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Faith WoodWhen your ego is taking a bashing, staying objective and true to who you are can be difficult.

But as Dr. Seuss said, “Be who you are and say what you want, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

A good friend of mine has been struggling with leading a group that has become super conflicted.

One of eight directors on the board my friend leads left in the fall and started rallying the troops in search of validation that she was a wounded party whom the leader never adequately recognized.

Another board member launched full-on attacks of other members, leaking confidential conversations and expressing outrage at every decision.

When things like this happen, it’s distressing for all involved. Leaders doubt their capacity (and desire) to lead. They begin to believe that a small (and very loud) contingent represents the feelings of all.

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This is rarely true. It’s usually the loud protesters who are the least objective (and informed) within an organization. They’re just willing to howl.

This kind of bullying is distracting to everyone and significantly damaging to all the good work that could be done. Good people leave and insecurities linger.

Are you ever hesitant about saying or doing something based on what someone else might think?

It’s natural to want to know you’re appreciated.

And if you just said, “I don’t – I’m not that shallow, I’m not worried about what other people think of me,” then well done. You’re clearly someone who doesn’t want to care about what other people think.

But the truth is, we’re all self-aware. You might doubt that based on your observations of the behaviour of some of your colleagues, but it’s true. We all carry in our heads a map of the world we live in. And in the middle of that map is a big “You are here.” That’s your self-image. It’s the point of reference around which your decisions and desires revolve.

Being self-aware is a good thing and necessary for survival. It’s when self-awareness becomes critical judgment that we start to run into problems.

When someone looks at you, they see you in that moment. Yet when you imagine yourself in a certain situation, you can’t take the same snapshot. You have no good context for looking objectively at yourself. Your mind needs to reference the feedback you’ve heard from others in the past.

So think about an event when you were a bit critical of your performance. What do you notice? What are you saying to yourself? How does it feel when you see yourself doing what you’re doing?

When you felt this way, whose voices did you hear? Mother? Father? Teacher? Someone else?

Imagine you’re doing something you’re happy about but someone else is vocally critical of. It’s likely you no longer feel your own feelings – you absorb theirs. Let’s say they feel angry and rejected. Your absorption of this energy can create feelings of guilt. Guilt is what you get when you judge your actions and desires through someone else’s perspective.

Now think of a time when you were doing something you felt proud of. What voices do you hear? Who’s judging you?

Whether the judgment is positive or negative makes no difference. It’s still a judgment, it’s still based on someone else’s opinion and, therefore, it has no objective value to you. You know that what you’re doing is right. You don’t need a pat on the head or a kick in the pants from anyone.

So as Dr. Seuss so eloquently stated, the people who judge you – the people who mind – don’t matter. How they judge you tells you more about them than it does about you.

Every day, practise stepping into a self-image designed to promote you being at your best, your most effective, your most loving, your most popular, your most carefree or whatever else is important to you.

From this vantage point, you can begin to see yourself as the capable person you aspire to be.

Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications.  For interview requests, click here.

The opinions expressed by our columnists and contributors are theirs alone and do not inherently or expressly reflect the views of our publication.

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