I’m an introvert. My official personality type, the last time I took the test, is INFJ. It’s supposedly one of the rarest personality types out there. I never knew what my personality type was growing up though; instead, I just classified myself as shy (which I kind of am in certain situations). Of note, there’s a difference in being shy and being introverted, however, not knowing what was what when I was younger, I just hated the fact that I always felt awkward in situations. The biggest thing holding me back was the thought “what will people think”.
The game-changer for me happened when I was 12. We went to family friends place for dinner and I found a book that they had. Of course, I was bored with adult conversation and started to read it. I don’t recall the name of the book or the author, but it was comprised of a bunch of short stories. The one I started reading was about a young couple and the girl ended up getting cancer. Her journey with the illness wasn’t explored so much as 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 went on to give numerous examples of her journey and where she was able to apply it.
What do you 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 new found advice to use and anytime anyone questioned me, I would say “I don’t care what people think”.
Fast forward to adulting
It’s funny how things happen; as I’ve gotten older, I almost feel like I’ve regressed a little bit. 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 or 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. Whenever I find myself getting bogged down in these thoughts, however, 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’m currently reading a book called “Presence“. I’ve just begun, but it has already brought up some interesting points on what it means to be fully present. Some of the definitions it explores are being fully confident, without arrogance; having all your senses in synchrony, meaning they all are working together to convey the same message, and not getting caught up in the anxiety of what people think or the impression you’re making.
With the last one, the author counters it with the idea that you have to focus on what you’re saying and saying it with full confidence, passion, and belief. When you do that you will have given 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 people think, that we forget to take the time to figure out our own opinions. The more you know about yourself, your thoughts, your ideas, your preferences, the better able you are to make decisions, stand up for yourself, and exude that confidence we are all looking for.
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 to not think about something unless you absolutely have to; give yourself a break from the stress and anxiety of trying to figure out the unknown or trying to solve something you can’t control.
To be fair, I’m 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
This is another thing I’m not great at. 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 the decisions we make and the thoughts we allow ourselves to have.
I was just speaking with my therapist about this, and she advised me this: just interrupt yourself when you start to make assumptions or 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 just focus on how we feel, how we react and what we are going to do to deal with whatever situation we are given.
I know that all of this is easier said than done. But I got a reminder of all of this just recently, and I wanted to send the same out to everyone.
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 are able to control. By shifting focus you can be fully present and hopefully become the best version of yourself that you can be.
Sanjana is a physician anesthesiologist, avid traveler, and entrepreneur. She founded The Female Professional in order to give women a voice, a community, and provide resources to help them overcome hurdles and achieve success. With her experiences as a physician, as a CEO of a startup, and as a writer, she understands the struggles and frustrations that women face. She also understands what it takes to move past those things and come out on top. Through this platform, Sanjana aims to empower women to be their best, authentic, selves, achieve work/life balance, and live life to the fullest.