On Caring Too Much About What Others Think

If we can’t decide who we are, others will make that decision for us.

It is sad enough when two people dislike each other. It is even sadder to dislike yourself because someone else does.

One of the most common questions we ask ourselves when we meet new people, especially on dates, is ‘do they like me?’ It is an important question, the answer to which indicates whether we deepen connections or cut them off before it becomes too difficult. However, there is a particular type of person for whom this question takes on a destabilising importance. This person is that peculiar being who is, to their dismay, unsure of themselves.

Especially for the deeply unsure, but for the rest of us too, the reason we care so much about what others think of us is because, to a greater or lesser extent, we simply do not know who we are. Adulation or insult, compliments or denigration; they take on gargantuan proportions because rather than second-hand comments, they are seen as prescient statements about who we are as a person. Lacking proper insight into our identity and missing the courage to defend ourselves, we take what other people say to heart. After all, because we don’t know ourselves, what that person said could very well be true.

There is significant overlap between the ‘people pleaser’ and the person who does not know themselves. Lacking a proper understanding of who we are, we are liable to seek the answer in the words of others. Never wanting to be told bad things, we will go out of our way to appease and satisfy others so they will tell us something we likely have always wanted to, but have been unable to tell ourselves: we are worthy.

‘Do they like me’ might be an important question, but it is also an extremely passive one. It places power and responsibility entirely in the hands of another, as if you are a mere pawn to their whims. To believe ourselves as worthy and to have a mature understanding of who we are, we may still ask ‘do they like me’ but we will be able to ask an equally important question: do I like them?

Caring about what others think often occurs in inverse proportion to caring about what we think. Lacking the courage and self-assurance to say who we are, this space becomes filled with the vapid and sometimes harmful words of others. Our sense of self becomes entirely hinged to what others have to say.

To care less about what others think of us (which does not imply being obnoxious, only self-assured), we must start a new journey: we need to learn who we are and in doing so, develop the confidence to hold our heads high knowing that even if people might not like us, that is absolutely okay, because we know and like ourselves.

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