So many of us, men and women, are people pleasers, whether we admit it or not. It’s something we grew up with, starting with early childhood when our parents and teachers rewarded us for good behavior and punished us for bad behavior. We still often feel the need to please others, and to “fit in” with the social group we most admire.
How to Stop Caring What People Think About You
As a young girl, I often felt that I had to look like everyone else. In high school, all the popular girls were wearing designer jeans. My mother made it very clear that she was not going to spend that kind of money on jeans, and if I wanted them I had to work for them. So I baby-sat for weeks to save enough money to get a pair of designer jeans. I never stopped to think about it then, but I know now that I didn’t buy those jeans because I wanted them, I bought them because I wanted to “fit in” with the image of the other high school girls. Because I had not yet learned not to care about what people think.
Humans have always been social beings. Even in ancient times, people lived in tribes and followed some kind of rules or laws. To be a part of the tribe, you had to submit to the laws of the land, and allow the leaders of the tribe to make decisions that affected everyone’s life.
Social media, in a way, has replaced the tribe leader, in dictating how we should look, how we should dress. Or how to make our coffee (I’m not so sure I want coconut oil in my coffee, to be perfectly honest!)
The way people perceive us influences the way we speak, the way we dress, the things we do, the way we feel about ourselves.
Wearing a bathing suit is usually a stressful situation for so many people, men or women. It takes a lot of self-confidence to feel comfortable in a bathing suit. Society puts a lot of pressure on all of us to look perfect. Celebrity magazines show movie stars with their perfect bodies, and the rest of us feel like we have to reach that same level of perfection. We usually forget that movie stars have access to personal trainers, chefs, stylists and hair and makeup artists. Cindy Crawford famously said, “even I don’t wake up looking like Cindy Crawford.” The rest of us have no reason to expect to look like supermodels or elite athletes, even if that’s what society expects of us. It’s time to take control of your thoughts, your likes and dislikes, and your actions. Because we should not care about what other people think.
It’s important to build up an arsenal of reasons to learn how not to care about what people think. Here are ten reasons to be your own person:
Don’t apologize when you don’t need to.
How often have you said “sorry” when you mean “excuse me”? There are people who will never apologize for their mistakes, and then there are those who overly apologize even when it’s not their fault. Don’t say “I’m sorry” for something over which you have no control, don’t apologize for standing up for your principles and showing integrity, and don’t apologize if someone is being a jerk, as in “I’m sorry, you can’t smoke in the restaurant.” If you need to squeeze past someone, just say “excuse me”. Leave the “I’m sorry” for when you finished the milk and left the empty carton in the fridge.
Take me as I am.
If someone cares about you, he or she will accept you for who you are. We are all different, and that’s a good thing. The world would be very boring if we all looked alike and thought alike, wouldn’t it? However, you will always come across someone who wants to change you or to improve you in some way. You may hear things like, “You’ve got such a pretty face, but you really should lose some weight,” or “You should consider getting that mole removed,” or “You’re too young to go gray, why don’t you dye your hair?” These are all other people’s opinions. Take comments like these with a grain of salt – if you want to make any changes in your appearance, it is your decision. If you are happy with the way you look, or you have your own ideas of what you need to do, ignore your critics, and learn not to care about what other people think.
Realizing you can’t please everyone.
You can please some of the people some of the time, but you will never be able to please all of the people, all of the time. No matter what, you will always have a critic. If you are overweight, people will judge you for not taking care of yourself. If you make an effort to eat right and exercise, some might say that you are superficial. You can never stop people from judging you, but you can learn not to care about what people think. The key to failure is trying to please everybody.
Aesop told this story in the Sixth Century B.C., and I’m sure versions of it have been told in many cultures.
A Man and his son were going with their donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side, a countryman passed them and said: “You fools, what is a donkey for, but to ride upon?”
So the Man put the boy on the donkey, and they went on their way. But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: “See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides.”
So the Man ordered his boy to get off and got on himself. But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.”
Well, the Man didn’t know what to do, but at last, he took his boy up before him on the donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The Man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said: “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey of yours—you and your hulking son?”
The Man and boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought, and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the donkey’s feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle, the donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together he was drowned.
“That will teach you,” said an old man who had followed them: “PLEASE ALL, AND YOU WILL PLEASE NONE.”
Don’t be afraid to say “no”
There are many responsibilities thrust upon us, and it often seems like we must accept them all. However, it can be very liberating to say “no”. Saying “no” can stop you from giving away your time to projects that do not make you happy or help you grow. If you’ll notice, the advice is not to always say “no”, just to pick your projects carefully. As human beings, we do live in a society where we help each other, and we do what we can to support our loved ones. That’s a given. But there are also other commitments that appear, that you should absolutely say “no” to. For example, you get a call from the class mom from your son’s school, and she tells you that the person who was supposed to bake cupcakes for the fundraiser at school got sick, and could you please make three dozen cupcakes from scratch. You don’t want to be rude and say no, so you stop at the grocery store after work to buy your ingredients, and after dinner spend several hours making cupcakes from scratch so you can bring them to your child’s school the next day. We’ve all been there, right? Okay, maybe just some of us. I know I have. What I should have said was, “I don’t have time to bake cupcakes from scratch, but I can buy some from the bakery and drop them off in the morning.” Think about your schedule very carefully before volunteering for any projects, or accepting any projects that will cost you more time and effort than you have at your disposal. You are not being selfish. Having a job and taking care of your family leaves very little free time. You need to fit in time to take care of yourself (physically, mentally and spiritually) before you take on any additional projects. It also matters how you say “no”. For example, it’s rude just to say “no” and leave it at that. On the other hand, please don’t bend over backward and give details of why your schedule is so busy that you can’t help out. Giving too much information opens up the possibility of your requester trying to make you feel that her project is more urgent than what you’ve already got planned. A good response is “No, I’m not able to do it this time, thank you for thinking of me.” Or possibly suggesting an alternative that is less taxing on your time. And if your requestor has a problem with that, it doesn’t matter. Because we are learning how not to care about what other people think!
Only you have the life experience to make decisions in your life.
People who offer you unsolicited advice do it from their vantage point, from their own experience and belief system and seen through their lens. They have not gone through what you’ve gone through, and their advice or opinion is only worth something if it is relevant to you. Otherwise, you should not care about what they think.
What’s right for someone else may not be right for you.
Your dreams, your aspirations, what makes you and your loved ones happy is what’s important for you. An older relative may intend to give you good advice about getting established in a safe, secure job, which may mean getting an accounting degree or a law degree. But is that what YOU want? Or would you rather be, for example, a teacher, who may earn less money but has a different schedule, different daily rewards. A few years ago, my husband and I went to visit some friends and family down south. They all lived in a prominent part of town and were all trying to outdo each other by buying expensive cars and making elaborate renovations to their houses. We drove up in a two-year old Honda, and heard a few comments of “concern” about how we were doing financially, which apparently was not very well because of the car we drove. One thing I’ve always admired about my husband is that he absolutely does not give a hoot about what anybody thinks. We worked hard and had everything we need, but have always preferred to live below our means. The car was comfortable and practical, which is why we drove it. We did have other cars, which likely would have impressed our friends a lot more, but saw no need to mention it to them at all. Because we chose not to care what other people think.
It’s your life.
Whatever decision you make, you have to live with the outcome. If someone else offers advice and you blindly take it, you are stuck with the consequences of those decisions. Does your stock broker next-door neighbor have a tip for a stock that will triple in price within six months? What happens if it does not triple in price, or if it loses money? Does his opinion matter so much that you blindly jump in without any research, so as not to hurt his feelings? No, his feelings are irrelevant. You decide what’s right for you.
People change their mind quite often.
We all do, it’s part of our transient life. When I was in my twenties, I had a particular view on just about everything. My sister sometimes reminds me of declarative statements I used to make when I was younger. (My children will never eat junk food! I will never own a microwave oven!) As I matured, those views changed and became a tad more realistic. Our opinions change. The advice, solicited or not, that you get from someone, could be completely different if they gave it to you a few years later. For example, someone could have advised you to invest in a pyramid scheme a few years ago, but would feel completely different about it today. Another reminder that you should not care about other people’s opinions and think for yourself – because we don’t really care about what other people think.
Being a people-pleaser can backfire.
Going to great lengths to please someone else may make you seem so weak that it will make the other person either take advantage of you, or disrespect you. If people like you when they first meet you, they will most likely continue to like you. If they dislike you and try to change you in any way, they will probably continue to dislike you. Some people always like to judge you or gossip about you. There will always be negative people in the world. And their opinions don’t matter because we don’t really care what they think.
Others probably do not care much about what you think.
Sad, but true, isn’t it? You do your best to prepare for a presentation, are nervous about the delivery and look around the room to see people checking their phones, their watches, doodling on their pads. They probably don’t really care so much about what you think. Which is fine, because the feeling is now mutual.
Although we don’t care about what other people think, I do have a general disclaimer. It is our moral obligation to add value to our environment. Don’t stick your nose in other people’s business, but do good deeds, share good experiences, be a good example. There are others out there who look up to you. When you are asked for advice, encourage them to think for themselves, to do what’s right for them, and to make their own decisions.
Spend time getting to know yourself and continue to be you!
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson