There is a popular trend whereby individuals proudly declare that they don’t care what others think of them. Many believe this indicates a strong sense of self from not needing the approval of others. However, this is often an incorrect assessment.
Experiencing disapproval or rejection from those we like can hurt. Apathy serves as a form of self-protection. If I don’t care, then their opinions won’t upset me. Those with poor self-images or low self-esteem are less tolerant of perceived rejections and may prefer to remain aloof rather than display any sensitivity. Denial of one’s true feelings presents itself as less risky and serves to preserve one’s state of emotional well-being.
Indifference also affords us freedom to behave in any manner we desire regardless of how it may impact others. I can tell you off, behave irresponsibly, show blatant disregard for you, or act out in an offensive manner – while claiming that this is who I am, and if you can’t deal with it, it’s your problem, not mine. I take no ownership, offer no apologies, and seek no course of personal improvement. Such an attitude can lead to hurt feelings, loss of respect for the other party, arguments, thoughts of retaliation, damaged relationships, and more.
Caring is the very foundation of the human spirit. It provides a great service to us as well as others, in part because it helps us to monitor our behaviors. Those who are sensitive to the feelings and needs of others take all matters into consideration before saying or doing anything. They maintain full authenticity without compromising who they are, while still showing respect for those around them. They hold others in the same high regard as themselves.
Let me clarify two critical points: First, caring about what others think does not mean becoming a people-pleaser. It means being aware of and sensitive to how you are being perceived by others while remaining true to yourself. Second, caring and worrying are not synonymous. I have no control over how others feel; therefore there is no cause for worry. Keep in mind, however, that the opinions of everyone we encounter impact our lives on some level. Those who think favorably of us are more likely to be supportive, cooperative, and beneficial in our lives. Those who have a negative assessment can cause us great distress. Ultimately, others have the potential to make our lives more enjoyable or more troublesome.
Caring about ourselves, others, the world, and our relationships is the very heart of our humanity. The world doesn’t need more people who disregard the opinions of others; it needs more who are confident enough to engage emotionally with those around them. In doing so, they may just learn something worthwhile about themselves.
So care, but don’t obsess; monitor yourself without worrying; be authentic while considerate of others. And most importantly, be at ease with your life, yourself, and others.