Imagine if people only threw in their two cents on you and your life choices when they wanted to give you a high five, a pat on the back and acknowledge that you’re doing your best... Wouldn’t it be nice if when people shouted at you from passing cars they said “I can tell you’re a fantastic person”? Or when you switched on the TV you heard, “BREAKING NEWS: Research has just revealed that 100% of human beings are, in fact, good enough as they are and don’t need to change to be worthy of this life they were given. We strongly urge you to live your life based on your own moral compass and stop listening to the bullshit we’ve been spoon feeding you for years. We sincerely apologise for this cock up. Over to you, Bob, for today’s weather.”
I’m not denying that constructive feedback is a useful tool for developing and ironing out some of our creases, but we’re not talking about that are we? We’re talking about why it's so easy to care so much about what others think about us – their judgments, their opinions, their expectations – hell, even their praises, which we become so reliant on we get the shakes when we’re withdrawing from them. It’s very normal to want everyone to like us, but let’s get real: we don’t like everyone… so why should it matter if not everyone likes us? Don’t get me wrong, I’m spiritual AF, I love everyone – but I’m also human AF and I can’t guarantee I’ll refrain from giving a fool a nipple gripple if they’re spewing stupidity in my direction. So why do we care so much what other people think about us? Why do we want people to like, approve of and admire us, even when we’re boasting about how much of an independent, no-shits-given, woman we are?
Well, first and foremost, we’re human. Shock horror. The secrets been spilled! But unless you’re a robot reading this, we humans are predisposed to reeeeeaaaaaally care what other people think of us. Caring what other people think is an evolutionary must – rejection is death to an infant! And back when we were kickin' around in tribes, if our posse rejected us we were forced to brave the wild on our own which, not only meant more certainty of death, but we didn’t even have cards to play solitaire – boooooring. So caring what other people think is good for our survival. Then, let's add to that all the crap that's been cultured into us about the “appropriate” way to be. We are raised to care what other people think – from not being allowed to wear our tutu and batman tshirt combo to school, to having our faces scrubbed clean so we were presentable, to being inadvertently taught that white lies are more polite than being radically honest about how we feel... I’m sorry Irish dance teacher, I did quit because you were being a cow and, no, I don’t regret telling you that at 9 years old. The way we were raised was intended to make us respectful of others (no one can fault the good intentions), but often as a result we end up oppressing how we feel and scrutinizing ourselves if we can’t live up to the expectations of others or, worse, fitting in. And the thing is… if you actually want to live an amazing, unbounded, kickass life you need to throw away the need to please others and actually start being true to who you really are and what you desperately want for this life.
But why do we REALLY care what others think? I know I gave you a legit reason, but it’s a reason based only in logic and it doesn’t speak to the heart of why we really care, in this day and age, where rejection simply means more time spent trawling through the internet - not certain death. The main reason we care is because we're relying on the approval of others to feel that we are, in fact, worthy, good enough and loved. If we don't truly love ourselves we’re so much more likely to care what others think – we’re not filling our own cup, so to speak, so we rely on others to fill it for us. If your self-worth rests on what others think of you, eventually you’re going to feel like a fraud in your own life – you might look happy and confident to the outside world, but behind that mask you’re constantly checking how many people like your Facebook status or feel mortified when your phone was off all day and no one, not even your mum, tried to get in touch. It will always feel like something is missing. Because the truth is... no one else can make you happy. Yes, they can make you happier, but only you can make yourself happy first - it’s an inside job.
So how can you start making yourself happy? How can you start filling your own cup? Everyone has a unique roadmap, but I extend these bread crumbs to you so that you can get started on your trail to self-assured bliss:
1. Do things simply for the pure enjoyment of doing them. Don’t do or say things just so you’ll get a certain response from others. Don’t start doing yoga just so you can take photos for Instagram while looking zen as shit. Don’t learn another language just so you can sound intelligent or cultured when people ask. If you want to do it, GREAT, but do it because you genuinely want to be immersed in the process. Do things because they’re FUN! Do things that make life feel better for doing them NOW. If you’re waiting for the feedback from others, something will always feel likes it’s missing, because it is… you are too busy trying to see your life through the eyes of others that you completely miss out on the beauty of the present moment. Be here now - it’s the only place life actually happens. Do not wait to receive feedback that you're on the right track. Of course you are sweetie, you're fuckin' fabulous!
2. Approve of yourself first. Are you living up to your own standards? And I don’t mean who you think you’re supposed to be or who people say you should be. But are you living up to your own values and ideals? Do you even know what they are? If not, find out. Right now. Don’t worry about how you should act so people approve of you - get clear on your values and simply BE THEM EVERYWHERE. They don’t have to be all serious either – joy and light-heartedness are major values from me. Seriously… pull my finger... Do not hold someone else’s standards as more important than your own! The thing is, we’re all trying to figure this whole Life thing out. No one’s got their shit completely sorted - it may seem like that’s the case, but it’s not. I know I’m only 26 but, trust me, at the end of your life it won’t matter how many people approved of you but it will definitely matter whether or not you lived a life that was true to who you are and what you desperately wanted for yourself. Take your self-esteem from the fact that you remained true to yourself even, and especially, when it wasn’t easy - not from what others thought of you.
3. Don’t take it personally when people don’t like you or understand you. Not everyone is going to like you, it’s just a statistical fact. The world is made up of all kinds of people and, by default, we like people that are like us or how we’d like to be. You’re just not going to be everyone’s cup of tea and that’s cool. Even people that seem to be universally loved and admired, from Gandhi to Oprah to Bob Saget, have all ruffled some feathers in the name of bringing more love into this world. Don’t take it personally. Not everyone will like you, but an amazing thing happens when you show up in life as you genuinely are: people are able to see you as you actually are and you attract people into your life that genuinely love you for you - not who you try to be.
It is so, so very human that you care what other people think about you. It's so sweet that you want to please others - seriously, what a gem! But please: do you first. Most of the pioneers, artists, inventors and extraordinary folk that lace our history books were probably seen as absolutely weirdos by the rest of the villagers! But thank goodness they cared more about living a life that was true to them over the expectations of others - otherwise we'd still be toiling on a flat earth.
You are not here to please others through your existence - you are here to experience life and extend yourself in all the best ways that are unique to you. You will never make everyone like you but, I promise, if you be yourself (as weird and wonderful as that may be) the right people will show up to cheer you on. There is a place for you in the world as you are. Giiiiiiiiiiiiirl you’ve got this!