We all care in one way or another about what others might think of us. While it is not an issue by itself, it can lead to a destructive habit. Read this article to learn how not to fall into the trap.
We, humans, are social beings and evolved living in communities. In the past, being part of a group was essential for our survival, and being ostracised was usually leading to death. Alone, you could not defend yourself against wild animals, and if you were getting sick, you could not gather food or hunt and would starve to death. The community was what kept us alive and being rejected was to be avoided at all costs.
Nowadays, we live in the most comfortable period of human history.
* We have the luxury to travel and build a life pretty much wherever we want.
* We can say that we are generally safe (I mean, no saber-toothed tiger will jump on you at the corner).
* We don’t have to go into the wild to get food, simply across the street to the closest convenience store.
* We don’t need to fit in the closest community to survive but instead, we can choose the community where we fit in.
Although the world is different from the one of our ancestors, like all human behaviors that we developed to ensure our survival, caring about what others might think is still deeply anchored in our identity.
But it is not only part of who we are, we also encourage the need for approval at an early age. Children quickly start associating the recognition from others to their self-worth by being rewarded by the parents when they behave the way the parents want to or simply by receiving positive feedback and validation after doing something “good”.
Let’s take an example: when a kid is showing us a drawing, we tend to compliment the end results. Our first reaction would be “ooh it’s beautiful” or “I like it”.
Let’s be honest.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that we have to tell the child that his drawing is not exceptional and that you find it ugly.
What we should do instead of validating the end results based on our own perception and preferences, is to complement and congratulate the process.
“What do I see?”, “Why did you choose those colors?”, “What does that represent to you?”, “Tell me how you made it!”, “I saw you spend a lot of time, what did you like about drawing it?”
Instead of making them proud of themselves by giving our recognition on the outcome, we should support their intrinsic gratification and independence and encourage the creation.
By doing so, we support them in developing their self-esteem and do things because they like it instead of doing things to make others happy.
Try to observe your natural reaction next time you have an interaction with a child, and notice how much validation we give to everything they do.
Sometimes we see children do something and then wait for the reaction of the parents to see if it was good or bad behavior. Now, I am not saying we should not give guidance to children, this is part of education, what we should be aware of is not to create the need for validation from others.
What is the danger?
By seeking others’ recognition, we lose the connection with our intuition and create a system where external validation is always needed.
The constant insecurity and self-doubt will keep our self-esteem low and inevitably lead to a life of disappointment. Feeling whole only by getting others’ approval is a system that simply doesn’t work.
First of all, people’s thoughts change. What seems good today might seem bad tomorrow. Your taste and opinion evolve as you grow and as you learn more about life.
Furthermore, what is right for you may be wrong for someone else. We are all different, we all have our desire and ambitions and no one will know better than you how to be you.
The Dalai Lama said it well:
Lastly, when you decide to do something to please others, you have to realize that you are the one stuck with the consequences. If a friend, a parent, or a partner tells you what you should do and it turns out bad, they will just feel sorry for you (maybe), but you will have to find a way out and face the hardship.
When it happens, a lot of people blame the rest of the world for what is happening to them instead of taking responsibility for their own choices.
Some others find it even more convenient to always follow someone else’s advice so if things go wrong, they don’t have to blame themselves.
This is choosing to be a victim. This is choosing mediocrity.
If you don’t make choices for yourself, you don’t live your life. You try to live someone else’s life and you will die unfulfilled. In the end, it won’t matter who you tried to please or what you did to fit in. What will matter is the painful realization that you should have followed your heart and live the life YOU’ve imagined.
Those are just a few reasons, it is not an exhaustive list and maybe you found many others. Needless to say, there are plenty of them.
It’s not too late to change.
It’s never too late to make a choice. Now, I agree that it might not be easy but it is certainly possible and unquestionably worth it.
First, you have to realize that people actually don’t care that much. People who are living a life on their own terms understand that following your heart is the way to go. Usually, it’s the people who are miserable that waste their time gossiping and judging others.
When you are truly happy with who you are, you stop giving a f*%# about what others might think.
When you do things because of the joy and the intrinsic gratification it provides, you don’t care about what people will say about it.
At this point, you understand that it is better to live a fulfilling life and disappoint some people than to live a miserable life trying to fit in a social group that actually doesn’t care that much about what you do.
I’m not saying people are egoistic, but our own happiness matters first. You might disagree with me and say that your child or your partner is first.
I believe that’s a mistake.
By doing so, you make them responsible for your happiness and blame them when feeling unhappy. In such a relationship, you are totally dependent on the other and you will never really be fulfilled. Happiness is a quest for self-discovery. Discovering who you are by yourself, nobody else can do it but you. But I agree that it is much nicer to receive guidance and go on the journey with others who can be there to support you, hold your hand when it’s hard, and share the joy when it goes well.
Take ownership of your happiness
Nobody is responsible for your happiness but people can contribute to it. That’s a very powerful distinction.
So put yourself first and support others to find themselves.
There will always be people who love you and others who hate you. And that’s ok. Don’t try to fit in a group that does not let you live the full expression of who you are. Let it go and find the people who resonate with you. Find the people who help you become the best version of yourself.
Your life is yours. Unfortunately, it hasn’t always been like this, and sadly even today in some places, some people are not free. But if you read this, you are probably free to live your life. Honor this freedom and make the most out of it. Remember that at the end of the day you are the only person who needs to approve of your own choices.
You are the only one looking at your reflection in the mirror and going to bed with your thoughts and feelings.
Only you know what is best for you, so dare to be different.
It’s not really that we should never care about what others think of us, but we should make sure that it doesn’t change who we are.
“I’m not here to be average. I’m here to be awesome!”
Getting to your full potential is just a matter of taking the right steps in the right direction. But first, you need to get clear on where to go and make sure you’ll have support along the way. That’s why I’m here.
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