Who Cares What Everyone Else Thinks? (I do)

Posted: August 18, 2015 in Family and Children, Life Lessons
Tags: , , , , ,
Who Cares What Everyone Else Thinks? (I do)

Who Cares What Everyone Else Thinks? (I do)

I am rarely on time. It used to really bother me.  Even when I would think I was going to be early, something would happen and I would be barely on time, or late. Never is this more apparent than when I have to drop my daughter off at school. Some mornings, we keep it together enough for her to arrive early and get there for recess. Sometimes, just at the first bell. But as the year wears on, inevitably, we would slide into Home as the late bell was ringing. We would always make it just in time. I would still usually stop at the office and sign her in, just in case.

One morning, just a year ago, was one of the most humiliating moments of my adult life. I signed Sophie in at 8:31 am, one minute late. The assistant principal came out of her office and started to leave, but stopped when she noticed us standing there.

First, she singled out Sophie, “You’re late quite often, aren’t you?”

Sophie shrugged and looked at me. “Sometimes,” she said.

The lady looked at me. I became an instant deer in headlights. “Oh, no, oh, no!” was all I could think. Then came the barrage of questions: Was there a reason for this lateness? An unfortunate hardship the school didn’t know about? Did I simply not care about the importance of timeliness in an educational setting?

“No,” I stammered. My face was on fire and my eyes were swimming with tears. I said the first lame thing that popped into my mind. “I just have several people to get ready in the morning.” As I stared at her, mouth hanging open, she proceeded to berate me for bringing my child to school late, compromising Sophie’s academic career, and making her teacher’s job harder to do . . . in front of of several school staff members and several parents and children who came into the office after I did (technically making them later than me). Then, without even a backwards glance, she left the office.

I laid the plastic-flower topped pen down and gulped back my tears, took Sophie’s hand, and left the office.

Sophie, bless her, simply said, “It’s okay, Mom, don’t let the Dragon Lady get you down.”

It took me a long time to want to go back in that office. To this day, I still cringe when I see the lady who gave my my public dressing down. The rest of that day was spent reassuring myself I wasn’t destroying my child’s education because of my personal fault: lateness. Questions floated through my mind all day: Am I disrespectful and rude? Is my child suffering because of me? Do all the people in that office think I’m a bad parent? And so on…

 

You see, I care what other people think. A Lot.

 

Here are some quotes I found related to the Google search term “what everyone else thinks.” You might be familiar with some of these: they are often written in a catchy font over a sparkly background and shared on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest.

Joyce Meyer said, “You can not live your life just based on what everyone else thinks.”

Nishan Panwar said, “The biggest mistake people make in life is to worry what everyone else thinks.”

Even Oprah Winfrey has weighed in on this issue, “If you make a choice that goes against what everyone else thinks, the world will not fall apart.”

Another popular quote: What everyone else thinks is none of your damn business!

I have always been too concerned with what everyone else thinks and, more importantly, what everyone else thinks of me. Is this you, too?

My over-investment in other people’s opinions is nothing new. One incident in a school office over being one minute late was enough to knock me down several pegs. But I had sort of an “A-ha” moment the other day. Luke and I were having a conversation that, for one of the first times I can remember, really made the danger of this type of thinking crystal clear.

We have been talking for a week or so about getting another dog, and we don’t exactly see eye-to-eye on the issue. I am happy with our “one-Boxer” household. He has his heart set on getting another Dalmatian (he’s owned several). Not just any Dalmatian, but a puppy to boot. I have been working very hard on not appearing to be as against this “new dog” idea as I really am. In fact, I realized I didn’t want to tell him I felt guilty that I wasn’t excited about getting a dog, and I (subconsciously) didn’t want him to think I am a bad person because I told him how I really feel.

He thought I was worried about having to take care of the dog when he and the kids wear out the newness, but I had to fess up that I am actually worried I will not like the dog. I have had dogs in the past (one being a Dalmatian) that I simply clashed with, personality-wise, and each time it happened I would feel terrible about it, because it’s not like it’s the dog’s fault. On the flip side of that, a couple of the animals I’ve had that I really enjoyed passed on as really young pets in rather tragic ways, and I was also worried if I got attached, something would happen.

The problem here was that I was so anxious over this issue and unwilling to honestly state my opinions about it that I was causing it to become a BIG elephant-sized issue instead of a little one. My fear was that Luke would forever look back on this point in our life and say something like, “Yeah, I really wanted to get a cute little Dalmatian puppy, but Jaime threw such a fit I couldn’t get one.” Not only was I scared about what he’d think when I stated my opinion, but I discovered that over the course of my life, I’ve been conditioned to behave according to two principles:

  1. I cared so much about other people’s thoughts and opinions that I was hesitant to state my own.
  2. I was convinced that if my opinion conflicted with another person’s, my opinion automatically didn’t matter!

 

Whooo boy.

Have you ever been faced with a realization about yourself that startled you? That was so accurate and eye-opening that you wonder how you existed before knowing this? (I believe this is probably what’s referred to as an epiphany.)

My epiphany: I had been letting my hang up about valuing other people’s thoughts and opinions over my own shape my life!

Ouch.

From the time I was a small child, I can remember being caught up in thoughts about other people that sounded like, “Are they happy?” “Do they like me?” and “Maybe if I [insert random action here], it will cheer them up, make them less sad, or calm them down.” I learned that keeping my mouth shut kept things calm and helped me avoid drama and conflict, two things I hated most of all. But never in my thoughts did I question, “What’s my opinion here?” If another person thinks this or says that, okay, but when did I decide it was okay to strike myself completely out of the conversation?

In placing heaps of importance on the actions and thoughts of other people, especially those who I felt I had to please, I didn’t understand or value what was in my own head. I usually snuffed out my own feelings or pushed them down so far that I didn’t have to deal with them.

Don’t do this, people! Do you want to know what this eventually does? After years and years of ignoring your own thoughts and feelings, they’ll start to come out anyway, and it will scare the hell out of you! Talk about a nightmare for a person who worries what others think! Suddenly, you’re having these strong feelings like anger or frustration, or sadness, and you’re:

  1. Embarrassed or confused that you feel the way you do.
  2. Unable to hold what you’re thinking and feeling inside, so you’re having to deal with the aftermath of saying what’s really in your heart and in your head.

Now I understand for many of you, this is not really an issue. You may notice or understand what other people think about you, but you let it have little to no impact on your own life decisions. You might not, as the quote said, give a damn what anyone else thinks.

Sorry, I couldn't resist...

Sorry, I couldn’t resist…

Eventually, all of us will reach the point when we ask ourselves, “Why do I care? Who cares if they think that? Let them. This is my life, not theirs!” Some people learn this in preschool, some after many years of adulthood, and some . . . maybe never. I’m 36 and I’m in the process of finally learning this for myself.

The truth is, you have absolutely no control over what another person thinks. You could, in theory, bend over backwards, do nice things, say nice things, and be there for a particular person, and if they don’t like you, for whatever reason, they’re still not going to like you. They may think you’re trying to get something out of them, or that you’re being fake. No matter how hard you work to change their thoughts about you — you can’t. And then you just wasted a bunch of time and energy on something that isn’t adding anything positive to your life.

That assistant principal? My daughter still goes to that school. I was still late last year. Other times I was early, and sometimes I was on time. Does she look at me when she sees me and think to herself, “There’s that disgraceful mother who doesn’t care enough to get her kid to school on time?” Maybe. Or maybe she doesn’t even remember that particular encounter. Maybe she was having a bad day. Maybe she thinks, “There’s the mom of that little girl with the cute short hair.” Who knows? I don’t, because I’ve never asked her. Does it have an impact on my day-to-day life, what she thinks of me? No. Does it make me think about the impact a late person has on others and make me try harder to be more responsible for arriving on time? Yes. But even so, I’m still going to be late sometimes, and that’s just how it is.

The biggest lesson here, for me at least, is that you can only control what you think. So the next time you catch yourself worrying about another person’s thoughts or opinions about you, remind yourself that you’re not psychic and can’t read their thoughts, and even if you could, it’s not your job to change those thoughts, or act according to those thoughts.

Your job is to be you, regardless what anyone else thinks of that.

P.S. – Puppy note: We ARE getting the puppy. After Luke and I discussed the issue and he got me to tell him what was really bothering me about it, he said the magical words: “I get it and it’s okay you feel that way.” We discussed compromises and how we would handle certain issues, and suddenly the elephant-sized issue shrank to normal size again. In fact, there is a tiny part of me that is excited. Shhhhh…!

 

Dalmatian Puppy: Right Spot Dalmatians

Dalmatian Puppy

Do you care what others think? Or are you the type of person to do your thing regardless of the opinions of others? Do you have any suggestions for those of us who care too much what others think? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

 

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Photo credit: Life of Pix.com/

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Comments
  1. StephJ says:

    I think everyone cares what others think, some people practice those thoughts in other ways. i think the bottom line is, if you like the person you are then you can trust that what people think of you are those traits. anything negative that might come up after that is false and inaccurate because no one knows you better then you know yourself.

    • Hi StephJ, you make a really good point: when you are comfortable with who you are, the approval of others isn’t as important as when you’re seeking that approval out to boost your own sense of self. I’m sure I still have some work to do there! 😉 Thank you for reading & commenting!

  2. jmh says:

    First of all, that woman was out of line to give you a dressing down in public. Even if she was frustrated, that so wasn’t appropriate. Lateness drives me crazy too sometimes, because in some ways, it shows a lack of respect or consideration, but I try not to get wound up about it. Most of the time, it’s not that big a deal.

    Sadly, I do care about what others think. I agree with Steph in that I think we all do, to a point. There wouldn’t be so many quotes about it otherwise.

    I went on two trips with strangers this summer. I felt immediately comfortable with the first group, and I was what I think of as, “my best self”–outgoing, funny, outspoken, “the life of the party.” Hopefully without being annoying! 😉

    The second group had some elements that put me on edge. There was some bullying stuff going on, and women behaving badly in general–gossiping, talking badly about other women in the group behind their backs, completely ostracizing at least one member of the group. And, to top it off, a lot of the women were always on their phones, even at the dinner table. That curtailed a lot of conversation.

    I had a few people in that group describe me as “quiet,” to my face. “But I’m not quiet at all!,” I’d protest. “If you actually knew me or talked to my friends, you’d find I’m anything but.”

    My boyfriend was puzzled when I told him how upset I was. “Why do you care if they thought you were quiet? Quiet isn’t a bad thing,” he said.

    But it bugged me because it isn’t who I think I am. It made me feel like I hadn’t been myself on the trip. And most of all, it felt like a value judgment–I was quiet, and therefore, not one of the “fun” ones.

    There have been times I haven’t liked someone, only to be upset when I discovered they didn’t like me either. I wish I had the secret to not giving a damn. That said, I don’t keep many opinions to myself, so if someone is going to dislike me because I’m outspoken, so be it.

    • That’s such an interesting comparison between your two groups! It really changes the whole feel of an experience to be around people that make the environment uncomfortable in some way . . . sorry you had to deal with that, because it really seems like it took away from the trip itself to have to deal with people bullying & being rude! Especially that poor group member who was ostracized. The behavior of some people never ceases to amaze me, and not in a good way.

      I completely understand your reaction to the judgement from people in your group that you felt was inaccurate, and it also shows another side to the whole issue of valuing what people think to some degree: how much does it matter to us when someone else thinks we are a certain way and we don’t agree? And I have totally been upset in the past when I found out someone I didn’t like felt the same about me. Too funny! Thanks for sharing your views, and I hope the crappy dynamics of that second group didn’t ruin your experience as a whole…

      • jmh says:

        Not at all! Greece was too amazing to let anyone ruin it, and there were some great people in the group. Thanks for the kind words.

  3. Great post, and so true. I totally agree with jmh, that chick was outta line, more-so than being late I could argue. I just wrote about this issue myself after my own epiphany on the matter. Maybe it will help shed some light on your conundrum?? Love to hear your thoughts anyway. Blessings to you!

    https://innerangelsandenemies.wordpress.com/2015/10/02/a-need-for-connection/

    • Hello, thanks for stopping by! I enjoyed reading your post and I could relate on so many levels. I guess we have to grow and make mistakes and have life experiences before we can get to the point of feeling like “what other people think” doesn’t have so much impact on our thoughts and feelings. I like your take on the popular belief that we’re not supposed to care at all what others think, it’s almost like society tries to make it something to strive for- and I agree with you that caring is good as long as we don’t allow that caring to negatively impact our own lives. I appreciate that perspective on it. Have a great day!

      • Thank you! I am so grateful that you read my post and glad it was helpful. Society has become very good at convincing the world to believe many deceptions. It’s almost as if we are puppeteered by lies and must fight harder for the truth than ever before. We need self discipline and balance and logic and faith or else we are merely led by the nose. Scary! 🙂 Blessings to you!

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