We always hear the saying, “Don’t worry about what other people think.” But, what if what they think is good stuff? What if they see something in you that you do not yet see in yourself? Maybe we should care what people think of us. Maybe it can help us grow and be better versions of ourselves.
We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others that in the end we become disguised to ourselves. – La Rouchefoucauld
I was on the phone with my lovely mother. She is the most supportive, encouraging person in my life. She is also very honest; so, if I am messing up, she will be sure to tell me promptly. (My mother is my most favorite type of friend – fun, open, and supportive without sugar-coating anything. She is very real.)
I told my mom that I was a scaredy-cat for not riding my bike to the grocery store. The varying street grade and the unfriendly vehicles make me very nervous.
My mother immediately corrected me. She said, “I would never in a million years think of you as a scaredy-cat.”
To which I replied, “Really? I think I’m a HUGE scaredy-cat! I mean, I’m scared to ride my bike to the store for goodness sake!”
My mother assured me, “Rach, all the things that you do amaze me. You dive 100 feet deep in the ocean, you hike around on dangerous cliffs, you jumped out of a plane, you moved to Hawaii.”
“Yes, but I was terrified the whole time!”
“And yet you did it all anyways. You might be apprehensive about riding your bike on busy streets without bike lanes because it’s dangerous (which makes me so happy because I know you won’t do anything stupid), but that doesn’t make you a scaredy-cat.”
I thought about that for a while. For as long as I can remember, I have been afraid of everything. And I mean everything. I also have been typically excited about everything (and I mean everything). So, I suppose that when my excitement trumps my fear, I end up doing some really cool stuff. But I would not have realized this about myself unless my mother had told me.
She also used the word “apprehensive” to describe my feelings instead of the more derogatory term “scaredy-cat”. I was basically putting myself down by calling myself a scaredy-cat. (I also called my self silly, ridiculous, etc.) I realized that using the word “apprehensive” not only made me feel less ridiculous, but it also made me feel justified for my hesitation. So, I decided that using bigger, more intelligent-sounding words to describe my fears and anxieties might actually help me get over them more effectively. (Okay, I guess that’s pretty ridiculous…)
I’ve finally stopped running away from myself. Who else is there better to be?
– Goldie Hawn
I think that it is important to hear what other people have to say about us. We do not have to find value in all of it, but there are plenty of opinions that might help us think better of ourselves or put who we are into perspective.
We are so paranoid that other people talking negatively about us, and we rarely consider that they might actually be saying something good.
I can image that there are some people saying negative things about me; and I am pretty sure I know what those negative things are. I have put my foot in my mouth so many times. I blurted out plenty of comments that were inappropriate and made me look really, really bad. I held facial expressions that communicated thoughts I meant to keep to myself. I had days where I just did not care to be nice to people. I had days of pure jealousy, greed, and selfishness. Essentially, my past contains a boat-load of moments that do not reflect the best of me. And those are the things I assume everyone is talking about.
In reality, I highly doubt anyone is focusing their thoughts on all the stupid stuff I did. Why? Because they are all focusing their thoughts on the stupid stuff they did! It is more likely that when my name comes up in conversation people talk about how I live in Hawaii or have a website or will be back in Ohio for a wedding later this year. It is narcissistic to assume everyone is talking about me, and it is inaccurate to assume everything they say is bad stuff.
I don’t care what you think about me. I don’t think about you at all. – Coco Chanel
Maybe we should open our ears to what our friends and family really think of us. If it is bad stuff, chances are we already know it all. But if it is good stuff, we might be completely unaware how great people think we are. People probably have really nice things to say about our personality, our courage, persistence; that we are funny or easy to talk to; how much they like the way we dress, etc.
Don’t believe me? Just think of your friends. What kinds of things come to mind when you think of the people you hang out with or work with? Do you immediately go gloom-and-doom and head straight for all the stuff you cannot stand about those people? Probably not. Instead, you probably conjure up some positive traits that you like about those people. And chances are that those people do the same when thinking about you.
What do you want people to say about you? Do you want them to talk about how rich you are? How many cars you own? Do you want them to talk about your bad attitude and selfish nature? Do you want people to immediately think of your sense of humor and light-heartedness? Maybe you would rather people say that you are giving and kind. Maybe you want people to always remember how strong and daring you are.
Regardless of what you want people to say about you, they are going to say whatever they are going to say. Your job is to figure out how you want other people to view you and then measure that against how they actually view you. Maybe the way people talk about you is an indicator that you have some personal growth and maturing to do. Perhaps the way they talk is evidence that you are not representing yourself the way you actually are. Maybe you are not being genuine.
And maybe, just maybe, the things people say about you will lift you up. Maybe hearing the way they talk will brighten your spirits and make you realize how wonderful and valuable you are. Maybe people see something good in you that you never before considered. So, maybe you should care about what people think about you. It might just make a better you.
(photo credit: francisco_osorio via photopin cc)
I realize I have to be careful what I say here so people will take it seriously and not just from a chest-thumping oh so proud mom. I love how you take the time to reflect and then try to use it positively for yourself and others. Sometimes I think you are insightful beyond your years. I don’t always agree with some of your choices because I fear for your safety (and sanity), but I trust God will protect you. Good article thanks for sharing.
Thank you, always, for your encouragement! I am a very proud daughter and so fortunate to have you as a mother!
What wonderful words! I want you to know that your Aunt Ethel was one of my most dearest friends and I love your Mom and knew and loved your Grandma too. You come from a line of marvelous women and you represent them very, very well. I happen to agree with what you wrote…I care very much what the people I care the most abut think of me…maybe not everyone out there. Love to you!
Hi, Neicie! Thank you for the kind words, and I am so aware of the magnificent lineage of women I come from – they all continue to inspire and guide me every day. And you make a great point about caring what “most” people think, but “maybe not everyone out there.” We can find value in what people say or not. It’s really up to us to judge whether their opinions matter. Thanks for commenting!
Rachel, I am proud to say your mother is my friend. She told me about your site. What you wrote is EXACTLY what I needed to hear this week! So well written. Thank you!!
Hi, Deana! Thank you for commenting! I am so glad that the article is useful for you. I hope the week is turning out well!
Love it, Rach! It is important for our sanity that we move through our lives with a positive outlook, especially when it comes to other people. This article is a fantastic reminder that people in general can be supportive and uplifting.
Thanks, Annie! I completely agree with you. We can get so focused on tackling life by ourselves that we forget to turn to friends and family for extra support. Thank you for contributing!
Hi, Suzie! Thanks for commenting! Hope all is well over at well-woman.org!