I Don’t Care What Anyone Thinks!
Have you ever said this to yourself, or heard anyone else say it? Is it true?
What would your life look like if you simply didn’t care what anyone else thought about you? Would you behave differently than you do?
What would your dress, manners, and home look like?
What attitudes would be different about how you interact with your spouse, kids, church family, neighbors, or the clerk at the store?
As a caregiver, does it help us to care what other people think about us—people like siblings, in-laws, medical personnel, or our loved one for whom we care and devote countless hours to serve?
As human beings we want approval. Do you know why that is?
It doesn’t mean we’re insecure or vain. It’s not a weakness or something to resist feeling. It’s for our safety.
Disapproval from others thousands of years ago could mean exclusion from a group. Being alone could have resulted in death due to the limited resources, talents, and skills of one person as compared to the resource of a family, tribe, or community.
It’s natural and good to care what people think. There’s no shame in hoping people will compliment you for being a good caregiver, or wanting to look smart and capable at a doctor’s appointment.
Belonging and contributing socially in our modern world
are still vitally important to our health and safety. Even people who live “off the grid” rely in some way on others for resources, knowledge, supplies, or communication.
As caregivers, support from medical personnel, outside help, family cooperation, and understanding from friends are important factors in remaining healthy and strong enough to continue providing loving care.
So if we benefit from caring what people think, what happens when we realize someone is wrong about us? It usually creates some discomfort.
At times, it produces even more intense feelings of fear and worry. We may go from thinking they’re wrong to
wondering if they’re right , and examining our own skills and motives.
If we can’t manage to supervise our thinking, our emotions might evolve quickly to anxiety or panic. These reactions are, of course, the opposite of useful, and serve to isolate us from, rather than build on, connection with others.
If caring what people think is useful and natural, but recognizing that people being wrong about us can be harmful, what’s the answer?
How do we reconcile needing to belong and connect with caring about what people think? How do we avoid getting bent out of shape when they’re wrong about us, and possibly fearing that maybe they’re right?
Approval is something we seek because our brain thinks it’s useful to be accepted and adored by everyone. But we often hear people, and maybe our own selves say, “I know I shouldn’t care about what other people think but . . .”
Of course you should care what other people think. You don’t have to let it drive you; you can temper it with what you know is true about you.
You can be loyal to yourself, your nature, and personality without denying that what others think is important and useful. For some reason, we depend on approval from others for permission to love ourselves.
Where we can go to find the answers and gain confidence in ourselves? How can we purposefully manage to care about what people think while allowing them to be wrong? Why does knowing that people are wrong about us, create pain for us?
For instance, in my own experience, if someone thinks I’m lazy, they are dead wrong. I work my little tush off.
But if people come into my home or see me on screen in my pajamas, on my computer, with last night’s dishes still in the sink and tomato stains on the floor, they may get the idea that I’m a slob, that I don’t care, or that I prefer to sit around doing nothing all day.
But what if they say to me, “When were you going to clean up this house? Why are you still in your pajamas? Don’t you ever take showers? How can you stand that dirty floor? Or my favorite: “I always do the dishes before I go to bed, so I have a clean place to work in the morning. It just feels so peaceful!”
Any of these questions and statements may be offensive to me, but I can honestly say that I might laugh when people make these comments
, because I know the truth about me.
Other people’s well-intended counsel or ill-intended judgments don’t need to bother me, because I’m fully devoted to my work, my mission as a caregiver to my husband, and my attention to our children and granddaughter. I am confident and happy with my choices. Am I always this composed and Zen-minded? Nope. But I’m getting the hang of it.
Of course I don’t always explain my reasons to people I suspect wonder why I appear to be a slob. I frequently participate in Zoom meetings, podcast interviews, coaching sessions, and I even create video lessons of my own free will and choice without my make-up on or my hair done.
I can let people be wrong about me until the cows come home. It doesn’t hurt me.
We often hurry to justify our behavior, thinking that if we explain ourselves, it will somehow manage what other people think of us. For instance: A visitor to my home may have to listen as I explain.
1. I have some looming deadlines. I’ll complete my projects and then clean my house.
2. I’m in my pajamas because I haven’t showered yet due to an early morning client need that I was happy to address.
3. Skipping my work-out until my chores are done and I’m okay with getting totally hot and sweaty before taking my shower carves out more time to work on my editing.
4. Our seven-month-old granddaughter visited yesterday, and she loves to eat tomatoey, ricey things. We had arroz con pollo, and it got spread around a bit.
5. A long time ago, I learned that I want to spend time with my husband in the evenings more than I want to have a clean kitchen to wake up to, so I often leave the dinner dishes. Since my husband became ill, his paradigm has shifted to places he didn’t like either, so we’ve both adjusted to the “new normal,” and this is what works for us.
What I just did was explained to you my reasons for my apparent laziness, to show what I do when I doubt myself, worry about what people think, freak out when I feel they’re wrong, and try to manage their opinions of me.
I feel like if they understood me and if they knew where I was coming from, then they wouldn’t be so critical and judgmental. Right? That’s what we really mean when we say, “I just want people to understand me.
I think they’re misunderstood. We worry that if they misunderstand, then they’re going to criticize us
, and that if they understand us then maybe they would be less critical.
Then we could win their approval, which is ultimately what we want.
But this is turning the tables, judging their assessment of us, and being critical of their uninformed view of things. We’re more likely to feel judged when we are judging others. We do three things when we judge others and think they’re being critical.
1. We decide they don’t approve.
2. We at least try to get them to understand us.
3. If we don’t feel approval or understanding, we at least try to beat them at criticizing ourselves.
Do you ever feel this way? Like you want someone else to know that you already realize about yourself what you think they’re critical of?
We say, “I know I’m totally lacking in this way. I know you probably don’t do this, even though I do. I know I have this problem. I know I struggle in this area.”
We say that because we want people to know we’re one step ahead of them. We already know we’re a mess or we have a weakness, or we’re not good at something.
We proclaim it as if our own self-judgment means that at least we’re not foolish; at least we’re not in the dark. At least we’re aware of it.
Why do we want any of that?
Part of the answer to why is, again, that we’re human beings with human brains. We were designed this way.
It’s valuable to consider because when we ask ourselves why
, we can unravel the need for beating them at beating ourselves up.
What we ultimately want is to feel good about ourselves. The problem is that we often don’t give ourselves permission to feel good about ourselves until everybody else, or at least the people that matter to us, approve of us first. Then we give ourselves permission to feel good.
But that doesn’t really make sense. We are allowed to think whatever we want to about ourselves
.. We don’t have to have anybody else’s approval.
In fact, everybody else can think that we’re wrong, that we’re making mistakes, or that we’re lazy, uninformed, or anything else. We know the truth.
Everybody else can think that we’re not self-aware, but we’re still allowed to appreciate ourselves. We’re allowed to decide that they’re wrong, that they’re misunderstanding, they don’t get us.
And at the same time, we can love ourselves.
We can stop trying to control what everybody thinks of us because that doesn’t work very well.
Instead, we could decide that we get to think whatever we want to about us and we get to think whatever we want to about other people in the world, and those are the only things we need to manage.
We don’t need to manage other people’s opinions. We can’t. We don’t have that power, no matter how much explaining or justifying we do.
We just need to manage our own thoughts and feelings.
You can give people permission to be wrong about you because they’re going to choose to think whatever they want to anyway.
For some reason, our brains think that if we get upset about their lack of understanding, then in some way it gives us the power to control what they think about us.
But when we’re fearful and insecure, we may end up with people thinking even more negative thoughts about us. So, what if we just decide it’s okay?
I give my sister-in-law permission to think whatever she wants to, and I give her permission to be wrong about me at times when she’s wrong. I also give me permission to not have to agree with her and her opinion of me.
Many people love my book, Home of the Unknown Soldier. The concepts they’ve applied from the book have changed their lives.
Many people love the shifts they’ve made as a result of the time they’ve spent coaching with me, and how it’s impacted their caregiving, their habits, their thinking, and their families.
I love what they’re learning, but they want to give me the credit. They tell me they love me and they appreciate me and think the work I’m doing is amazing and that I’ve changed their life.
It would be a big ego boost if I thought they were right about me. It’s a blessing that I get to see them learn things I’ve learned to have a better life.
But I’m okay with letting them be wrong about me. I’m not the reason their life is better. I didn’t do their work.
I asked lots of questions and helped them see their thoughts. They did the work for their success.
Even though they got help through the tools that I shared with them, it still wasn’t me. It was the application of the tools. It was the way they took a look at their brain.
They’re completely responsible for that change in their life.
I wrestled with feeling like they were all wrong. It felt like it added pressure to be better than I could be.
But now I just let people be wrong about me. It’s so peaceful. I just say thank you, or “I’ve come a long way.”
But here’s the thing. Are those people wrong—all those people telling me how amazing I am?
No. In some ways, I am all those things. Sometimes I’m a hero. I even tell myself I’m grateful that in my own small way, I’m keeping my own veteran off the streets.
We aren’t being a taxpayer burden. He’s honored and cared for in return for his service to our country. Maybe they’re not really wrong about me, actually.
They don’t see me yelling and arguing and stomping my feet and crying my eyes out. They weren’t with me the day I almost took my life and my son came to my rescue. I was in despair. I was weak and confused.
I give all of them permission to be wrong.