You know what I’d like to know? (And for no particular reason, by the way.) I’d love to know why it’s such strong human nature to care so much about what other people think. Why so many of us are so worried about how we’re perceived by the people and world around us. And why we constantly obsess over the choices we make because of what other people will think of them. Like why the hell does any of that even matter?
Seems kinda stupid when you read it in black and white like this, doesn’t it?
The thing is, I hate seeing people stressing out about it as much as I know they are. Because it weighs on people. Very unnecessarily.
I know because I’m constantly catching myself stressing about decisions I make simply because I know other people are going to have an opinion. And even though I know it’s counterproductive and a total waste of energy, I still do it. (Idiot.)
The worst, though, is when I catch my daughters doing it. Knowing that they’re even the littlest bit preoccupied by what their friends or their peers think of them or their choices is a hard thing to watch as the parents. Because we’re all constantly reminding our kids that only the opinions that matter are the ones from their family or their real friends. Not anyone else’s.
Don’t those of us who are parents hear ourselves telling our kids that all the time? Especially the middle and high-school-age ones. It doesn’t matter what other people think, honey… It just matters what you think.
The problem is, when we’re coaching our kids, the super-rational part of our brain kicks in and we speak the truth. It’s when we turn the lens on ourselves that we reveal that most of us are hypocrites who say one thing and do another.
Which begs the question… Why aren’t we taking our own advice? Why aren’t we reducing the burden of those heavy thoughts and insecurities by just cutting them all loose? (You know I’m right. And I don’t say that very often.)
So, I don’t know about you, but I’m done. I’m rewiring my brain even if it kills me. (That was just for emphasis. I’m good.)
Because the pure and simple truth is that what other people think of us—like what gender we identify as or whether we breastfeed our babies or not or whether we’re a stay-at-home dad or a corporate guy or whether we eat trans fats—really doesn’t matter. At all.
Most of us, though, just can’t help ourselves. We care about how we’re perceived by the gen pop. And even though most of us make a conscientious effort to be rational, responsible, decent people, we’re still hyper aware of how we present ourselves to the world, whether we’re a middle school girl or a junior in college or a career professional or a mom.
Except for a small minority of super-free-spirited people out there who just don’t give a !%@$ what they wear or say or do, the rest of us are all guilty of caring what other people think.
And I’m more than a little envious of those confident and intentionally-minded people and of how relaxed they must feel. In fact, I think about how invigorating it must be to be Simonized against everyone else’s criticism or disapproval so it all just beads up and rolls onto the floor.
Sadly, I think our preoccupation with how other people view us is a big inhibitor. It keeps us from saying or doing a lot of what we might really want to do or say just because we want everyone around us to approve. Especially when we’re kids.
And there it is!! It’s all based around our need for approval.
We’re completely missing the fact, though, that what matters most is what we think of ourselves. Whether or not we approve of ourselves.
So, what so we do about it? How do we take control?
It’s easy, really. Way easier than we might think. It just takes practice.
We need to start trusting ourselves a little more. We need to start respecting ourselves a little more. And we need to faithfully put our own best selves out there and stop giving a %$@$ what anyone else thinks as long as we’re proud of who we are.
Because (A), even though we’re sure in our own heads that everyone is watching and judging us, most people really aren’t paying any attention at all. (B), no matter what we do, we’re never going to please everyone. Guaranteed. And (C), the more we live our lives for the sake of other people, the less we live a life that’s authentic to ourselves.
So I’m coating myself in Turtle Wax tonight when I get home and I’m going to live my life to make myself, and the people closest to me, happy. And if you have a problem with that, then from now on it’s your problem, not mine.
I feel better already.
Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at lisasugarman.com. Or, find them on LittleThings.com, BeingaMom.life, and GrownandFlown.com. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is and Untying Parent Anxiety: 18 Myths That Have You in Knots—And How to Get Free available on Amazon.com and at select bookstores.