How much should you care what others think of you?

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We all have two faces. One is our true authentic self, known only to you and your inner circle. The other is for the outside world which is the outcome of our worldview. They together form a wholesome balanced individual. Sometimes the balance goes for a toss and that is when the mayhem begins. When the inner and outer worlds are at war we begin to lose sight of our abilities, potential, strengths and everything becomes clouded. We get further and further away from our true self and let others take over our identity and define us as per their own perspectives.

In my twenties, I thought I was making the smartest decisions. I lived and trodded on different paths with reckless abandon. Meh! I will figure it out. I really didn’t care what people thought of me. At one point, there was so much talk behind my back that I reached the pinnacle of giving a damn. I was never the crowd pleaser or tried to be fake – failed miserably even when I tried. I was a silent introvert, observed everyone, choosing my inner circle carefully. Not that people were dying to get in but I cared two hoots what they wanted. I don’t think I didn’t care out of bravery or because I was supremely confident. I just gave up. I blocked them out before they could reject me I rejected them.

People did not have the time to judge me for what kind of a person I was from within. From the outside, they saw an individual who was quiet, arrogant and had a devil may care attitude. Who would want to be friends with someone like that? My vibe shouted – “STAY AWAY”. I acted as if they owed it to me to prove themselves worthy of my friendship. My strategy cost me. I didn’t succeed very much in being well liked socially or winning over people at work.

It took me many years to understand that this is not how the world works. Social skills are tolerating people you don’t like in a tactful way. It means investing something to get the desired response. The way I turned out was a result of a few incidents which occurred in my formative years. I was subject to nasty rumors which haunted me for years to the point of not being able to even leave my house– but who cares about that? Everyone has a story and you can’t expect people to understand that from the get-go.

All my life I wished people knew my story before labeling me but the irony was – I did the exact same thing to others. This got me thinking – “Why are we so addicted to the opinion of others?” I am not saying you shouldn’t care. Yes, you should but only to a certain point. There are certain experiences that only you undergo or a very few select will people understand. Expecting people to understand your story and hating them for not isn’t really fair. A majority of people don’t care or enjoy misunderstanding you.

I almost cringe and it breaks my heart when I hear stories of people staying in abusive unhappy relationships for years, who tirelessly work in a job which sucks the happiness right out of them or being covered head to toe in layers and layers or clothes so that they are not body shamed, not going out and meeting people because they are recently divorced, or hanging out with different men and women openly or may be suffering from an illness quietly out of fear of what others think. I am sure most of us would take different decisions if we didn’t live in the world we do now. We would be more fulfilled and happy in our lives if people didn’t care so much about what we do and we didn’t care much of what they thought of us. 
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No matter how much you or I dislike people for being judgemental about these things – it will always exist. The worse aspect of this is – that it will affect you, your life and the people in it. People yearn to believe bad things about others. Have you noticed people believe bad things sooner than the good things? Even if they come to believe the good things they question it silently. Why are people so eager to believe negative aspects of people? Why is it so appealing and entertaining to see the downfall of someone?

It is unfair. I am not a saint and neither are you. We all have been there at some point. Sometimes at the receiving end – sometimes at the giving end. I learned my lesson many years ago and have given it my best shot to not be so judgemental, not believe in idle gossip and to give people a second maybe even a third chance. I realized I need to care what people think only up to a healthy amount. I ask myself if my conscience is clear and let my loved ones serve as a mirror to my behavior and actions. Although beyond a point I honestly do not let it get to me. My world is my family and friends and they know the real me and that’s all that matters. It is almost impossible to win over everyone or expect them to be fair to you. Also, at times people don’t care as much as we think they do. We build our own notions because we have our own insecurities and fears.

All you can do is not be that person. If every person thinks this way then maybe the world will be a less judgemental place. Social media is proof of how much we live off the approval and validation of others. Doesn’t every like or comment make you feel accepted and liked? If only we did even half of that in real life the world will be a better place.

You need to set a boundary for yourself – how much will you care what others think of you? How many of those people are going to spend even a minute helping or standing by you in difficult times? Should you be even giving this much importance to people who judge you based on how little they know the real you? We pressurize ourselves by societal norms so much that we sometimes end up taking unhealthy decisions which have long-term effects. 

Caring too much about what others think is like someone else trying on clothes for you and judging whether they look good or bad on you. Wherein, in reality, you know your body type best and the others who tried it have different body types of their own, so how could they possibly decide what is best for you?

What is right for you may be completely wrong for others. Things may look good on the outside but what is the point if you are unhappy and broken from within? How is it worth going through all this for people you probably don’t even deeply care about? Your loved ones will always support or encourage you to be happy even though it may be controversial for the outside world. Do what is best for you as you will be stuck with the outcome for the rest of your life – not them. 

We all want to be liked and accepted by the society we live in. The only real way one can do that is actually be a genuinely good person. Trust me people change their opinions as often as they change clothes every day. Putting up a fake front won’t take you far. Being a real, warm, caring and nonjudgmental person will win you true, meaningful and genuine relationships in life. These handful few relationships will be priceless compared to the hundreds or thousands you want to impress superficially. Speak your mind, don’t be afraid to take actions you know will make you happy and don’t base them solely on the approval of others. Rejection hurts but sometimes it is the best thing to happen to us. It propels you into something bigger and better.

The only things you should care about – Your happiness, unconditional support of your loved ones and trying to be a good person. Don’t let others define you. Your life is a collection of decisions you make and let them be only yours.

Chin up,

Keep Smiling,

Love,

Anu

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