There’s this weird fantasy we all share of not giving a flying fuck about what people think.
We all wish we could be impervious to others’ opinions, like Superman deflecting bullets. But instead of bullets, we’re out here trying to deflect the fucks we wish we didn’t give.
We imagine a perfect mental state where our insecurities vanish and we conquer the world. But then reality sets in, and we realize it’s not so easy.
To tackle this issue, I’ll break down the short answer, the long answer, and a surprising one.
The Short Answer: Embrace Your Humanity
The short answer to why we care about what others think is simple: it’s because we’re not psychopaths.
Caring about others’ opinions makes us empathetic, compassionate, and able to form friendships. In fact, other people’s opinions and perceptions often lead to joy, empathy, compassion, and deep connections.
So when we ask how to not care what people think, what we’re really asking is how to better manage those thoughts and feelings.
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The Evolutionary Roots of Sociability
To understand why we care so much, let’s dive into the long answer. Our intelligence and sociability evolved as our superpowers in the animal kingdom. Humans are weak, slow, and generally terrible at most physical tasks compared to other animals. What sets us apart is our intelligence and our ability to form complex social structures.
For the majority of human history, we lived in small tribes where everyone depended on one another for survival. In these tribes, social rejection could be fatal. Our brains evolved to associate social rejection with death, and that’s why it feels so painful.
Learning to cope with these feelings of social dependency is part of being human.
Modern Life’s Blessing: Picking Your Tribe
One of the best aspects of modern life is that we can choose our tribe. Since we’re no longer confined to small groups, we can find new people to connect with if we’re rejected or ostracized. You will always crave social validation, but you can decide who you want to impress and who’s worth impressing.
The problem for many people is that they surround themselves with petty, shitty people, and as a result, they crave validation from those same people.
Instead of not caring what people think, focus on finding better people to surround yourself with—people who respect and admire you and can teach you something valuable.
Find Something More Important
Which brings us to the surprising answer: If you find yourself caring too much about what people think, it might be because you don’t have something more important to care about.
When you have something truly important in your life, something you’re willing to be ridiculed for, that’s when you’ll stop caring about others’ opinions. Ironically, that’s also when people start respecting you.
Imagine a burning building with a baby trapped inside. If you were the only one who could save the baby, you wouldn’t care what others thought. You’d run into the fire without hesitation. That’s an extreme example, but the principle applies to everyday life.
So, ask yourself:
What’s so important in your life that you’re willing to be ridiculed for it?
If you can’t answer that question easily, maybe that’s the problem you need to address.