I’ve been a people-pleaser most of my life. I’m not the type to go a tremendous distance out of my way to make someone happy but rather the type who will obsess over any real or perceived disapproval, dislike, annoyance, anger, sadness directed towards me or as a result of something I did. By obsess I mean play the scene of what happened or what I ideally would say or do to make it better or what I could have done on repeat in a state of turmoil and panic.
However, something in me has been shifting over the last five months or so. I didn’t go looking for how to stop caring but through life experiences and what seems like a sudden burnout of many of my fucks, I’m in a place where I care significantly less what people think of me. It’s freeing and it’s peaceful. And the road there is/was counter intuitive.
Because in order to stop caring about what people think, I believe, you need to start caring about…what people think.
What the right people think. Here are those people:
I know it sounds cheesy. But hear me out. A lot of times when I’ve been preoccupied that someone thought I was weak or was doing a bad job at something or was making the wrong decision, it as because deep down I was afraid they were right–no matter how many times I replayed my spiel about why they were judgmental or a jerk or didn’t understand.
I hadn’t taken the time to figure out (or to remind myself) what my assessment of the situation or myself was. If we don’t know how we feel or think about ourselves or whatever is going on, I think we often, subconsciously even, will rely on other people’s reactions/opinions (real or imagined) to tell us who we are or what we should do/have done. But, if you have sat down and combed through it all, done your research about and made peace with whatever it is, you’ll have the confidence to walk through negative opinions without the temptation to put them in your pocket and take them home with you.
TWO: PEOPLE WHO MATTER
People’s opinions can be constructive. Their perspectives can be insightful. Their wisdom can save us trouble. And their expertise can enhance our growth. If we live with the mindset that it doesn’t matter at all what anyone thinks, we miss out on opportunities to improve ourselves and our lives.
The trick is pinpointing the people whose opinions matter and have the impact to change us for the better. My advice is to look for people who are experts in the area that applies or who live out the value that you want to live by and who live with grace for others. Bonus points if you have a some sort of relationship with them. People who are personally invested in your growth and you as a person will be able to offer feedback that is honest and fair and which is offered for your benefit. They care and want to see your succeed.
THE WRONG PEOPLE
If you’re anything like me, it can be incredibly easy to get hung up on the criticism and bad vibes that come from negative Nancy’s and Ned’s. It’s like we feel like if we can get that person to like us or approve of our decision, then we can relax. But the truth is, trying to make Nancy or Ned happy will be one of three things.
- Futile: Some people don’t want to be happy and sometimes people just won’t like you, no matter what you do.
- Short-lived: Chances are, even if you do manage to secure the approval of someone hypercritical or judgmental, it won’t be too long until you misstep. You haven’t built the strong callouses against the pain of their negativity, so it’s going to hurt just as much as the first time. All the work you put into getting their approval will leave as quickly as you earned it.
- Miserable: You will constantly be on edge and stressing out over making the wrong move and facing their rejection again. You’ll be tethered to their needs/opinions, which are probably unreasonable, for as long as you let them have power over you.
If you let someone without grace and insight dictate how you feel about yourself, you will miss out on the loads of grace which are yours to receive from yourself and from people who are looking to give it to you.
And I truly believe when there is grace, there is room to grow. And if we’re not growing, we’re kind of dying.
If you’re in the middle of one of these super fun mental wrestling matches over what someone thinks about you, I challenge you to intentionally make time sooner rather than later to talk or write or think through questions like these (for starters):
- Do I think I’m doing/being enough?
- What am I afraid of being true about me or the situation? Do I think it’s true?
- What expectations do I have for myself here? Are they reasonable and realistic? (A good way to gauge this is to think about what you would expect of a loved one)
- What values do I want to carry me through this?
- Whose opinion matters here (who has the relevant knowledge/expertise/wisdom who lives with grace and–ideally–has some sort of investment in me?)?
- Who is worthy of my time and energy?
Good luck! And as always, i luh u.