My official personality type is INFJ. It’s supposedly one of the rarest personality types out there. I never knew this growing up; instead, I just classified myself as shy–which I am in certain situations (of note, there’s a difference between being shy and introverted). One of the things that often held me back as a kid was the opinions of others. I overcame this at a young age, but this is something I know many people struggle with.
So here is my take on how to not care what people think.
When I was 12 years old, my family went to a friend’s place for dinner. Of course, I was soon bored with adult conversation and started to read a book I found in their living room. I don’t recall the book’s name or the author, but it contained a bunch of short stories. I started reading one about a young couple.
The girl was diagnosed with cancer, yet the story spoke less of her illness and more about her mindset during her illness. She wanted to experience life as much as possible, and whenever anyone said anything to her about her actions or her behavior or the way she was pursuing her passions, or whenever she felt uncomfortable, she would tell herself, “what do you care what people think?”.
It became a motto between her and her significant other, and the story gave numerous examples of her journey and where she was able to apply it.
How To Not Care What People Think
As a 12-year-old, in the middle of that awkward, weird phase in life where you’re trying to figure yourself out and find your place, that phrase, and those words were eye-opening. I had never thought about approaching life that way before. I immediately wanted to put my newfound advice to use, and anytime anyone questioned me, I would say, “I don’t care what people think.”
Fast Forward To Adulthood
It’s funny how things happen; as I’ve gotten older, I almost feel like I’ve somewhat regressed. It may be partially because I have so much more responsibility in life and at work. It’s hard going day to day sometimes without worrying about what people think, the impression I’m making, or even whether or not my decisions are sound and acceptable.
Overall, I think I’m pretty good at staying true to myself, but sometimes it’s a struggle. However, whenever I get bogged down in these thoughts, I think about 12-year-old me and that book and that phrase.
I remind myself that what people think has no bearing on who I am or what I’m capable of. Plus, it ultimately doesn’t matter because they aren’t me, and they aren’t in my shoes.
The Book on “Presence”
I once read a book called “Presence.” It brings up some interesting points on what it means to be fully present. One definition is being fully confident without arrogance. Another is synchronizing all your senses, meaning they all work together to convey the same message. Yet another is not getting caught up in the anxiety of what people think.
With the last one, the author counters it with the idea that you have to focus on what you’re saying and say it with full confidence, passion, and belief. Doing so gives off the impression of being truthful and trustworthy. In effect, your full presence of mind on what you’re doing and saying, versus being bogged down by what others are thinking, works to give you the benefit of exuding confidence and not having regrets.
(This is the book if you’re interested!)
In other words, not caring what people think makes you more fully you at that moment.
What Do You Think
Too often, we are so stuck on what other people think that we forget to take the time to figure out our own opinions. The more you know about yourself, your thoughts, ideas, and preferences, the better you are to make decisions, stand up for yourself, and exude the confidence we all want.
Knowing who you are and drowning out the external noise is one method of being present in the moment. Another is to practice mindfulness. In other words, pay attention to where you are and what you’re doing at each moment and practice not letting your mind wander.
Train yourself not to think about something unless you have to; give yourself a break from the stress and anxiety of figuring out the unknown or trying to solve something you can’t control.
I’m also terrible at this, and I know it’s something I need to work on. However, knowing your weaknesses allows you to work on them!
Let Go Of What You Can’t Control
When I look around at the people I interact with every day, we all want some modicum of control over our lives and some control over the outcomes we want. Yet, all we can truly control is our decisions and the thoughts we allow ourselves to have.
I spoke with my therapist about this, and she advised me this:
just interrupt yourself when you start to make assumptions, jump to conclusions, or blame yourself for an outcome you didn’t want.
We have no control over what people think, so instead of worrying about that, we need to focus on how we feel, how we react, and what we will do to deal with whatever situation we are in.
I know that all of this is easier said than done, but it’s worth sending out this friendly reminder.
What people think doesn’t matter and shouldn’t affect how you live your life. In the same way, you can’t control what they think and should only focus on what you can control. By shifting focus, you can be fully present and hopefully become the best version of yourself that you can be.