One of the greatest skills you can acquire in life is the ability to not care what people think. Once you acquire this skill a world of possibilities opens up to you.
What most people don’t realize is that almost every action you take in life is subconsciously influenced by what you feel other people will think of that action. Status anxiety is a huge problem in modern society. People buy massive houses and brand new cars they can barely afford just so they can post a picture of it on social media. As social creatures, we naturally compare ourselves to others and we want to be better in some way than our peers. So we buy stuff to prove that we’re better and to prove that we’re successful.
Most clothing purchases are made not because we think new clothing will make us happy or satisfied, but instead because we want other people to notice our new clothing and comment on it. Most people buy houses so they can show off their status to their friends and coworkers and prove to their parents that they’re successful. Most people attend concerts and other public events just to take pictures and post them on social media to prove to other people that they live an exciting life.
When we constantly are concerned with what people think of us we no longer control our own actions and ultimately we don’t control our own lives. We are so concerned with what other people think of us that we live life in a way that we think will impress other people. Part of this problem is due in part to the rise of social media in our culture. We are constantly bombarded with updates by people (most of whom we don’t even care about) about exciting events and adventures going on in their lives. This breeds a culture of comparison.
Whether we are aware of it or not, we are constantly comparing our lives with people around us and people we see on social media. Most of this comparison leads to disappointment. This is the nature of comparison. If we consider ourselves better in some way than four out of five of our peers, we will still be disappointed because we naturally focus our attention on people we consider better than ourselves.
Being concerned with what people think of our actions leads us to the following negative behavior:
- Purchasing stuff we don’t need to impress people we don’t care about. This just pushes us further away from financial independence because it increases our expenses.
- Pursuing careers or excessive education just because we are afraid of what people will think of us if we do otherwise
- Being scared to try new activities or step outside our comfort zone because of what people might think of us
To overcome this fear of what people think of us we need to have an important realization: people don’t care about your life as much as you think they do. Read that again. Let that sink in. When you buy a brand new car after you get a brand new job and you post about it on Facebook, people congratulate you and are impressed with you for about two minutes. Until something else pops on Facebook or literally any other activity grabs their attention. Everyone has their own life to live and their own problems, hardships, success, and failures. No one is constantly monitoring your life and your actions. To illustrate this point, think of someone in your life whose opinion you genuinely care about. Maybe it’s a parent or a sibling or a best friend or someone you have a crush on. Whomever it may be, let’s pretend for a moment that we can step in their shoes. Here’s what their schedule might look like:
7:30 – 8 AM: Drive to work
8 A.M. – 4 P.M. : Work
4-4:30 PM: Drive home from work
4:30 – 5:30 PM: Watch TV and eat
5:30 – 5:50 PM: Scroll through Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Tumblr, and Reddit
5:50 – 5:52 PM: Notice a status update from you about a new car you just bought. Comment on your post and congratulate you on your new purchase.
5:52 – 6 PM: Keep scrolling through social media, commenting on friends posts and updates
6-7PM: Go to the gym
7-8PM: Come home and shower and eat
8-8:30PM: Watch TV while scrolling through social media
8:30-9:30: Read a book
9:30-10: Lay in bed scrolling through social media until they fall asleep
Now in this entire day this person whose opinion you are deeply concerned with noticed you and your status update for 2 whole minutes. Then they continued on with the rest of their day. They didn’t sit and stare at your post and think about your life and ponder how you could afford that new car. Maybe they thought about you and your new car for only 30 seconds. Or maybe for five minutes. Or maybe ten. But the point is, they have their own life to live. They aren’t going to spend a significant portion of their day thinking about your life and your actions.
So realize that whatever action you take in life, people don’t care about it nearly as much as you think they do. This skill of not caring about what others think certainly takes time to cultivate. But the more actions you take despite what others may think of you, the more possibilities open up to you.
You will apply to jobs you find meaningful despite the status they may bring. You’ll purchase a house that suits your needs, rather than live in an excessively large place to impress people who really don’t care how big your home is. You’ll try a new hobby even though you’ll be embarrassingly bad at it when you first start because you won’t care what people think of you. You’ll begin to take more actions that align with your values and goals rather than trying to please others. So stop caring what people think.