I’ve always wanted to be one of those people that doesn’t care what other people think of them.
I’m not talking about the person who pretends they don’t care but then post-Minion-themed phrases like “If you can’t accept me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my finest” until the person discovers them. I mean a real, “no sweat off my back” attitude toward other people’s opinions.
Instead, I’m concerned. Some
would argue against it. Is the store clerk giving me a strange look? I’ll be thinking about that for hours. Has Uber’s rating fallen below 4.8? You can bet I’m mentally going through my previous ten Uber trips to identify any potentially “less than 5 star worthy” behavior. Someone I haven’t talked to in three years deleted my Facebook account? Perhaps it was something I said, or I forgot their birthday, or I made one too many promotional postings about my company? I must know!!
“But why should you?” Exasperated after I’ve spent the previous 20 minutes listing off various justifications for the person’s obvious grudge, my partner will inquire. “It’s not like you’ll ever see them again!” I always believe it’s easy for him to say. He’s the sort of laid-back Aussie dude who has never had anyone dislike him and who simply needs to say “Hey buddy, how’s ya night?” to keep his pristine 5-star Uber rating.
But my colleague has a valid argument. Why do I worry so much about the views of people I don’t particularly care about?
As I usually tell him, it has nothing to do with that individual and everything to do with myself. When one individual plainly isn’t catching up on what I’m saying, it makes me wonder if everyone else does. It’s less about questioning my own self-worth (I’ve done enough work to know it doesn’t depend on the perceptions of others) and more about wondering how others perceive me. Do I come out as arrogant? Are you too shy? Not welcoming enough? Too cordial? It actually makes me doubt my own judgment.
Furthermore, as I’ve learnt in my psych degree’s social psychology modules, it’s human nature to want people to like us. People stood a considerably higher probability of starving to death or being devoured by a lion in early civilization if they were not welcomed by their community. Alternatively, they may be slaughtered by the very tribe that rejected them. Those that were accepted had a better chance of survival. This natural characteristic, along with our current, validation-based digital world, explains why we all want to be liked and accepted.
So, regardless of what motivational speakers tell us, it’s acceptable to care about the views of others. But, as I’ve discovered, just because something is commonplace doesn’t make it valuable. Is fretting over the opinion of someone I met 12 years ago while working at a burger restaurant the most beneficial use of my time and energy? Most likely not!
The fact is that I am a sensitive soul who enjoys pleasing others. It’s unlikely that I’ll ever reach Ron Swanson levels of DGAF. However, for the purpose of my own mental health and energy, I’ve developed a set of criteria that I use to choose whether to take other people’s ideas into consideration. They are as follows:
Do I really know what this individual thinks of me?
“Other people’s thoughts of me are none of my concern,” as my partner frequently remarks. That is correct. Most of the time, we have no idea what other people think of us. We’re going on a hunch, an eye roll, an unfriending, or simply the fact that they didn’t reply on our Instagram post.
But, 99% of the time, it has nothing to do with us and everything to do with what is going on in their life. Plus, when someone dislikes us, it may be for reasons beyond our control – perhaps your face reminds them of Sally, the tiny biatch who tugged on their hair in elementary school?
I’ve assumed so many times that people disliked me just to find out that they’re simply shy, have social anxiety, or are like that with everyone. So, until someone clearly tells me “I don’t like you,” I try not to assume the contrary.
Is this individual appealing to me?
I seldom receive unpleasant vibes from individuals that make me think, “Wow, I’d like to be friends with them.” Most of the time, it’s folks that I wouldn’t want to spend out with in the first place.
So what does it really matter what others think of me? In these circumstances, it’s more often than not not because someone has done anything wrong – you just don’t vibe. And, as I’ve discovered, that’s perfectly OK. This is something I say about artistic work, but it also applies to everyday life: if you’re for everyone, you’re truly for nobody.
Do I value their viewpoint?
“Don’t take counsel from anybody you wouldn’t exchange places with,” according to a Kelly Clarkson remark. This, I believe, also applies to accepting other people’s viewpoints in general. If I respect someone, believe they have great judgment, and are in a position where I want to be in life, I am more inclined to be open to what they think of me. But, if they’re not someone I truly admire, why should their opinion matter to me?
When it comes to reading my book reviews, I’ve had to put in a lot of practice time. If someone who has never published a book, writes 2-star ratings on everything, and can’t spell to save their lives sends me a negative comment, I try to ask myself, “Is this really somebody I want to accept advice from?” But if it’s a more experienced industry colleague offering constructive critique, I’m all ears.
Will this person’s perception of me have any impact on my life?
In other cases, it’s not so much that the person is where I want to be in life as it is that I will ultimately have to interact with them in my daily life. Consider a relative, coworker, customer, or neighbor. In this case, I don’t need to accept their perspective as reality, but I do need to find methods for us to get along and maintain the peace – for both of our sakes and the sakes of others around us.
Have I harmed this individual in any way?
Some situations necessitate a serious assessment and analysis of your own behavior. Assume that someone is afraid of me because I accidentally said something nasty and disrespectful. Regardless of whether it was my objective, I’m going to evaluate my actions. Because, while I’ll never be a ‘zero effs given’ person, I’d rather keep my effs for things that really matter, like being nice and courteous to others.
Post paraphrased from https://theprogressclub.co
Image by Jerzy Górecki from Pixabay