I don’t care what people think!
We hear it all the time. It sounds awfully bold and romantic staked in the ground as we plan do something revolutionary, but it doesn’t really hold true when the wind starts blowing and the reality of our words comes to light. We do care what people think. Which people (Not the haters, I hope!) is the part we have to define.
Our self-esteem is delicately dependent on what society thinks of us. – Margaret Heffernan
As the professor, Frederic Brunel of Boston University puts it: "A community is conscious of a kind of intrinsic connection between members: we are one symbolic entity, we share values and principles. We are different from non-members. There’s an us vs. them. And we share knowing that we belong together."
We Do Care What People Think
Relatedness is one of the three pillars of intrinsic happiness. So while we might not care what a group of people think whom we are leaving (current employer, current friends or social group), we are most likely leaving that group in search of – or because we’ve found – a new group that holds values we admire or a group who supports our pursuits and interests.
We most certainly care what the new group thinks about us.
An existence is no existence if it is not a shared existence.
But this is natural! We should care what people think of us. If what we are about to do might hurt the lives of people we love or people we are responsible for, then of course we are going to care what those people think.
The key is to surround ourselves with people whom we can be vulnerable with so that when we do something potentially daring or uncomfortable,
it is those people who will not judge the outcome of our journeys, but instead challenge any weak foundations from the start, and support us on the merits of our efforts along the way.
- I do care what my family thinks. While they might not agree with every decision I make, I know I can be honest with them and they will give me heartfelt feedback. Again, they don’t need to agree with my exact method for me to feel backed, but my hope is that they support the intention of my actions, and I hope they confront me on things they disagree with.
- I do care what my friends think, but not every friend I have. I’m talking about the friends whose opinions I seek and whose input I respect because they understand the methods to my madness, and they understand the totality of who I am trying to be.
- I do care what the majority of people think who read what I write (remember, we can’t please everyone!) because those are the people I am trying to inspire.
- I do care what my students and coaching clients think because those are the very people entrusting me to help them.
- I did care what Seth Godin thought about my e-book, not because I needed his blessing to do something I thought was meaningful, and not because I just wanted to see my name on his blog (though that was undeniably exciting!), but because he is someone whom I respect dearly and whom I look to for inspiration.
Beyond our desire for a comfortable life, financially, we seek the recognition, support, connection and admiration of our peers.
There always seems to be a seesaw battle between doing what our heart tells us to do, and what those around us might think of those particular actions. That’s because what our heart tells us to do will always have an effect on the people around us! It’s inevitable.
“There’s a tremendous fear of community as well as longing for it,” said Bill Donahue. “Guys know they need other guys to do life with, but they are afraid to appear vulnerable and weird. Most people don’t think we’ll be loved if we’re really known. We fear rejection. The irony is: we love the self-made man. And at the same time we crave connection and community, and desire to give away something to someone else.”
How Do We Handle That?
We can’t pretend that people’s opinions don’t matter, because they do, especially when we have responsibilities larger than ourselves: wife, husband, children, employees, business partners, and the like.
What we all must continue to do is to seek the advice, support and input of those whom we respect, but we should not yearn for the approval or permission of “the world”.
There is a big difference.
Next time you find yourself having a marginal panic attack because of what “they” are going to think about something you’re doing, tackle this little flow chart, downloadable as a pdf here: (Should I Do This?):