The Power of They

The Power of They

Who Are ‘They’ and What Are They Doing in My Head Anyway?

Sometimes when you’re making a decision, do you hear a little voice in your head that says, “But what will people think?”

Or maybe you hear, “But what would the neighbors say?”

Most of us have at one time or another.  It’s almost as if we have a group of invisible chaperones standing on the sidelines, waiting to nix any ideas we might have that don’t meet their exact expectations for us.  For lack of a better expression, I’ll call that group of nay-sayers ‘They.’

What we want to look at, as you start exploring how to get to financial security, is The Power of They.  That is, how have these make-believe people held you back, off and on throughout your life, when it came to your thoughts, dreams, decisions, and actions.

Who Are They?

So who are They and who gave them the right to preempt what we each know instinctively is best for us?  Well, starting when we were little, our parents often used that invisible group I call They to get us to behave.  Who knows, maybe we wore them out by asking that never-ending question:  “But why?”

When “Because I said so …” didn’t work anymore, our parents called on They to keep us in line.

Do you remember hearing “You can’t go out with that boy, what would your grandfather think?” Or “You can’t go to the movies on a weeknight, what would the neighbors say?”

“What would ‘they’ say …?”

Absurd as it sounds, those patterns are often still indelibly marked on our brains, and we’ve continued to listen to the voices without asking why.  Without even realizing we’re doing it.

If you think back, have you made decisions that led to missed opportunities because you didn’t follow your instinct, but instead followed the crowd and did what others would do?

The Power of They is the power of wrong action or of no action … a hidden influencer that has kept too many of us from fulfilling our dreams.

Taking a Realistic Look

If you do a reality check, you’ll have to admit that They don’t make your mortgage payments, or stay awake at night wondering how you’re going to retire.  So it’s high time you let go of that worn-out old influencer.

In my case, when I got into serious financial trouble, I decided to scale back my lifestyle dramatically.  All my friends and acquaintances were horrified.   How could I do that?  How could I give up my perfect house in a perfect neighborhood?  How could I go live in an un-cool little house in an un-cool neighborhood?

My question in return was, “How could I not?” I couldn’t afford the mortgage any longer.  My back was against the wall.  And it was time to get realistic.

That one change is what turned my life around.  It gave me the breathing room I needed to think my way through my dilemma, to understand how I had made such crucial financial mistakes.  And it gave me my first whiff of “peace of mind.”

(Soon my real friends started coming to my house to hang out, sipping wine on my little deck overlooking my silly little lake … because it felt so good.  So stress-free.)

As you look to your future, as you assess your hopes and dreams … and your reality … you might be tempted to take some unconventional actions to get from here to there.

Whatever you do, don’t let They get in the way of your future happiness.

By the way, it’s not hard to strip away all the power from They.  In fact, just knowing the phenomenon exists is nine-tenths of the task.

The other tenth is a matter of creating reminders for yourself … whenever you start hearing that little voice, that judgmental voice:  just put it back in its place.

Remember, you’re talking about the rest of your life here.  And you need to be master of your own destiny.



Sharon O’Day is an expert in global finance and marketing with an MBA from the Wharton School. She has worked with governments, corporations, and individuals … yes, she was the secret ‘weapon,’ if you will, behind many individuals in high places. At age 53, she lost everything: her home, her business, everything. Since then, Sharon has interviewed women and done extensive research to understand how that could have happened, especially with her strong knowledge of numbers and finance.

The surprising answers will be shared in her upcoming book “Money After Menopause.” Today her focus is to show women how to reach financial security for the long term. She has developed a step-by-step plan to get past all the obstacles that keep women broke and scared … and from reaching the financial peace of mind they so deserve.

  • Sharon, I remember my mother saying to me all the time, while growing up, “What will THEY thing….” and it often held me back, the more I continued to listen. She doesn’t do that anymore, but it did leave a lasting mark that I’ve been working at erasing! Thank you for helping to reinforce the importance of freedom and independence!

    • Susan, it was so clear to me when I was having that “where do I go live” dialog with myself that I wasn’t the only one in the conversation. In material matters, they call it “keeping up with the Joneses.” But it’s so much deeper than that … and so easy to cure!

  • Nancy

    I love this: “They don’t make your mortgage payments…” It’s so important to confront those internal voices and ask, “Hey, who the heck are YOU anyway? And what have you done for me lately?” Great stuff.

    • You’re right, Nancy. Make a whole list of the things you’re striving (or struggling) to achieve. Next to each one, write the name of who is responsible for achieving it. Funny thing, “They” won’t appear anywhere … Voila! 😉

  • Sondra Wright

    Sharon, I am jumping up and down in my office (home) screaming and applauding you for this post. It’s bold, in-your-face and oh so true! Thank you for your transparency and for having the chutzpa to put it out there! Keep doing what you do my friend!

    • Thank you, Sondra! I see it every day as women weigh their options: do something “drastic” and reach their goals … or play by someone’s (?) rules in quiet desperation. Hope you’ll share the post wherever you think it could do some good! 😉

  • Wendy Hanlan

    You are absolutely right Sharon! The level of happiness we are able to achieve in life has a lot to do with how much power we give to THEY. You, my friend, are a YAY-sayer!

    • Anonymous

      “You, my friend, are a YAY-sayer!” You made my day, Wendy! That’s my gig … 😉

  • Sharon, this post has got me smiling ear to ear. I’ve often wondered about this mysterious group that seems to have this authoritative VOICE over our decisions. Until They start paying my bills….I think I shall take your advice and tell Them to take a hike. 🙂

  • Sharon, this is a truly motivational article that speaks the truth. Fortunately I was blessed to have been raised by parents who taught me this very early on…I often heard things like “Be true to YOU, never mind what others think”…”If it feels right in your heart and is right with God, don’t let anyone take you off course” Needless to say I have not pleased a lot of people that have been in my life at one time or another!

  • Sharon this is GOOD! Oh my how many times do I hear people say ” what would so and so think” and I always reply … who cares. The “they’s” in the world hold people in a place of fear of what someone would think that doesn’t even matter. People will talk about something all the time – you may as well give them something good to talk about !

  • Sharon, my kids need to read this. Thank you.

  • Rachelle

    Only yay-sayers allowed!

  • Why do I feel like you are that fly on my wall? Why is it that you’ve looked into the recesses of my past and see the very “They” that have plagued me forever? A few years ago I started a journey that doused They, for good. At first it was HARD, mostly because They were my parents. After all, aren’t we suppose to honor, respect and obey them? What I’ve learned is I can do all of the above yet take control of MY destiny, MY future and MY life without disrespecting them at all. Since putting They in their respective places I have found a new freedom and the journey is much less daunting and stressful. Thanks Sharon for sharing this valued timely message.

  • Victoria Gazeley

    I hate to admit it, but I still have a few ‘theys’ in my brain. Thought I’d sent most of them packing, but apparently I was mistaken! Thanks for your always thought-provoking posts, Sharon.

  • Sharon, It does my heart so much good to see this post from YOU! Knowing some of your journey and how brave and courageous you’ve been to put “They” on the firing line in your own life. Keep leading the charge!

  • Anonymous

    Good for you Sharon! I would imagine that there are far too many people out there who can’t face that “How could I not?” question you so courageously did.

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  • It seems small to say that this is a great post but it truly is. So many need to read this. I use to have lots of “They” but as I have gotten older the They seem to be disappearing. I just don’t give them space anymore to mess with my thinking after all it is my life.

    You have to be proud of yourself to do what needed to be done  for yourself. 

  • Isn’t it true, Elaine, that the opinions of others count less and less as we age?  Perhaps because our opinion of ourselves counts more and more!  I learned that what was important was to take their feelings into consideration, but not necessarily their opinions …

  • Lucy

    Yes!!! many times I have heard that voices!!! Thanks to give me the change the make  go deep on that voice and reject them..