As I write this, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling a little anxious about starting a blog. I always have a lot to say and have a wide variety of interests. I’ve been contemplating starting a blog for several months now and here I go. Who really cares what I have to say? Below, I share some thoughts on the issue of caring what others think.
As we grow up, it is all too easy to become conditioned to follow social normals, often from those we grow up surrounded by. This can be parents, siblings, friends, neighbours and with the advent of social media, I think it is pertinent to include this as a major factor that contributes to formulating our inner voice. My take on this is that we first of all need to realise the monumental challenge that comes with trying to understand the peculiarity of our own minds. Whilst we live in a perpetual state of feeling that we understand ourselves intimately, it can be difficult to take the next step to self-exploration and self-intimacy. This may seem like a tangent to the topic but bear with me. One of the first steps to not caring what others think is introspection.
I’ll keep this brief but everyone is occupied with their own worries and issues. Nobody has the mental capacity to extensively care what you are up to. People may talk but everyone has their own insecurities and things to get back to. Don’t let others pull you down. You do you boo!
It is all too easy to suffer because there is no easy route to introspection. Nobody teaches us how to introspect with raw vulnerability. This is a key life skill. We are dynamic beings and at times it can seem like our thoughts are racing faster than the blood flowing through our arteries. We are constantly bombarded with messages of how we should behave, dress, work, plan our careers, earn and spend our money. There is too much data entering us to allow us to apply a meaningful filter, resulting in neglect of these data. These data are deserving of care and logic. This neglect ultimately leads to feelings of irritability, sadness, guilt and fury further compounded by the inability to trace this soup of feelings back to its source. I like to think of this as a relationship with ourselves and if we don’t recognise and nurture this, then we risk paying a high price for self-ignorance. Ultimately, not finding a way to address our emotions in a conscious state can lead us into a very dark place.
Introspection is the first step that I found useful in significantly reducing anxieties about what others think of me. It isn’t easy and requires a lot of reading, vulnerable discussions with loved ones with whom you can talk freely and openly without fear of judgement or ridicule. If you find yourself lacking such people in your circle, you’re not alone and a therapist can always be useful whether or not you have such relationships in your life. The more we introspect, the more we come to realise our mind is playing tricks on us. When thinking about what to wear, or what invites to refuse, what goes through your head? Are you thinking about yourself and what you really want or is your priority to fit in? I’m not berating anyone who does this, and we are all guilty of this. The purpose of this is to merely recognise our thought patterns and the behaviours they lead us to. If we can take the steps to self-exploration, self-intimacy and being aware of what is really going on at a deeper level, it’ll help prop us up into a position where we care less about what others think. It’s a dynamic process, it takes time and it’s difficult so be patient.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Who am I?
- Who am I really?
- What do I want to do?
- What would I pursue if I wasn’t so fearful of judgement?
- Am I making my choices based on what I want or based on what is expected of me?
Be your own friend
This is quite a new concept for me as I have only become aware of self-love recently. I do not mean this in the narcissistic way but rather from the perspective that we can often be our own worst enemy. If you tune into your inner dialogue when you’re struggling with something, fail or mess up, you may realise that you’re not treating yourself in the same manner that you would treat a friend. It doesn’t matter if you’re caught up in anger, fear of failure, frustration, or loneliness. The way forward is self-compassion and forgiveness. Loving yourself takes courage but it helps us to love others and give back. It takes consciousness, mindfulness and stillness.
“We are all different. Don’t judge, understand instead.”Roy T. Bennett
Growing up in society, we are surrounded by notions of what we should believe and how we should behave to avoid suspicion, ridicule, unpopularity. Another way to put it is that we grow up with notions of what it means to be successful, to fit in. This is, of course, a key aspect of survival, but how far should we take it? Now, some of these notions are legally binding and rightly so, whilst others are dispersed through society until we have all inhaled them. Questioning some of these conventions may lead others to question our sanity. Examples include questioning the entirety of a couple’s decision to get married or questioning all of the assumptions behind someone’s career choice or why so many of us have to work 9-5. Trying to step away from societal norms does not mean that we take a robotic approach and become indifferent to taking a different route, or doing things differently. It just means that we acknowledge and accept that we are different, with a degree of comfort which is likely to be context specific. To do this, we must care more about whatever we are doing more than the perceived adversity we attach to it. I find this to be an admirable quality in fact and this is a difficult step to take unless we have introspected as above.
I’ve spent much of my life being a perfectionist and it is something I am still working on overcoming. It’s all too easy to never get anything done or take the first step towards something you want to do for fear of not getting it perfect or failing. The trying is in the doing and there is no failure until you give up, and even then, big deal? Life is short. Perfectionism is but an illusion, we try and grasp it and it dissipates like a cloud. We can’t grasp perfectionism and I hold it as a fruitless pursuit. The pursuit of trying in and of itself can be rewarding if you reframe your thinking. The question to ask yourself if you fall under this category is whether you will let what others think of you stand in your way of pursuing whatever it is that you truly want to do.
Finding your tribe involves finding people who love you unconditionally and will be there for you for all that you are, not despite whatever weird or wonderful qualities you possess. Don’t waste time trying to hang out with people for who you have to change yourself – they’re not worth it.
My personal experience in this stems from being bullied in school for being overweight and not cool. I had the odd friend during school and even then they were more circumstantial. I gained more friends during university and even these friends mostly lost touch as they moved on with their lives after university. I don’t see anything inherently wrong with this. If we are growing, we will change and our friendships will evolve in some way, and some will wither. This is okay. I’ve managed to nurture some friendships since then that I would never have imagined possible, and being a guy, vulnerability and raw authenticity doesn’t come easy but it is possible and having even 1 to 2 such friends that accept you truly can go a long way in not caring what others think. This is because it allows you to belong authentically, to be loved and love and this is so powerful. It can be terrifying to open up to friends about our childish insecurities, our deepest secrets and say out loud the things that we may ridicule ourselves for. We don’t grow by playing it safe, we grow by allowing ourselves to fail.
“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”Brene Brown
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