Pretending you don’t only causes problems.
It’s popular to say “I don’t care what anyone thinks.” Especially at bars, after someone stumbles into a crowd of people. Let’s get real. Of course we care. Most of us spend more time than ever on our public image. That’s why we say we “don’t care”all the time now.
We want everyone to know we don’t care what they think. We assume it makes us look invincible. But this proud declaration, often accompanied by a hashtag, only hides our insecurity.
It’s not a solution, just a convenient lie. The more you tell yourself other people’s opinions don’t matter, the more it will hurt your relationships, your career, and your creativity. What other people think about you has a real impact on what direction your life takes.
It’s not easy to pull apart whose opinion matters, and how much. You’ve got to develop an ear for it. Not everyone who likes you will always tell the truth. And not everyone who criticizes you is lying.
Pretending you don’t care doesn’t shield you from what other people think. It only delays your ability to process your emotions.
False confidence borders on apathy, and it gives us the illusion of safety. We only say we don’t care when we secretly care too much, or when someone’s opinion does matter, and we don’t want to admit it to ourselves.
Our denial creates a toxic storm. We tip back and forth between crippling self-doubt and euphoric self love. The complicated truth gets blown away. Sometimes what people think about us does matter, even if it’s not something we want to hear.
Imagine someone insults your looks, or your smarts. That always stings. That’s when we’re most likely to jump on the self-love train and say, “I don’t care what some random asshole thinks.”
Sometimes, you have to marinate in the pain for a little while. Admit that some part of you feels hurt, even if it was by some little twerp online, or a stranger who passed you on the sidewalk.
Immediate self-love skips an important step. Sometimes, you have to marinate in the pain for a little while. Admit that some part of you feels hurt. Consider that maybe you are self-conscious about your hair, your nose, the sound of your voice, or the gap in your teeth.
Recognize that’s exactly why someone decided to hit you on that front. They found the one thing you’re sensitive about.
Acknowledge that, yeah, maybe it’s an actual weakness. Something that won’t change. Something that doesn’t have to.
Now you’re ready to dismiss the random troll.
You can waste a lot of time obsessing over other people’s opinions. But you can also ruin your life by suppressing your true reactions. Take time to process your insults. Read the nasty comments on your vlog. Reflect on what that one friend said behind your back.
It’s not that their words don’t matter. They do. So does how you respond. Just because you decide not to engage, that doesn’t mean you should hide from the discomfort caused by someone’s opinion.
Life would be easier if every random insult didn’t affect us. But then we’d be robots.
Not everyone has to like you. Likewise, you don’t have to treat every opinion like it matters. But that doesn’t mean you should develop an instinct to dismiss everything you don’t like, what isn’t flattering.
You grow stronger by dealing with the shit talk that comes your way. Telling yourself you don’t care offers an easy escape. What’s harder is figuring out whose opinion matters, and whose only sort of does.
Our stance toward others’ opinions of us shouldn’t be all-or-nothing. You can scale it.
Let’s start with some random troll on the Internet who posts something snarky on your selfie. Should you care about his opinion? No, he’s a stranger. You’ve never met in real life. You never will.
This person scores a zero on your scale.
On the other hand, there’s always a chance that some asshole was the only one who’s telling you the truth — albeit in a shitty way. That color actually doesn’t look good on you.
Or you were, in fact, wearing too much eye shadow.
You have to decide.
Move up a notch, to your acquaintances. Your neighbors. The barista you talk to sometimes. Coworkers you don’t especially like, but haven’t made voodoo dolls of yet. Their opinions matter a little, on certain topics. They don’t get to judge your life choices. But if three or four of these people notice you’re wearing your shirt inside out, listen to them.
Finally, there’s your boss. Their opinion matters when it comes to the quality of your work. Do you show up on time? Are you reliable, and generally pleasant to be around? Good. If not, that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily right. But you also can’t dismiss them with hashtag logic.
Even your friends aren’t supposed to support you no matter what. They have the right to tell you that you suck, from a place of love and respect.
Now consider your friends. Here’s where things get tricky. They can say mean things without trying. Again, you have to scale their opinions. Maybe they’re not qualified to comment on your music. Maybe they can’t articulate what they don’t like about your poetry, or your clothes.
That doesn’t make their opinion worthless. Your friends aren’t supposed to support you no matter what. They have the right to tell you that you suck, from a place of love and respect.
Some of the worst mistakes we make come from the position of not caring what anyone thinks.
Think of everyone’s opinions like a junk pile, or a garage sale. You can drive by and dismiss all of it, and pass up some great finds. Or you can dive in there and get yourself a little dirty. True confidence comes when you can parse out some degree of value in everyone’s opinion, even people who originally set out to burn you to the ground.