Blog Short #70: When should you care about what other people think?

Welcome to Monday Blog Shorts – ideas to make even Monday a good day! Every Monday, I share a short article with you about a strategy you can use, or new facts or info that informs you, or a new idea that inspires you. My wish is to give you something to think about in the week ahead. Let’s dig in!


Photo by KatarzynaBialasiewicz, Courtesy of iStock Photo,

Wouldn’t it be great to not care about what other people think? It would be easier, that’s for sure. But then, that’s unrealistic.

Even if you think you don’t care, sometimes you do, and sometimes you need to.

So which is which? When does it matter, and when does it not, and how do you stop yourself from caring when it doesn’t?

That’s what we’re going to tackle today. Let’s start with when you need to care.

When You Need to Care

1) Work and Other Contractual Agreements

When you sign on for a job or promise something to someone, you’ve agreed to perform at a certain level and follow specific rules of behavior. In those cases, you have to care what’s thought of you to the extent that you meet the expectations you’ve agreed to.

We all generally want to be thought well of by our boss, customers, or whomever we answer to in work situations. Conscience also usually dictates our caring about holding up our part of the bargain or agreement with anyone to whom we’ve promised something.

2) Situations That Reflect Your Conscience or Values

This one goes a little deeper. It’s not so much about holding up your end of a bargain. The question is:

“Am I doing the right thing? Am I causing someone harm or pain?”

You care about how your actions will impact someone else. You also care about how they see and feel about you and your behavior. The more intimate you are with someone, the more you care about what they think of you.

When You Don’t Need to Care

You don’t need to care or put any energy into situations where someone is:

  1. Projecting their bad feelings onto you and accusing you of behaviors that belong to them. The caveat is that if this is someone you’re close to, you may need to work it out, but it isn’t a true reflection of you.
  2. The purpose of the judgment is to bully, antagonize, provoke, humiliate, or just be mean. In these cases, set boundaries or ignore the source.

How do you get the right balance?

It’s not always cut and dried or clear when you need to care and when not. Partly this has to do with your own insecurities and partly because of the confusing nature of relationships in general.

Here are a few ideas to help you decide.

1) Watch out for “conditions of worth” you’ve internalized and chained yourself to.

If you don’t know about “conditions of worth,” read last week’s blog to help make sense of this one.

Briefly, your conditions of worth are created as you grow up by parents, teachers, coaches, your community, and society. As you move into adulthood, you internalize these conditions as your own and use them as yardsticks to determine your acceptability and worth.

When dealing with other people, you assume they use these same yardsticks, and you worry about whether you’re living up to them. Often, what you assume has nothing to do with what others actually perceive.

This is an internal problem you have to work through.

2) Don’t assume people are thinking so much about you.

Truth is, people think more about themselves than anyone or anything else.

In his book Focus, Daniel Goleman spells this out succinctly when he poses the question:

“Where do our thoughts wander when we’re not thinking of anything in particular?”

His answer is:

“Most often, they are all about me. . . ‘Me” reflects the activity of the default zone. . . Mind wandering tends to center on our self and our preoccupations.”

So relax. Everyone’s not thinking about or judging you.

3) Have a sense of humor.

Sometimes you screw up, embarrass yourself, or say the wrong thing. It happens to all of us. Learn to have some humor in those moments and laugh along with yourself. Be humble, join the human race, and lighten up a bit.

4) Avoid being judgmental.

Clean out your own closet and leave others to clean our theirs. If you consistently focus on other peoples’ stuff and send a lot of negative judgment their way, you’re opening the door to receive the same back.

5) Focus on being your authentic self.

Work on being more of who you are. Hone your values, formulate your opinions, expand your talents, pursue your interests, and connect with people that appreciate and like you.

The more authentic you are, the more comfortable you are with yourself, and the more other people are comfortable with you. Also, the less concerned you are with what other people think about you.

6) Consider the source.

Consider feedback from people you care about and whose input you value. Avoid considering input from people who simply want to fight, one-up, troll, and create discord.

7) Develop more compassion.

This includes compassion for yourself. Everyone’s in different stages of development. No one is intrinsically better than anyone else, but it is helpful to understand that we all develop at our own pace. We each have our histories, narratives, and experiences that shape where we are. When you see it this way, it helps to suspend judgment. You feel more compassionate for the difficulty in being human and appreciate the privilege we all have to live it.

Sometimes when I’m out in public and people-watching, I wonder what’s going on in someone’s life as I look at their face. What burdens do they carry? What’s their life like? What have they experienced?

When you open up that way, it’s easier to suspend judgment of everyone, including yourself. You become more forgiving and inclusive.

8) Engage in something meaningful, and that gives you purpose.

Part of being your authentic self is to express the gifts you have by engaging in purposeful activity. Put your energy into focusing on your unique talents and expressing them through your work and interactions. Create meaning through your ideas, beliefs, and values. When you have a purpose, you spend less time worrying about what other people think and more time contributing.

9) Own your worth.

All of the above feed into this one.

If you work at expressing your authentic self, question and revise your conditions of worth, set boundaries on toxic input, avoid being judgmental, develop a sense of humor that comes with humility, and find your purpose, then you’ll feel your worth.

You’ll live it while navigating through many successes and failures and new insights. You’ll care what people you care about think of you, but not to the extent that your total sense of self rests on it.

Care about what you think of yourself most. Do it with honesty and compassion, and let the rest work itself out.

That’s all for today! Have a great week!

All my best,

Barbara

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