We come into this world fairly unconcerned about what other people think of us. Babies cry in public, walk around naked, have no humility when it comes to picking their noses and eating their own boogers. They grow into toddlers and young children, believing the world revolves around them – and them alone, and still don’t care too much about the way they are judged by others. Allow a 1st grader to dress themselves, and you will end up with a child in an outfit that likens that of a clown, and a happy kid.
Fast forward a few more years, and somehow, quietly but swiftly, our opinions of ourselves are replaced with doubts in regard to what other people think. This seems to reach an all time peak during the teenage years when most adolescence become obsessed with what others will think. Then they start modeling their life under a veil that delicately balanced what THEY think and what others think.
As adult, we are supposed to be more confident, more secure in ourselves, more assured of who we are. We are taught and told that true happiness lies in not worrying or obsessing or modeling your life around the expectations of others. We are even encouraged outwardly, to follow our own dreams, and our own destinies, and do what makes us happy. (As long as we don’t step on the toes of other people in the process).
Yet, the reality is that try as we may to teach our own children, and even support the idea that we don’t care what others think of us, we do.
Do you care what people think about you? Take a minute and think about it. At first, you might say no, that your happiness and confidence is not contingent upon the opinions of others. Yet at the same time, you dress for success, you seek to make impressions, to meet expectations, to live your life as ‘it should be,’ according to the rules. (Who wrote these rules, by the way?) When you go out in public with your children, you remind them to make a good impression, to use their manners, to wear nice clothes. You drive a nice car, and live in a home that is possibly above your means – because you feel you are supposed to or expected to.
You have become politically correct, rarely saying what you mean – holding back your ‘truths’ making small talk with people that you really don’t like. You seek to be accepted by everyone for everything that you really aren’t. Why? Because you care what people think of you.
While there is nothing wrong with wanting to present yourself as a worthy, upstanding citizen, and nothing wrong with exchanging niceties and blending in with the norm, the harsh reality is that far too many adults, still allow their definition of self worth to hang on the tongues of other people’s opinions.
Gossip hurts. When you hear people talking badly about you, you feel pangs of hurt – because you care what they think. Sadly, and often – the people talking about you do not even really know you. You may not have even had one conversation with them. Yet, you get your feelings hurt, or become angry or agitated because of what they think. Worse, you may hear people talking about your child, or your family, or what kind of house you live in and you become offended. Because you care what others, think about you.
Not caring about what other people think is easier said than done. One of the most uplifting and empowering quotes to date is, “What other people think of you is none of your business.” Taking this to heart, is actually quite a liberating way to live. Our desire to know everything that goes on around us, and our urges to find out what others think about us whether openly, or behind our back does nothing but hurt ourselves. And what other people think only matters if you allow it to. This is where the adage of not knowing being power kicks in. What we don’t know cannot hurt us.
The easy state of mind to develop is one of ‘who cares.’ Who cares what people expect of you, or what the think of you? Who cares if someone doesn’t like you, or disagrees with a choice that you have made? Who cares if another parent thinks that you are making parental mistakes? Who cares if you drive a decade old car that is paid off and backfires a little bit when you hit the gas? Who cares? If you care, if you worry about what others are thinking behind your back, or are someone that is constantly trying to keep up appearances – there is no way that you will ever really be happy. Why? Because you are spending your time and your life living up to the expectations of other people, instead of setting your own barometer of happiness and success.
Once we evolve past the pre-elementary years, it is difficult to liberate ourselves past the point where we really don’t care about what others think. You will rarely see an adult act out their emotions and have a meltdown in public, even if on the inside they are seething and angry, or drowning in despair and heartbreak. In fact, it is difficult for many adults to even share with others the way they truly feel with others, because they are afraid of being judged for their feelings. And this can make life a very lonely place.
While it’s difficult, you owe it to yourself to free yourself from the opinions of others. You owe it to yourself to decide what is right for you, and go with it! Live your life, free from the chains of other people’s opinions of you.