I’ve always wished I could be one of those people who doesn’t care about what others think of me.
I’m not talking about the person who claims they don’t care but proceeds to passively-aggressively post-Minion-themed quotes like ‘If you can’t accept me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best’ until the person notices them. I mean a genuine, ‘no sweat off my back’ attitude about the opinion of others.
But instead, I care a lot. Too much, some would say.
Store salesperson gives me a funny look? I’ll ruminate about it for hours. Uber rating dropped below 4.8? You best believe I’m mentally flicking through my last 10 uber rides to pinpoint any potential ‘less than 5 stars worthy’ behaviour. Someone I haven’t spoken to in three years deletes me off Facebook? Maybe it was something I said, or I forgot their birthday, or I posted one too many promo posts about my business? I need to know!
“But why do you care?” my partner will ask me, exasperated after I’ve spent the last 20 minutes rattling off potential explanations behind the person’s clear vendetta. “It’s not like you’re ever going to see them again!”
Easy for him to say, I always think. He’s the type of laidback Aussie bloke who has never had anyone dislike him in his life and who only needs to utter “Hey mate, how’s ya night?” to maintain a perfect, 5-star Uber rating.
My partner does have a point, though. Why do I care so much about the opinions of others who quite frankly, I don’t care much about?
Well, as I always explain to him, it has very little to do with that person and everything to do with me. When one person clearly isn’t picking up what I’m putting down, it makes me question whether everyone feels that way.
It has less to do with questioning my own self-worth (I’ve done enough work to know that doesn’t depend on the opinions of others), and more to do with wondering how I’m perceived. Am I coming across as too arrogant? Too shy? Not friendly enough? Too friendly? If anything, it makes me question my own judgement.
Plus, as I’ve learned in the social psychology modules of my psych degree, it’s human nature to want others to like us. Back in early civilisation, if people weren’t accepted by their tribe, they had a much greater chance of starving to death or being eaten by a lion. Or, they might be killed by the very tribe that rejected them. Naturally, those who were accepted were more likely to survive.
Couple this evolutionary trait with our modern, validation-based digital society and it’s no surprise that we all want to be liked and accepted.
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So, as much as motivational speakers may try to tell us that we should give zero effs about the opinions of others, it’s normal. But, as I’ve learned, just because something is normal, doesn’t mean it’s useful. Is obsessing over the opinion of someone I met working in a burger shop 12 years ago the most productive use of my time and energy? Probably not!
The truth is, I’m a sensitive soul and a people-pleaser by nature. It’s probably not realistic for me to ever have Ron Swanson levels of DGAF. But, for the sake of my own mental health and energy, I’ve devised a set of criteria I use to assess whether to take other people’s opinions on boards. These are:
Do I actually know this person’s opinion of me?
As my partner often says, “other peoples’ opinions of me are none of my business”. And, it’s true. More often than not, we don’t actually know exactly how others feel about us. We’re basing it on a hunch, an eye roll, an unfriending, or even them just not commenting on our Instagram post.
But 99 per cent of the time, it has very little to do with us, and more to do with what’s going on in their lives. And plus, when someone doesn’t like us, it can also be due to reasons outside of our control — maybe your face reminds them of Sally, that little biatch who pulled on their braids in primary school.
There have been so many times where I’ve assumed people hated me, only to discover that they’re actually just shy, have social anxiety, or are just like that with everyone.
So, unless someone has explicitly told me to my face “I don’t like you”, I now try not to assume the opposite.
Do I like this person?
It’s very rarely the people who I think “wow, I’d like to be friends with them” that I get bad vibes from. More often than not, it’s the people who aren’t really someone I’d like to hang out with, anyway.
So, what does it matter what they think of me?
More often that not, in these situations, it’s not because anyone’s actually done anything wrong — you just don’t vibe. And, I’ve learned, that’s okay.
I say this about creative work, but it also applies to everyday life — if you’re for everyone, then really you’re for nobody.
Do I respect their opinion?
There’s a quote attributed to Kelly Clarkson that goes “don’t take advice from anyone you wouldn’t trade places with.” I think this also applies to taking on people’s opinions in general.
If I respect someone, believe they have sound judgement, and they’re where I want to be in life, then I’m more likely to be receptive to what they think of me. But, if they’re not someone I particularly respect, then why should their opinion be of consequence to me?
This is something I’ve had to really practice when it comes to reading my book reviews. If someone who has never written a book, who leaves 2-star reviews on everything and can’t spell to save their own life leaves me an unfavourable review, I try to ask myself — well, is this really who I would want to take guidance from? But, if it’s an industry colleague with more experience giving constructive criticism, I’m all ears.
Will this person’s opinion of me affect my life in any way?
There are some situations where it’s not necessarily that the person is where I want to be in life, but more that I’m inevitably going to have to deal with them in my everyday life. Think a relative, colleague, client or neighbour.
In this scenario, I don’t need to take on their opinion on board as fact, but I do need to find ways for us to get on and keep the peace — for both of our sakes, and the people around us.
Have I hurt this person in some way?
There are some situations that call for genuinely assessing and analysing your own behaviour. Say, someone is wary of me because I’ve inadvertently said something hurtful and offensive.
Regardless of whether or not that was the intention, I’m going to take stock of my behaviour. Because, as much as I’ll probably never be a ‘zero effs given’ person, I’d prefer to save my effs for things that actually matter — like being kind and considerate to others.
This article was written by Emma Norris and originally published on A Girl In Progress.