of thought. they’ve led us to topple corrupt governments and have awakened great leaps of science, knowledge and art. our opinions have removed the chains of slavery, and have sent man-made machines to roam the dunes of Mars.

opinions are the spark of genius that mark the sole providence of man.

the tyranny of our opinions is that when we believe in them so implicitly, we become haunted by them.

they have the power to lock us in a cage of negative, internal banter, convincing us to believe ill-conceived thoughts we might have of others and ourselves. these misguided opinions crush our spirits and limit our potential. they strip us of our peace.

but no opinion is final, including all those you cast upon yourself. opinions evolve — the tricky part is to make sure that you do too.

use your opinions to elevate you to great new heights. use them to seek new understandings through self-inquiry and introspection, rather than letting them disable you with criticisms that prevent you from doing anything positive.

once we're aware of the inherrent nature of opinions, it’s easier to move beyond them, and to awaken to a new level of consciousness.

become unencumbered by the unnecessary baggage of your mind.

your opinions can either liberate you or condemn you — it's your choice.

question your opinions. don't give them your implicit trust.

brian thompson