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?