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Should You Care What People Think About You?

lone wolf

I think every boy in my junior high had this lone wolf shirt.

This is a question I have been asking myself my entire life. “Should I (or do I) care what people think about me?” Every single time I have answered “No” I have been lying.

The motivations for the lies change, however. When I was a surly teenager “I don’t care about anything” was me trying to convince myself that I wasn’t insecure and unsure of myself. In fact, I cared about everything, obsessively. What do they think of me? Do they think I’m ugly? Does this eyebrow ring and these long dreadlocks make me look fat?

It also made me feel like I was the sixth member of the band Korn, who basically took over my worldview during high school. They didn’t care–all their songs said so. I know, I know.

Every single time I get on Facebook, which is happening less and less, I see walls and walls of people proclaiming how fiercely independent they are, how they don’t need anyone’s approval but their own, and so on.

And these statements are put out there for people to approve of, not that their approval would/should mean something to someone who just doesn’t care.

Wanting to be liked

I used to pretend it didn’t matter to me, but it does. It matters less than it used to, which is good, but it still matters. For instance, all of my most popular posts on this blog started with one simple goal: to make myself laugh, smile, or think. They weren’t written with even you-glamorous-you in mind. Wait, don’t go!

I used to use “I don’t care about anything” and “I don’t care what anyone thinks” and “I don’t need to be liked” interchangeably, but they aren’t. Not for me.

It always would have been easy to disprove the idea that I don’t care about anything. My actions have always suggested otherwise. So do everyone else’s. This kind of statement would make my parents roll their eyes so loudly that I could hear their orbital sockets creak.

“I don’t need anyone to like me” was just as dumb. What I see in myself is that once I have proclaimed myself as being this or that, I then feel the need to back that up. The most outspoken people I have ever known are constantly reminding everyone that they’re outspoken. Sometimes they even use those words: “I am outspoken.”

Oh, really? I hadn’t noticed.

Why wouldn’t you want people to like you? If I were to put myself in that box and that was how I saw myself, then I would probably start trying to prove that I didn’t need people to like me. How? I don’t know, but I guess I’d start doing or saying things that would make people hate my company.

Not productive. I can’t see the upside.

Where am I going with this? Right here: in the distant past, whenever I have trumpeted my scorn for the need to belong, or to care, or to be liked, it says the opposite: those are exactly the things that I want.

The older I get, the happier I am with my own company, but I’d never turn down a way to be happier. For me, that usually happens when I’m sharing something with a group, or just enjoying being in a group.

It in no way means that I’m not confident, capable, or devastatingly good looking. I could do without the groups, but I don’t want to. It’s a healthy thing for me to belong, just not to need the identity of the group to feel like I have an identity.

Maybe your experience has been completely different. What say you?


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Iain D March 24, 2011, 10:33 am

    I think being selective about whose opinion you value is more important. If you try and please everyone you will fail. I was in basically the same spot as you in my teens. Now (I’m 26) I’m much more comfortable in my skin, and I’m much more careful about who I listen to.
    Surround yourself with good people and value them, ignore everyone else.

  • Heather March 24, 2011, 5:20 pm

    I wouldn’t say I don’t care whether or not people like me or not, but I do agree with Iain in regard to the selective company. “Liked,” IMHO, is a bit too vague. Perhaps “tolerated” is a better term. But I have found that work is more pleasant when I am pleasant, and I simply avoid unpleasant people. The older I get the more comfortable I get with being me, but part of that is becoming an adult, I reckon. I may not always like everyone, but I can tolerate just about anybody for a wee snippet of time (12 hours, MAXIMUM). I’m one of those blend-in, behind-the-scenes-people who would rather help make something awesome happen than be the center of whatever flavor of attention is boppin’ around the room. I think, too, age and maturity may have more to do with it. But what do I know? I’m only gonna be 40 in a couple months. Just keep it all on the humble and, as Iain also pointed out, hang with good people you genuinely like and who genuinely like you back and ignore everybody else. Just an opinion.

  • Boris March 24, 2011, 9:19 pm

    Great post – very honest and true for me.

    I wanted to tell you that I read “Endgame” recently on your recommendation – loved it.

  • Evan March 25, 2011, 7:20 am

    My father (a buddhist and psychiatrist) has often told me there are 3 distinct phases in life:
    Childhood: I try to be what I think others want me to be
    Adulthood: I try to be want I want to be
    Elderly: I become who I truly am

    Transition points are often confusing times because of the shift in perspective. The first transition is from dependence to independence (often post college, time to find a job). The second transition is from the job world to retirement.

  • Gustavo March 25, 2011, 4:28 pm

    What I have experienced is this:

    To be aware that we all, as children, were given this drug call “appreciation” and “the good opinion of others” was very liberating. It helped me to understand better why we do what we do why do we choose the clothes we wear, the car we buy, the long dreadlocks we nourish, and so on…

    It is not bad to like to be loved. The important part –I think- is this: it is wrong to depend on others to be happy, and when we are not aware of this drug, we are more vulnerable to end up acting like a robot: someone says something nice of me = I’m happy; someone disagrees = I’m sad.

  • Bryce March 26, 2011, 7:10 pm

    I have the same experience as you in the realm of as I get older I seem to care less than I used to. However, I have never met a compliment, kind or boisterous remark, or a pat on the back that I didn’t like. And most the time I liked them a lot!! Good post. Btw, I am outspoken! ha ha

  • Jon April 9, 2011, 7:14 pm

    I care a lot about what people think of me. But the one thing I have to remember is that I do and decide what I want .I have the confidence of taking a stand, whether you love me or hate me. Honestly, I don’t care if you hate me or don’t like me: I only care about you liking me. I’d certainly love to listen to those who don’t like me. I’ve learned to be bothered by it immensely, and then just accept it. Eventually, they start to respect me.

    Feeling respected by those who like you and don’t is integral to respecting yourself. I can learn to live with both (though I’d have more enjoyment with the former). But there are people who don’t respect you or others, and they are just dismissed from my attention and time.