Not Caring What Others Think of You = Pure Freedom
I recently finished my second book, which is about finding joy and cultivating happiness in everyday living. My whole life, people have commented that I am a happy person, and I have often been asked what I do to be so happy. Then when I share my ideas with friends or therapy clients, the response has often been, “Well that’s easy for you. You’re a happy person!” But the truth is, I am just like everybody else, and I work at it. I suppose I am blessed to have learned some techniques in early childhood that helped me. Also, being a psychologist certainly helps, as I need to stay on top of research and best practices to be of service to my clients.
So I sat down and thought about what exactly it is that I do to be “happy”. But I want to caution the pursuit of “happiness”. Happiness is an elusive state. And how do we know when we have achieved it anyway? I prefer to think of it as finding joy, or living your most fulfilling life, even on the worst of days.
I came up with 35 different things that I do. Some are thoughts, some are behaviors, some are simple, and some are more involved. My editor may condense them so that there are fewer chapters, but for now, that’s where it’s at. Thirty-five things that I practice to live my best life. I then did some research on each of the 35 ideas, just to make sure it was not just me and anecdotal, and that I could back up my ideas with some research in psychology.
In this article, I want to talk about not caring what other people think as it relates to happiness in life. I love the quote, “What people think of you is not your business.” Deepak Chopra
Oooh, and this one, “Let them judge you. Let them misunderstand you. Let them gossip about you. Their opinions aren’t your problem. You stay kind, committed to love, and free in your authenticity. No matter what they do or say, don’t you dare doubt your worth or the beauty of your truth. Just keep on shining like you do.” Scott Stabile
My father was the perfect example of not caring what people think. And he was the kindest man I have ever known. He used to ski with a multi-colored clown wig. Why? It made him happy. He used to jog at my high school track while school was in session and punch the air like Rocky Balboa. Why? Because it made him happy. He did not care what anyone thought of him. This embarrassed me when I was younger. As I got older, I came to appreciate this as pure freedom. But I was not able to achieve this “not caring thing” until my late 40s. I suppose not caring what others think is a wonderful benefit of aging!
Not caring about what people think of you does not mean not caring about people! It simply means that you do not let others’ opinions affect your self-worth. And this goes for positive statements as well. Yes, it is nice to receive compliments and praise, but do not connect this to your self-worth. Because it changes. If you attach your self-worth to what others think, then once they change their positive opinion, your self-worth goes down. You need to be in control of your own self-worth, and part of that involves accepting and appreciating compliments and praise, but not tying it to your self-worth.
In my 17 years of private practice, I have interviewed 3,500 people who have experienced significant trauma through my contract with the State of NJ. I have had the privilege of hearing about their intimate thoughts and feelings. A common theme is that children and adults of all ages are pained by what they believe to be the negative opinions of others. This is so sad, and so unnecessary, yet so difficult to change. Difficult, but not impossible.
So let’s work on making it possible. A necessary step is to not take things personally. To grasp this, you need to understand that other people’s actions are not about you. It is all about them and their past hurts, disappointments, relationships. This is much easier said than done, and I highly recommend reading the chapter, “Don’t Take Things Personally” in “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz.
When someone who knows you well insults you and your feelings are hurt, let those hurt feeling be a trigger to remind yourself, “Do not take this personally, smart self. This is about her, not me. This is about the way she sees the world, not me. This is her problem, not mine.”
Remember that judgmental people are not happy with themselves. Think about it. People who are happy with themselves and content with their lives want to lift other people up. Not criticize, bring them down, or try to make them feel badly about themselves.
Sometimes caring what others think is tied to being a judgmental person. In other words, you may think that others are judging you because that is what you do to others. So in your quest to not care what others think, it would also be helpful to examine your tendency to judge others.
Be honest with yourself. Do you have a tendency to judge others? You will be a happier person if you gain awareness of this and stop. Your judgment serves no purpose. You are likely to have difficulty not caring what others think if you continue to judge others. You unwittingly hurt yourself. Thoughts have energy, and when you judge with negativity, you attract more negativity into your life. You will see more and more of what you do not like in others, and this will not feel good. Also, when you negatively judge others, it is often related to feeling threatened by how your perceive yourself. So instead, look inward. What is your inclination to judge someone revealing about yourself? When you can learn to accept and embrace yourself as you are and increase self-love, you will likely decrease your judgment toward others. And the more you are able to decrease your judgment of others, the more you are able to move toward not caring what others think of you.
Here is a quick summary of some helpful steps toward reaching your goal of not caring what others think:
- Set your intention of the day. Explicitly tell yourself that your goal of the day is to not care what others think. Sounds corny, but when we set our intentions of the day, it helps keep them front and center.
- Keep a visual reminder. Use an inspirational quote on your phone. Use a photo that represents not caring what others think. I keep a picture of my father skiing in his clown wig in my wallet as my daily reminder. While I feel that I have finally achieved this, it is always possible to regress. I need this reminder.
- Examine your tendency to judge others. You will have an easier time not caring what others think if you are able to minimize your judgement of others. But awareness needs to come first, so be honest with yourself and takes steps to minimize your judgment. You will benefit from doing so.
- Part of not caring what others think involves not taking things personally. Read “The Four Agreements” for some wisdom in this area. It’s a tough one! But necessary.
- Appreciate others’ kind words, but be mindful not to attach this to your self-worth.
- Love yourself. Know your self-worth. Be impervious to the opinions of others that do not serve to help you learn and grow.
Do what makes your soul happy without giving a thought to what anyone thinks of you!
In addition to keeping a photo of my father in the clown wig in my wallet, I wear my Do What Makes Your Soul Happy Bracelet as a wearable reminder! http://peggysmidnightcreations.com/product/do-what-makes-your-soul-happy-bracelet/