When did the battle begin for you?
You know what battle I mean, don’t you?
Hint: It’s in the title of this post.
When did what other people think of you become something you cared about? When did what other people think of you become something you wished you didn’t care about? And when did you start to actively attempt not to care about what others think of you?
Why do you want to not care about what others think about and of you?
If you’re impatient, and only clicked on this post because you want to know – How to really not care about what people think of you – here’s the not so simple as it may sound answer:
I love the above quote (and yes, Martha Graham isn’t the only one to have said this – if you search online for this quote you’ll find many different people, including anonymous, claiming it as their own, because when a human understands something it’s like the first time something has been understood – cue them sharing it as though they’re the smartest person on the planet, and maybe bottling it and selling it to others). When I first came across it I had one of those AHA! moments. That’s it! It’s so simple! Why didn’t I think of this!?
When I came across this quote I’d been struggling with this battle ever since… before I was born. That’s the problem with this kind of problem. Most of us get this hot potato of a conundrum handed down to us from our parents (and society), and they most likely had it passed onto them from their parents (and their society) who… you know where I’m going with this, right (if you don’t, check out – This Be The Verse by Philip Larkin).
The battle starts long before we started (if you believe in reincarnation, then where you started may be harder to pin down, and when you got caught up in this battle could be many lives ago).
And since most of us can’t recall our early years… the ones where what people thought of us decided our fate, our survival, our levels of effed-up-ness…
Did they think we were cute enough to keep, to feed, to change our nappies, to put up with our screaming when they hadn’t had any sleep, were stressed, depressed, and felt all alone even if they were part of a couple dealing with all these terrifying caring for a new life responsibilities?
Did mommy and daddy want baby? If yes, what did their want for baby mean for them and was it connected to what people thought of them? Were they doing the baby-having thing to appease and please their parents and/or society – You should have a baby! You must procreate for the survival of the species! You must do your duty! You should pass the family name on!
DNA, like one of those parasites which takes over control of its victim, wants to be passed on, does not want to die out: “I’m special,” says DNA, “this specialness is something I’ve worked on for generations, I’ve suffered through many mutations and transformations for this, and this must live on and on and on because progress, evolution, and stuff!”
While – what others think of us is none of our business – could do the trick of making us finally not care about what people think of us, there is a flaw in that solution…
There’s always a ‘but’… (an interesting perspective on this can be found in Games People Play by Eric Berne and the ‘Why Don’t You – Yes But’ game)
While we may not want to care about what others think of us, and we may fantasise about how relaxing and liberating the experience of not caring about what others think of us may be… we usually want others to care about what we think of them.
So… let’s get this straight and clear and out in the open to avoid misunderstandings (let’s pretend misunderstandings can be avoided).
We don’t want to care about what others think of us because that’s a huge pain in the ass for us, however we do expect others to care about what we think of them… because when they don’t that’s a huge pain in the ass for us.
If you really and truly want to know – How to really not care about what people think of you – then you need to give to others what you want = Don’t expect others to care about what you think of them.
In other words – What you think of others is your business, not the business of those others you’re having thoughts about, thinking things about.
Your problem with others is your problem not theirs, because it’s bothering you… of course, because it bothers you, you’ll probably end up bothering them about it, and that’s when your problem becomes their problem.
The same thing happens in reverse. When someone else is bothered by their thoughts about us, they usually end up bothering us about it and then their problem becomes our problem.
Other people are just like us…
They’d like not to care about what we think of them, they’d like to be free to be who they are as they are, to say and do what they truly want to say and do (or so they tell themselves like we tell ourselves the same thing), but…
They feel hampered by us and our thoughts of them (or the thoughts they have decided we’re having of them, what they think we’re thinking about them… the fact that we’re probably not thinking about them at all other than thinking about what we think they’re thinking about us might hurt them, even though they’re not thinking about us as much as we think that they do, because they’re thinking about themselves instead, they’re thinking about us thinking of them instead).
They’re certain we’re going to judge them, be offended by them, react badly, not like them, hate them, make our displeasure their problem to solve for us…
And in their effort to control our reaction to them, they end up controlling themselves, what they say and do, and then they blame us for what they’re doing to themselves, and what they end up doing to others because that is being done to them and they don’t see why they should be the only ones to suffer like that.
That’s what we do too…
So we’re all effed and effing each other because we’re effed and being effed with because others are effed and being effed with by us and others…
STOP! I want to get off the ride!!!!
We all want to get off this ride at some point… the desire to get off the ride increases with age (because you go around and around on the vicious cycle ride more and more), and tends to peak during the Midlife Crisis years (when you get to have your almost sanctioned by society psychotic break of sorts from life and its vicious cycles).
Whether we actually manage to get off the ride (stop the battle) depends a lot on whether we truly want off the ride or not (as long as we’re aiming to win or feel like we’re losing… we’re stuck in the cycles of the battle, so the battle battles on) – the pros of being on it may outweigh the cons of it, it may require too much from us to get off (are we really ready to give up thinking others should care about what we think of them for the sake of us not wanting to care about what others think of us), we may be too stuck in our uncomfortable comfort zone…
or we may do something drastic which doesn’t actually solve anything, because we’re running away rather than dealing with the real issue – what’s the real issue?
For me, the real issue was me.
For me, the real issue didn’t get solved as long as I was convinced that the real issue was others.
(for those who like astrology – I have North Node in Aries in the 7th house conjunct Chiron in opposition to Uranus/Jupiter/South Node conjunct… which is basically a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t so what will you do? Are you sure about doing that? Are you really really sure? Let’s not do it… but what if we should have done it!? Seesaw Margery Daw Johnny shall have a new master…)
If something is affecting you – it’s you not others, even when what’s affecting you is others.
We’re not affected by others when we don’t have an issue with something, we’re only affected by them when we do have an issue with something.
Think of all the things which others say and do with which you don’t have an issue. I know, that’s hard to do because those are the things we don’t notice because they’re not something we care about, they don’t bother us.
If we do notice them, it’s usually because someone else has an issue with it and they draw our attention to it… and we may wonder why they have an issue with something that to us seems irrelevant. We may even say something insensitive to the person who is troubled by something that doesn’t trouble us because… wtf is their problem, lighten up, shrug it off… we love it when people say that to us when we’ve got an issue with something they think is irrelevant.
And sometimes we’re insensitive towards others who are suffering from the issues we’re also suffering from.
For instance, a friend showed me a post on Facebook which a friend of theirs had shared and had a rant about. The basics of it were – a woman (whom neither my friend or their friend knew personally) had posted a couple of selfies online with some words about how anxious she was being on a train. She looked poised in the selfies – and that was a problem for my friend’s friend who felt that this woman didn’t look like she knew real anxiety and how dare she do and say what she did!!!
It’s wound wars 101 = no one knows real suffering except you.
In this case my friend’s friend thought they were the expert on anxiety, and they had judged this woman as not suffering from anxiety (mainly based on her selfies – or at least how my friend’s friend judged her appearance in those selfies) therefore how dare she use the word! In this person’s eyes she was making a mockery of a serious condition.
Most of the people I know who suffer from anxiety (and that includes me, and the friend who showed me their friend’s post on Facebook) don’t look like they’re as anxious as they feel when having an anxiety attack. In fact most people who suffer from anxiety work hard to hide it and do a pretty good job of hiding it. They have coping mechanisms in place to deal with it – including perhaps taking selfies of yourself looking poised (maybe seeing yourself that way calms you) and mentioning how anxious you are to be doing what you’re doing (saying it takes some of the power of it away and releases you from the grip of it).
People looking at you from the outside in won’t necessarily see your insides. Because they don’t want to see them. Because you’re doing your best not to show that mess. Because it’s your business… and while you’d like for others to care about you and your business, you would also like for others to mind their own business.
If you don’t want to care about the opinions of others… just don’t do it.
And see what happens next…
If you’re human… at some point you’re going to care whether you want to or not, whether you tell yourself not to because caring hurts and you want to stop hurting.
Being human hurts… with some pauses along the way when it doesn’t hurt, when the hurt gets soothed, when you take a break and life feels kind of good for a bit.