Caring too much about what others think of you is like giving them the key to your house, and letting them live there while you pay the mortgage.
Last year I wrote People Judge Us after finally making significant progress in breaking away from the expectations of people who have no investment in my life.
Most often, those negative comments that others make about you, or about your decisions in life, are a reflection of their own shortcomings, not a pronouncement of judgement on you. When you make a habit of doing things your own way and going against the accepted norms of society, in other words when you live life on your terms, it can make people uncomfortable; that’s their problem, not yours.
Deep down, we all have a need to be accepted by those around us but it is essential that we not measure ourselves by the standards of other people, or even society for that matter. There are people whose opinions should matter but that list should be extremely short. At the top would be our spouse, children, and parents, possibly followed by our boss and a close set of trusted friends.
Beyond that, the list should be fairly short (although different for some of us) and the further down that list someone falls, the less we should pay attention to what they think of us.
I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet. – Mahatma Gandhi
Trying to present a flawless image to the world is both exhausting and debilitating. It also doesn’t accomplish anything fruitful. The fact is that there will always be people that judge us. In fact people judge us everyday at every turn – people that we know and people that we don’t.
We can’t tiptoe through life trying to cater to everyone’s ideal picture of us. Even if we did, guess what – yep, they would still judge us. No matter how hard we try, we can’t stop it. What we can do however, is choose not to let it affect us.
People are so busy and wrapped up in their own lives, chances are that they aren’t even thinking about us. In fact, they’re probably thinking the same thing – that someone (maybe even us) is judging them! The reality is that no matter what we do, there will always be people who don’t like us. We have two options in response to this truth; accept it or hide it.
Picture the absolute most awful thing that could happen to you when someone has those accusing eyes pointed toward you – no, worse than that – the absolute worst thing. Could you survive that scenario if it played out?
Guess what will happen? Nothing…nada. Not only will that awful thing that you pictured not happen, but nothing even remotely similar to that will happen. People don’t care. They really don’t!
No one is going to step up and confront you about your choice of shoes or why you sat down with your coat on instead of taking it off. No one cares that you chose plastic instead of paper to carry your groceries home in.
Constantly worrying about what people think can actually make us act differently than we normally would. We turn into those dreaded “people-pleasers” with no backbone or true opinion on anything. It can be fun to disagree with someone on an issue because you believe something different than they do.
I’m not saying to go around picking fights with people over what kind of cereal they eat, but truly expressing yourself in a constructive manner can be extremely freeing.
“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express his opinions courageously and honestly.”
— Albert Einstein
If you struggle with this, then take the first steps. Decide what values are truly important to you and develop a sense of who you really are. Develop a passion for your beliefs, creative abilities, and chosen pursuits in life. Then learn to focus intently on those things. If you do, you will start to care more about those ideals, beliefs, and passions and less about the opinions of naysayers.