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Tiny Wisdom: Caring About What Others Think (and Do)

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Growing up I often heard the phrase “You shouldn’t care so much.”

Derivatives of this idea included: So what if they’re talking about you. Who cares what they think? He’s a jerk; why do you care about him? You’re your own person; why do you care about what she’s doing?

I associated the word “care” with stress, because in all these instances, caring meant feeling bad.

It meant being overly worried about someone’s opinion of me, or feeling for someone who didn’t feel for me, or thinking someone was somehow better than me.

I frequently responded, “What kind of person would I be if I didn’t care?”

I also argued that not caring could be a limiting choice.

Sometimes someone else’s criticism contains a valuable lesson. Sometimes someone who seems like a jerk really needs someone to take a chance on him (or her). Sometimes someone else’s choices help us illuminate the path we really want to take.

If we decide to stop caring in all instances that might push and challenge us, we risk closing ourselves off to insights, relationships, and ideas that could change our lives for the better—and potentially do the same for others.

I’ve since realized that the real message isn’t to stop caring, but instead to recognize how we care and why so that we don’t give our power away.

Sometimes we care with love; sometimes we care with fear. Sometimes we care with self-respect; sometimes we care with self-contempt. Sometimes we care with a sense of possibility; sometimes we care with fears of inferiority.

The important thing is that we don’t let caring about people or circumstances detract from our ability to care for ourselves.

A friend of mine recently told me she’s stopped caring about what people expect of her. Knowing that she values those relationships, I concluded that she really meant she stopped stressing about how well she met their expectations.

She essentially decided to stop worrying about things outside her control, and focus instead on all the things that were within her power.

That’s what it means to care for ourselves: to do our best and celebrate that, even as we keep learning and growing.

Photo by Fountain_head

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About Lori Deschene

Tiny Buddha Founder Lori Deschene is the author of the Tiny Wisdom eBook seriesTiny Buddha's Guide to Loving Yourself, and Tiny Buddha: Simple Wisdom for Life's Hard Questions. She's also co-founder of Recreate Your Life Story, an eCourse that helps you change your life. For inspiring posts and wisdom quotes, follow on Twitter & Facebook.

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  • http://twitter.com/Grownupkidsonly Joanna Warwick

    Loved this and a personal journey of mine too: Thanks!
    As an extension of this or I’ve also found I have a choice in accepting what I feel is benficial to my growth, so if that means it feels deep down that I am challenged by critism, but I reflect and check out if there something in it then I can accept it for what it is as a reflection, if it doesnt feel right then I let it go and pass me by.  The same as if I feel someone else praise/adoration etc is truthful I will choose to embrace it… The world as a mirror to my insides:)
    Jo

  • Tyler222

    Beautiful. Thank you :)

  • Lion

    Very much light, thanks!

  • http://motivatedmastery.com/ Paul Jun

    Awesome, Lori. Amazing perspective.

  • Naomiava79

    Love this x

  • http://joshhumble.com/ Josh Humble

    I’ve felt the “who cares what people think” phrase misguided for years, and it’s potentially very dangerous. What we present to the world and how people view us is VERY important. It affects how we relate with friends, family, and coworkers. No, we shouldn’t change with the wind and falsely live our lives for others, but valuable, sometimes, harsh criticism can be important to consider. While the phrase is meant to deter bullies and those with harmful motives, it can block one from growth. It can make one very defensive to any negativity, inflating egos and leading to very bad decisions. 

    Thanks for speaking about this. The phrase needs to be evaluated much more.

  • Jennifer

    Very thought provoking, Lori! I especially like the part about the importance of not giving our power away. I’ll never forget the day I realized I was doing just that by allowing other people to determine my self worth based on the way they looked at me or their reactions to me. It was a major “aha” moment. Not only was this problematic b/c it showed the obvious lack of regard I held for myself, but also because the outcome was not even truth based but a result of my own interpretation!
    I think caring what others think is a natural part of being human — everyone wants to belong and feel loved and paying attention to how others receive us is a natural extension of that.
    I think the thing to be careful of when caring what other people think is how much importance you give it. For instance, I can care what you think of me, but when I allow that to take precedence over how I think about myself, then I’m in trouble.
    Great post – Thanks!

  • http://IrvingsJourney.com/ Irving Podolsky

    I always like your posts because they challenge me to think about your philosophy. And what comes to mind this week, is that “caring” about other people’s opinions can generate at least two mental conditions.

    CARING can mean: giving attention to an idea or action
    CARING can mean: associating a FEELING with an idea or action

    Should we give our attention to everything? We have to be selective about that, don’t we?  And being SELECTIVE is making a decision – and making a DECISION needs attention!

    So I guess the AMOUNT of attention is the crucial factor here. Don’t dwell on anything destructive. See it for what it is and move on.

    And that would also apply to the FEELINGS generated by our attention. Bad feelings, good feelings – some we should hold, some not. When we have our power, dropping BAD feelings is a good decision. And…holding GOOD feelings brightens our glow.

    Attention, attention, attention – the skill of controlling it makes “caring” work for us…or against us.

    Irv

  • Figure8

    Josh,

    Thats the section I qued into as well. What if I’m using “I don’t care what people think” as a shield and excuse NOT to hear…., and miss an opportunity to evolve.

    Obviously you won’t dwell on every criticism, but I think your spirit will bear witness to what it needs to hear.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi Jennifer,

    So true, about our interpretations! I used to interpret everything as a slight or an insult because of my low self-esteem. I am much more mindful of my interpretations these days; and I realize most often, when someone says or does something that causes me concern, it’s not even about me–it’s about them.

    I love what you wrote at the end, about not allowing other people’s opinions to take precedence over your opinion of yourself! =)

    Lori

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    That’s a great point about not dwelling on things that are destructive. I think sometimes we get caught up in reactive emotions (reacting to feelings with more feelings about them) and all this does is keep us stuck. At least that’s what it does for me! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    My thoughts exactly Josh! I think we need to weigh every situation individually to be sure we aren’t disregarding opportunities for growth or undermining our relationships. Of course, when it comes to bullies, as you said, it’s best not to take things to heart!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks Paul. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re welcome Tyler!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    That’s wonderful Joanna! I think that’s the ultimate goal: to be able to discern what’s valuable for us and what’s not. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. =)

  • Olabode Anise

    This was a great post Lori. I am a firm believer in keeping ourselves open to the opportunities around us. You only hurt yourself by not allowing yourself to care about the things that are going around you.

  • http://twitter.com/Grownupkidsonly Joanna Warwick

    Thanks Lori. I feel inspired by this site, so Ive now got my writing hat on and will get it over for the deadline  .. : -)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I’ll look forward to reading your post!

  • Bluventures

    Lori, this is one of my all time favorite quotes. I ran across it almost twenty years ago and it struck a cord that resonated so loud it me it almost knocked me silly. It changed my life forever. It helped me allow myself to let my inner strength come out and live my life the way I wanted to without worrying about what others thought, mostly being my parents. I was, and always have been a free bird so I still did what I thought would make me happy, but this quote is what gave me the strength to do it with confidence. It also helped me walk my own path instead of following, or living along by someone that I greatly admired. I was able to recognize that it was the traits in this person that I saw in myself as one of the main reasons I was so attached to her. We were roommates for several years and during that time I was able to claim those traits as mine as well and it made me a stronger and more independent person. She was like my mirror. As I began to grow as an individual, our friendship became stronger because I then became someone she could draw strength from and look in her mirror as well. We are still great friends to this day. It was this quote that did this for me and a topic that her and I openly discussed for years to come about each other.

    It is the one that I still remind myself of when old, or new, issues with parents come up. I truly believe that it has helped me in so many aspects of my life that it has helped me become the person I am today.

    I find it amazing how one sentence can change your life forever.

    Jacquellyn

  • Bluventures

    Jenifer, giving someone else power over me was exactly what I felt with this quote too. I didn’t express that in my post but it is so true. It was very liberating once I realized it. I’m glad that you liked that too.

    Jacquellyn

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    That’s wonderful Jacquellyn! I’ve had friends like that, as well–people who’ve mirrored my own strengths, and also the weaknesses that could become strengths. As for one sentence changing your life, that’s why I love writing. Words are powerful!

  • http://joshhumble.com/ Josh Humble

    Thank you, Lori and Figure8. Yes, it’s the balance of honestly evaluating feedback, and whether it’s truly helpful, or if it’s coming from bad motives. It seems many philosophies are often misapplied, and I feel it’s important (and intriguing) to get to the philosophy’s core, understanding when and where it’s truly best applied. 

  • Jessica Pope

    Hi Lori,

    “The important thing is that we don’t let caring about people or circumstances detract from our ability to care for ourselves.” Yes! Your post reminds me that caring needs to come from a ground of self-love and self-care, not from a sense of inadequacy or a need for the approval of others.

    Care can be an expression of love and an act of deep emotional intimacy. When I care lovingly and authentically, for reasons consistent with self-love and integrity, I deepen my connection with others. But when my “care” is rooted in fear, or guilt, or social expectations I feel alienated and disconnected from the person I’m “caring” about.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I love what you’ve written Jessica, especially the part about caring lovingly and authentically. That’s the type of care I strive to give, as well. =)

  • Karen

    I like this piece and it made me think of something my mom said when i was a teen ager and way too full of concern what others were thinking – My mom said “You must think you are SO popular that so many people are thinking of you” – It sounds mean, but she didn’t mean it that way, she meant that a lot of the time, people aren’t thinking about you and more times than not, it was my own self-esteem issues as battle with me – As you said, you can care about others and should, but you need to know the right way to care about them and more importantly, yourself

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    My mom said something similar to me!  So many times I believed everything was all about me. It was eye opening to realize how infrequently it was.

  • http://twitter.com/JamieLucid Jamie Alexander

    I agree that you shouldn’t just shut yourself of. Understand why you don’t care. The problem with me was my subconscious cared, even when I told myself I didn’t. That kinda sucks lol

  • http://www.motivation.net.au/quotes/motivational-quotes Teamwork Quotes

    Definitely agree with what you stated. Your
    explanation was certainly the easiest to understand about “Tiny Wisdom: Caring About What Others Think (and Do)”. Thanks and regards…

     

  • Tata red head

    Whoa tiny Buddha,I completely agree. I became so obsessed with what a group of people thought about me, it drove me insane. Anytime I heard them laugh I thought it was about me. That comes from being criticised by them and ridiculed. Yet I realised their insignificant why give them power. It’s best to keep them as the ghosts they are.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    It can definitely drive you crazy if you put too much thought into other people’s opinions. I’ve been there! I try to remember that when someone is acting rude, inconsiderate, judgmental, or thoughtless it really speaks more about where they are in their life than who I am!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I suspect most of us care when we say we don’t. The “I don’t care” is often a defense mechanism to hide from the hurt, but, ironically, that just magnifies it.

  • ritu

    ohhh today i was so thoughtful that should i please people’s expectation from me who even did not even cared for me when i needed them the most.thanks for such an eve opener article…

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome!

  • Hoda

    Jennifer and Lori…thats exactly what happened to me the past few months … I let some guy who wants to take revenge of me to get to me and make me feel less about myself and i was dragged in that trap…but i woke uo finally and stopped him from controlling how i feel about myself… And as one wise friend told me: people are wired always to blame their selves, and its not always about me to be blamed…lots of times its others who get intimidated by achievements and me as a better person and make me feel less by always attacking and making me feel inferior…its their own insecurities…
    Ñthank u Lori for the lovely article and more over the amazing website…

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome Hoda. Your friend does sound wise. =)