What Happens When You Stop Caring About What Other People Think
One of the most debilitating moves in our lives is to overly care about what other people think. I know this has been a constant crutch for me–caring and making decisions in my life based on the whims and desires of others.
Everything is done through the filter of “How will they perceive me? Will I be liked, accepted, praised?” It’s a cycle that has no good ending.
But what if there was another way to live? A way that didn’t allow the thoughts and opinions of others to control us? What if we could break free and experience the joy of living our true selves?
Most of us learn our most insidious habits from our upbringing. If you were in a household where praise and accolades came from performance, you probably learned to win the affection of others.
Morality or being good simply became currency for insecurities. The line of thinking probably went, “If I can play the part and be the person others want me to be, then I’ll be loved and accepted.”
We act. We pretend. We change ourselves for others.
Sadly, some of us have been doing this for years.
If I’m being honest, this has been the case for me too. I’ve wanted to be the person that people wanted of me. I’d do my part of not going against the system. I’d be still, patient, and present.
When someone was angry or concerned about something, I’d shift and adapt to their wants and wishes.
My own convictions were even placed on the back burner. If it meant appeasing the other person, I’d do it. If I needed to restore the peace and keep the good comments flowing, I could act with the best of them.
This is incredibly common, especially with people who choose professions where we work with people. Teachers and ministers fit this peg all too well.
We want the people we work with to accept us and to be relatively happy, so it happens. We try and please. We perform. We seek comments and actions that give us the right feedback.
The problem with this, however, is pretty straightforward: you can only act for so long. Eventually, it’s going to catch up with you.
There will come a time when you can’t “hang” with everyone else anymore. This is the moment when your inside life begins to match your outside one.
When this happens, it jolts you. You begin pushing back against the primary way of operating that you’ve done for so long, and that feels foreign. Moreover, the people who were convinced of your unflagging loyalty begin to question everything about you.
“Who is this person?” they ask.
“They must not be as good, wise, smart, kind, or loving as they were before.”
Or–and this one might hurt even more–they conclude that you are fake.
I recently experienced a bit of this backlash in my life. I’m someone who has done my fair share of appeasing the crowds. I’ve acted in ways that bring about the accolades and praise.
I’ve played it safe, even if I’d disagreed. I’ve chosen harmony over full expression. I’ve danced around issues I don’t agree with to keep things kosher. But there was something in my heart that felt empty.
I tried so hard to be this person that other people expected of me without realizing that my false self, the pretend self, was crumbling at the seams. I was losing the truest part of who I was. Because you can’t keep that up for very long.
So what happens when you stop caring about what other people think?
But freedom is not without a price to pay. It costs you something. The price you pay is you lose the ease, the crowd, the encouragement. The very people who used to flock to you and be your biggest cheerleaders become the ones set on discrediting you.
But sometimes the cost is worth the reward.
Earlier this year, I had an epiphany of sorts. I actually started to live my most authentic self, even if others wouldn’t understand or care. I stopped caring so much about what people said about me or what they thought about me.
In fact, I made a concerted effort to not let my validation come from feedback and instead chose to lead out of my commitment to myself. And that began a change in me.
So, are you in need of a change yourself?
Perhaps you’re caught up in this cycle of trying to please the masses, or trying to get your worth from those comments and words of others.
Or, maybe it’s your reputation that is at stake. You are coddling it, protecting it, and worried that it will dissolve, even though you know in your heart that you’re not free.
Can I encourage you?
Perhaps it’s time to taste a little freedom and let go. I did. It’s not perfect and I have a long way to go, but I can tell you this: I’m not going back. And neither should you.
Be the person you know that you are. Not the person everyone expects you to be. The beauty of letting go is what you get to replace it with. There is an acceptance that takes place that is worth everything.
This doesn’t necessarily mean a complete one-eighty overnight. Growth and progress isn’t always that sudden and drastic. However, it could mean you are a work in progress.
One small change here, one bold comment there, one decision to stick to your guns when normally you’d have folded.
Little by little, you let your true self out to the world. When this happens, you become lighter, freer, more engaged, and more alive.
I don’t know about you, but that’s how I want to live. Unafraid. Bold. Passionate. Because I’m courageous enough to be myself.
Sure, there will always be naysayers and critics. People will oppose you, belittle you, and doubt you. Let them.
Listen to those voices, but hear them for what they are: a tiny whisper that is barely audible when compared to the joy of letting your own voice sing.
When you stop caring about what others think, you start caring more about yourself.
And that, my friends, is a great place to start.