Grab Yourself a Post-It Note

Yellow Post-it

Preferably one of the small ones.

Now write down on that piece of paper the names of the people in your life whose opinion of you matters to you.

If you’re anything like me, it will end up being a pretty short list.

Last week, I came across this exercise part way through this great interview of Brene Brown by Chase Jarvis. It’s a LONG interview, and that’s part of its beauty. They’re able to have a long, thoughtful conversation, and the result was something I found really powerful. The list was mentioned during the interview in the context of online comments and trolling, and the challenge of writing and working online.

“I carry a small sheet of paper in my wallet that has written on it the names of people whose opinions of me matter. To be on that list, you have to love me for my strengths and struggles. You have to know that I’m trying to be Wholehearted, but I still cuss too much, flip people off under the steering wheel, and have both Lawrence Welk and Metallica on my iPod.”

–Brené Brown in Daring Greatly

If you have people-pleasing tendencies, like me, then you’ll probably find this making this list and keeping it in mind really illuminating. One of my immediate takeaways was this… Don’t mistake someone’s regular appearance in your life and their resulting ability to weigh in on it, with the importance of their opinion to you. Qualify their opinion before taking it on board.

“Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it’s a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands.* The people who love me and will be there for me regardless of the outcome are within arm’s reach. This realization has changed everything.”

–Brené Brown in Daring Greatly

I found the act of writing down those names incredibly clarifying and surprisingly easy. At the end of the day, it’s the less than 10 people on that list who I want to be proud of who I am. No one else matters as much. Or at all.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the list when it comes to dating… It’s really easy (and great!) to get wrapped up in someone you’re newly dating. It’s also really disappointing if things don’t work out. Maybe it will be helpful to keep in mind at first, that person you’re dating isn’t on the list. At least not yet. It takes a little while to make the list — to know someone’s “strengths and struggles.”

This super simple exercise is one of the most important things I’ve done in a long time, and even though it’s not the kind of thing I always write about here, I wanted to share it with you.


*The reference to “people in the stands” is in contrast to people who are also “in the arena,” from Teddy Roosevelt’s great Citizenship in a Republic speech (a.k.a. “The Man in the Arena”) for which Brené Brown’s book is also named.

Photo by Sarah Joy via Flickr.


    • Angela Petersen says

      Thanks, Mom! I can only imagine that you’re getting a lot of unsolicited advice, if the response to the announcement email was any indication.

  1. says

    It’s a worthy exercise – perhaps another way of doing it, would be who do you turn to when things go badly? That list, I find, is also often short. Nice post.

    • Angela Petersen says

      Agreed. That’s definitely a good way to keep focused on the opinions that matter most.

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