Caring what others think of you is a weakness that will ruin your life.
Mother nature is often forgiving of your failures and mistakes but she never forgives you for your weaknesses.
Unfortunately, neither your biological wiring nor your societal conditioning is on your side. You are biologically and socially compelled to care a great deal about what others think of you.
Weaknesses don’t cure themselves. Since you are the one who pays the price for your weaknesses, it’s your responsibility to fix them. No one else cares.
The good news is that while mother nature always finds ways to punish weakness, she also always finds ways to reward strength.
Not caring about what others think is a superpower that only a select few possess. Mother nature richly rewards these people.
In this article, we will discuss the ways to develop this superpower.
Before we can do that we must first look at the dangers of caring what others think of you and understand the reasons why you are compelled to care.
The Dangers of Caring What Others Think Of You
1. You Live The Life Others Expect Of You, Not The Life You Want To Live
Caring about what others think of you compels you to conform to the expectations of others of you, which means you must sacrifice your own wants and needs in favor of their wants and needs.
Most people blindly follow the classic life script of “go to school – get a job – pay your taxes – get married – have kids – waste your life trying to keep up with the Joneses – get sick – die.”
They are taught this is the right way to live and most people don’t even stop to question the validity of this tired script. No wonder the world is filled to the brim with people who did everything right and ended up miserable.
What they never realize is that doing what others expect of you is a recipe for desperation since other people rarely have your best interests at heart, if ever.
Even your parents have their own interests they put above your interests and you can’t even blame them. Humans are inherently selfish. Unless you put it to a stop, they’ll demand you to live the life they want, not the life you want.
From your childhood on, you are nudged into familiar behavior patterns by your parents, teachers, and society in general because they have a vested interest in rasping your edges and fitting you into familiar categories so that you become predictable.
The school curriculum is engineered towards fitting you into the category of a “model citizen” since the government has a vested interest in rendering you a docile, obedient sheep so that you follow orders, pay your taxes and never rock the boat. Outliers are expensive to control and difficult to exploit.
This double attack on your individuality takes its toll on you long before you reach adult age.
Ask pre-school kids what they want to be when they grow up and you’ll be amazed by their aspirations. Ask them the same question when they are 18 and you’ll see most of their aspirations are long gone.
By the time you are 18, you’ve not only learned how to conform but you’ve also become conditioned to fear making mistakes, failing, or taking risks.
When you were a kid, you didn’t care what others thought of you. You didn’t fear failure. You didn’t care if others laughed at your mistakes.
When you were learning how to walk, you fell to the ground many times until you finally got it right. When you were learning how to talk, you butchered the words and grammar until you finally got it right.
By the time you’re an adult, you become self-conscious. You become timid. Since mistakes, failures, rejections, and risks are indispensable parts of success, your growth becomes severely stunted. You settle for the average existence that your parents, teachers, society, and the government set you up for.
2. Caring What Others Think Of You Ruins Your Relationships
Caring what others think of you ruins your relationships in two ways:
- You become a people pleaser who prioritizes the needs of others over your own,
- You fail to set boundaries.
Prioritizing the needs of others over your own needs makes it impossible for your needs to be met.
Failing to set boundaries renders you a doormat no one respects.
3. Caring What Others Think Causes You To Waste Your Time And Energy Seeking Approval
Seeking approval is a losing game no matter whether you get the approval you seek or not.
If you fail to get the approval you seek, you’ll be frustrated. You’ll hate yourself as well as others who refuse to grant you the approval you seek.
However, the real danger is in getting the approval you seek.
Because once you get the approval you seek, you no longer bother to improve yourself. You stop growing. You are already approved so why take risks, endure the boredom of slow growth, or endanger the approval you already have?
One only has to look at social media to see the plight of approval seekers. Social media is a cesspool of insecure, loser normies who virtue signal to “earn” the approval of others so that they can feel a semblance of pride.
Winning the approval of strangers, most of whom are losers, isn’t a substitute for real-life achievement, recognition, and reputation. It’s nothing but a waste of time.
4. Caring What Others Think Of You Renders You Vulnerable To Manipulation
The world is a nasty place filled with predators. As we’ve already talked about, caring about what others think is a weakness. Predators can smell weakness from a mile and exploit your need for approval and validation.
They easily manipulate you by holding you hostage to their approval. You become easy to control. They play you like a fiddle and laugh behind your back. They intimidate you. You end up doing what they ask of you if it means you gain their approval or avoid their disapproval.
Blaming the manipulators is pointless because these people will always continue to exist as long as life goes on.
Look, everybody competes for the same resources the world has to offer. There are people who engage in illegal stuff just to get ahead. If there are people who are willing to risk jail time just to get ahead, what makes you think that there will not be people who resort to entirely legal strategies such as manipulation if it means they get ahead and you are left behind?
In fact, if you were able to get away with just their manipulation you’d have gotten off easy. It gets worse. Caring what others think of you not only attracts manipulators into your life but also repels the kind of people you want to attract into your life.
When decent people are repelled by your neediness, you’ll be even more vulnerable to manipulation of predators because they will be the only people you’ll be left with.
5. Caring What Others Think Of You Leads To Resentment And Bitterness
Other people have their own lives, problems, and worries. It’s not their job to validate you or grant you the approval you seek.
However, approval seekers feel entitled to be the validation and approval they crave which leads to resentment in the likely case that they fail to get what they want.
Resentment and bitterness can also lead to checking out from society altogether and becoming a recluse. Escaping is still caring. If you really didn’t care you’d be indifferent.
6. Caring What Others Think Of You Severely Limits Your Freedom
Caring what others think of you leads to asking for permission, fear of judgment, and becoming a “good citizen”, all of which severely limit your freedom.
From your childhood on, you’re conditioned to ask for permission for the banalest of your wants and needs. At school, you even had to ask for permission to go to the toilet.
While this is where society and the government want you to be, it’s not where you want to be.
Asking for permission sentences you to a mediocre life where others imprison you into conventional boundaries.
Moreover, caring what others think of you prevents you from doing the simplest of things you want to do for the fear of being judged.
Maybe you can’t go out alone for the fear of being labeled a loser who doesn’t have friends. Maybe you put up with toxic partners for the fear of being labeled a loser who can’t find anyone for a relationship. Maybe you get married so that you aren’t labeled a loser who still didn’t get married despite being past socially acceptable marriage age.
Last but not least, caring about what others think of you can make you want to be a “good citizen”. You pay premium taxes for no tangible benefits in return. You don’t leave your country no matter how much the government abuses you. You quietly watch your country getting looted by the ruling class and dream of fighting them off instead of seeking ways to go somewhere else you can escape their tyranny and thrive.
Why Do We Care About What Others Think Of Us?
In order to stop caring about what others think of you, it pays to first understand why you care.
We are all subject to the same reasons that compel us to care about what others think of us.
These reasons can be grouped into two categories:
- Biological reasons
- Societal reasons
1. Biological Reasons Why You Care What Others Think Of You
The root of all human behavior can be traced back to our innate desire for survival and reproduction. We want to first survive then reproduce. Survival and reproductive success ensure our species doesn’t go extinct.
Human nature was formed when we used to live in small tribes. Our status within the tribe and what other members of the tribe thought of us used to matter a great deal for our survival and reproductive success.
High status in the social hierarchy of the tribe and gaining the social approval of tribe members translated into better chances of survival and more mating options for reproduction.
Losing social approval of the tribe members, on the other hand, could lead to ostracisation from the tribe which usually resulted in death in the jungle. This is why women care more about what others think of them than men. Women are physically weaker than men so they were less able to defend themselves against predators in case of an ostracisation from the tribe.
Lower social status in the tribe meant not being able to find desirable partners to reproduce. This is why men are more interested in status than women. While women usually have no trouble mating with higher status partners, men are out of luck if their status doesn’t at least match the status of the female they want to reproduce with.
Our deep-seated need to belong and conform is rooted in our fear of ostracisation. Our deep-seated desire for social approval can be traced back to our desire to reproduce.
These are the biological reasons why we are hardwired to care a great deal about what others think of us. Although we no longer live in tribes, human nature didn’t change much. We still operate by the same instincts so modern humans still instinctively keep seeking approval, validation, and status.
Caring about the opinions of other members of the tribe made perfect sense because tribes are small and everyone knew each other. The approval or disapproval of the tribe members had real-life consequences.
Since we no longer live in tribes, what most people think of us no longer has any consequences at all. Not only you won’t be ostracised and die in the jungle but you also have no shortage of people to reproduce with.
In most cases, caring about what others think of us no longer makes sense as we live in larger societies. Once it helped us to survive and reproduce but now it hurts our chances of survival and reproduction.
If we insist on living by our ancient genetic conditioning we’ll be harmed in ways we’ve outlined in the previous section.
2. Societal Reasons Why You Care What Others Think Of You
Your parents want you to be predictable. They are risk-averse. Most parents want their children to follow the supposedly safe scripted route we’ve previously talked about.
The government wants you to obey and follow orders. They want good citizens who are easy to control. A model citizen obeys the authorities, never questions them, follows orders, pays taxes, and dies. Outliers are expensive to control. The government doesn’t want that.
All human societies have unwritten rules required to maintain social order. You are often expected to sacrifice your own well-being in favor of the greater good.
All of these power centers have a great gravitational pull to nudge you into behaving in a way they benefit from you at your expense. Most people lack the strength to stand up to them.
How To Stop Caring What Others Think Of You
You’ll never entirely stop caring what others think of you nor you need to. After all, you don’t want to be a recluse.
What you want is to stop caring about the opinions of people who don’t matter.
Just like a balloon soars when it drops the dead weight, you’ll soar when you set yourself free from the shackles of people and institutions that either harm you or don’t matter at all.
1. Elevate Your Status
The surest way to stop caring about the opinions of most people is to elevate your status.
Because, while you are biologically hardwired to care about the opinions of others, you are also biologically hardwired to ignore the opinions of people of lower status. Use this biological conditioning to your advantage.
Here’s how it works.
Humans organize themselves in status hierarchies. Your brain has a subconscious mechanism that tracks your status in your social environment. Since this is an involuntary mechanism, you can’t stop it at will, nor you need to.
The higher is your status, the fewer is the number of people you care about. Also, it should go without saying that improving your status also means you get wealthier and more attractive.
Elevating your status is hard work. You must be vigilant about the pitfalls of your nature because it isn’t always by your side. You have an innate desire to improve your status but you are also hardwired to follow the path of least resistance.
Since humans instinctively know that social approval translates to a higher status, many of them follow the easy path of gaining social approval without earning their status.
When we lived in tribes, we relied on feedback from a handful of tribe members about our standing in society which reflected a correct measure of our status. Social media hijacked this mechanism and made it easy to gain social approval just by posting stuff on the internet. Hence, the carefully crafted social media profiles, virtue signaling, etc.
Instead of doing the hard work and genuinely improving their status, many people fake high status on social media or even in real life. There’s a reason why 30k millionaires exist. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work. Shortcuts do more harm than good.
The best and the only legit way is to put in the hard work to elevate your status so that you don’t care about the opinions of most people. Only earned, real-life status counts.
2. Prioritize Internal Validation Over External Validation
We all need some kind of validation because otherwise, we can’t live with ourselves.
Validation comes both from internal and external resources. Internal and external validation can’t be entirely separated from each other because they often feed each other.
However, internal validation is vastly superior to external validation. By prioritizing internal validation over external validation, you’ll not only be better off by all metrics but you’ll also care a lot less about what others think of you.
The problem with internal validation is that it’s a lot harder to achieve than external validation which is why most people resort to the latter. Gaining self-approval is harder than gaining the approval of others.
However, internal validation can be prioritized and achieved by being unapologetically selfish, adopting the right mindset and beliefs, taking responsibility for your life, setting high standards for yourself, and putting in the hard work to live up to them.
3. Study Human Nature
The more you understand human nature, the less you care about what others think. You’ll exactly know why they think what they think, which makes their opinions carry less weight.
Since our nature was shaped in primitive times when we lived in tribes, it’s incompatible with the times we live in. Our instincts don’t suffice to navigate the modern terrain which is why many of our behaviors are irrational.
Studying human nature helps you understand the rationale behind your own behaviors as well as the behaviors of other people.
When you understand the underlying reasons for your irrational behaviors, you can correct the ones that don’t serve your interests. While you can’t mold your instincts, you have a conscious mind that you have full control over. You can shape it to get ahead in life.
Other people want to get ahead, just as you do. When you understand that they couldn’t care less if you’re miserable but they might try to pull you down when you stand out and win, their opinions of you become inconsequential. Not only their approval ceases to matter, but their disapproval ceases to matter as well.
You insulate yourself from their sabotage as well as them projecting their limiting beliefs, and insecurities upon you.
4. Build Your Own Tribe
Your nature is already compatible with living in a tribe.
Build a tribe of hardworking people who share your values. You’ll grow as a tribe together. Building your own tribe perfectly aligns with your natural urges to belong and advance as a group.
An important distinction to make here is that you should avoid subscribing to a particular ideology. Your cause is to get ahead in life with honest effort, not serve the interests of a ruling class.
Be sure to read:
- How to Be a Superior Man, Chapter 1: What Makes a Man a Superior Man
- Do You Really Take Responsibility For Your Life?
- Self-Esteem Is Overrated: 7 Grave Dangers Of Delusionally High Self-Esteem
- Internal or External Locus of Control: Which Do You Have?
- Why Is Life So Hard? (And What You Can Do About It)