‘Stop caring about what other people think’

The title could certainly be construed as advice.  But it’s also a Note To Self.  And it’s one that’s easier recited than actually adhered to.

There’s this Eternal Inner Duel going on within my core.  One side wants to say “screw ’em; who cares what other people think?” and the other says, “but Because The World.  And you have to survive in it.”

Frustratingly, they’re both right, which is likely why neither side has “won”.

The “screw ’em” camp within me has a valid point.  After all, most of my actions don’t affect anyone else, and who cares if I stay in my apartment most days?  Who cares if I wear loose-fitting, casual clothing?  Who cares if I didn’t wash my hair last night?  And a handshake upon meeting someone is simply a momentary gesture, here and gone before you know it.

I’ve done a splendid job of refusing to live by American Mainstream Society.  My partner and I bought a house before we had jobs; we lived together for almost a decade before we were married.  We started our own business in a city we’d hardly spent time in but felt an intuitive magnetic “pull” toward.  I don’t adhere to the biological female stereotypical gender roles, and my partner doesn’t tend to follow most of the male stereotype, either.  We don’t follow trends or very many social rules beyond basic politeness.

The “Screw ‘Em” Side is convincing; after all, nobody else has to live with the sheepishness I feel after having had to mask my true self or that aspartame feeling I get when I’ve felt socially pressured go through some motion that seems pointless to me but flips everybody’s shizz if I don’t.  They don’t start going through the self-questioning later that evening when they get home and wonder “what was the point of that?  What actual Social Points did I score with anyone today, and will they actually last, or will I have to keep doing it?”.  They don’t feel inadequate, they don’t fear that if they showed the world their true selves they’d be left with few friends.  I do.  I feel the sheepishness and inadequacy, the fakery of showing unearned courtesy toward strangers who might just turn and bite my backside.

(Or do they?  I imagine most humans experience thought-trains like these, but perhaps not seemingly as often as myself and other Asperger’s/autistic people I’ve come across.  For other members of society, it seems to be more of a brain-“app” they run occasionally; for me it seems like a default onboard setting that I can’t turn off, no matter how much I hunt for the switch.)

On the other hand, the Other Side, the one that wants me to pay attention to what others think and actually give a sh*t, also makes a valid point.  After all, I have to get along in this world.  I have to maintain peaceful relationships with my family and neighbors (doing so with my friends is, naturally, easy).  I have to cast myself in an attractive, energetic, role-model-worthy light to people at work.  I have to fulfill duties and responsibilities, and many of those require the help and support of others.  Therefore, it pays to Play Nice.

I reckon, then, that the battle of Who Should Care Less (and Who Should Care More) will rage on, and I don’t yet see any hope of an ending in sight.  For the time being, it is what it is.

I suppose my answer for the time being is that I should attempt to balance the two opposing forces.  Perhaps there’s a demilitarized zone somewhere in the middle, where I find some sort of happy medium.  Maybe I conform to the basic social niceties, but without going overboard and transforming myself into a doormat.  Maybe I maintain my own identity and integrity by exercising my own uniqueness and individualism in “healthy”, socially acceptable ways.  For example, favoring “indie” music over “pop” music is fairly harmless; few people beyond age 12 will shun you for your musical tastes.

But that’s about all I know.  I’m still floundering for the rest.

***

(Image Credit: Gordon Hookey, Australian Aboriginal artist)

***

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99 Comments

  1. I loved this article, maybe because it reflects exactly how I feel and think regarding this matter. Beautifully written, thank you for writing it!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I have to agree. Two votes in favour of screw ’em, care less what others think, be picky when it comes to whose opinion you value and even then remember that your choices are yours alone.
      Great post – the war between the care vs don’t care parts of your brain is one I know quite well myself, too. At nearly 30, I care less, but sometimes I don’t realise just how much I care too much about the opinion of society when it causes nothing but misery.
      Caz x

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Nicely articulated. For my part I’m smack in the middle of a shit show I’ve created by committing to the screw’em side of things. I should probably wait until the storm passes, the dust settles, and I find out how much jail time I’ll have to do before I weigh in with any more thoughts on this topic.

    But I thank you for calling attention to the general problem, which I agree is both important and tough to figure out. 😊👍🏼👏🏻

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh man, I feel for you, my friend 💞💞. I’ve been following your story, and I’ve got to hand it to you for your courage. Hindsight is a bitch sometimes 😔. But I feel your situation, and I’m pulling for you 🤗💖. Keep up the good fight 💪🏼💓💓

      Liked by 1 person

        1. You’re welcome, friend 😘 I know you’re going through shit right now, and I ache for you. I admire what you’re doing by talking about it and fighting the good fight 💪🏼 I wish there was something more I could do to help in a more tangible way, but for whatever it’s worth, I’ve got your back and I’m listening 💜💜

          Liked by 2 people

  3. I think lots of introverts have that problem, not just autistic people!

    I did something difficult today with my introversion, social anxiety and possible autism, volunteering at a drop in centre for asylum seekers. It was tough (think lots of people/strangers, noise and expectations that I do various things correctly without always feeling I had adequate instructions, even though they probably were adequate for neurotypicals) and at one point after a couple of hours I wanted to just leave because I couldn’t take it any more. But I stuck it out for various reasons: because I believed in the cause, because I had committed to being there, because I wanted to push myself and my social anxiety. I volunteered to help look after the children’s play area because I find being with young children easier than adults the way some people prefer animals to humans. Young children (pre-school and primary school) don’t really care if you don’t say the right thing or don’t know how to make small talk or don’t say anything at all (babies are quite happy if you just smile at them) and they have the imagination and sense of wonder lacking in a lot of jaded adults. Plus I even managed to speak a little to some of the other volunteers. So I think it was a victory overall.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I think you’re right 👏🏼👏🏼. A lot of my non-AS, introverted friends have social anxiety too 😊. Young kids are awesome! No judgement there, a refreshing absence of “should”s 😁. Yay you on your victory! You rocked it 😁👏🏼💪🏼💖

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You describe the struggle so well! It is hard to balance, isn’t it? Sometimes, it’s my ego speaking and I find what’s even harder is to not care about what I think. I’m just confusing it even more, ain’t I?lol I am my own worst enemy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, luv! Yep, you’re so right – the balance is definitely a tough one, because the two sides don’t seem to get along very well and both would like to dominate. But of course, they’re mutually exclusive; if I’m displaying one, I’m not displaying the other (lol). You put it perfectly well 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! 😍😘💓

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I care a lot (too much?) what other people think. Partly because it’s my nature, and partly because I was brought up to care. And I don’t just care, I worry. It’s probably true that people think a lot less than you think they do, but I find it hard to convince myself of that.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. So!!!!! I go into this appointment to get my labs done. I go into the room to get the blood drawn and I lay out garbage bags on the seat and a garbage bag on the arm rest. I ask for a new tourniquet thingy and bring my own pen with my alcohol wipes tucked under my arm. She looks at me. Says nothing. In the next room there enters a woman to get her labs drawn who is screaming and yelling at the top of her lungs because someone got her labs messed up and mixed up and someone’s head is going to roll blah blah blah. So I say to the girl taking my blood…wow that’s stressful to have to be yelled at I bet. And she said oh yes you have no idea. And then I look back down to my garbage bags and my alcohol wipes and realize I am the LEAST of their worries.
    Yep. Decided to share this whole story on this post because I went in and kept thinking what will they think of me with all of this “keep germs off me” STUFF. But I went in and I was patient and I was kind and they were kind and then I realized there are yelling people and maybe I’m not such a “scary person” to others as I may think they may think of me. Wow. So in my head. But after reading your post had to share my little story.
    So thenI come home and an irrigation guy is here to deal with our irrigation system and I think as I smell cigarette smoke ” Ok I am already overstimulated and I don’t wantto be around any smells and i Hope this guy is nice” and it started dumping rain and I just sat out watching him do his work in the pouring rain. I wondered after that as I was sitting there, does he wonder if I am judging him? Because. Side note. Before he came I asked if he had a criminal record specifically if he was a rapist ( i was trying to set boundaries and make sure i felt safe being here alone but well that got out of hand). Anyway, job got done. And in hindsight i did a lot of worrying for nothing. All in alll though I’d rather deal with animals and not people. I’m betting maybe most people would too after listening to the woman yelling in the lab. Ok done with my long very long message

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh wow, dear one 💙💜. The world can be such a screwed up and oddball place that anxiety and worry are not irrationally based! The person hollering nearby is a prime example; that would set me on edge too! So relieved you made it through 🍀 (I like long messages, btw, especially yours! 😁💗) 😘😘

      Liked by 1 person

  7. There is a warped definition of “normal” in this world Especially when people allow the media, magazines, and music to dictate their thoughts, judgments, and behaviors. This is a well thought out and well-articulated article you’ve written. It is eye-opening for those who live in a bubble. Excellent post!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Completely understand this! I find I care less about what people think of me as I get older (and I’m not worried about embarrassing myself anymore – social situations are so difficult and it happens regularly) but when it comes to my job, or people I care about, then those opinions matter to me. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You know, that’s a really good point, and I’m starting to feel similar, even if what I’m seeing for my future self is further back on the horizon. I don’t know if I’m actually younger, but that’s not what I meant, exactly; I’m just a little slower to make progress in this area, hence my horizon 😉 I wonder why that is? Hormone changes? More comfortable in our own skin? Seniority over more of the world and thus greater comfort in pulling rank? More life experience showing us the world isn’t going to end if we don’t conform to every societal whim? Hrm 😁 You’ve given me some great food for thought 👍💕

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Two things that popped out to me in your post: 1. Yeah who cares about gender roles in the house. As long as YOU live in the house you gotta clean the house and take CARE of the house. 2. Not caring about society thinks. For me, I care about what’s best for ME. If what society says is in agreement with what I believe in, fine. Like example, if you wanna be hired, you DO have dress to impress. So yeah, I’m gonna go on with that, because I wanna be hired. However, if society has something I DON’T agree with, fine. It’s like what Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself; everyone else is taken.”

    Liked by 2 people

  10. For the most part I live in the ‘screw ’em’ mentality, in my day to day life when I can live as I please. It’s only when I have to face the world I get caught in the same dilemma as this. As much as I wish I didn’t care what people think, part of me does, part of me wants to be the accepted and importantly included one (on my terms of course). I hate myself for wanting it since it seems to be so elusive to me. I don’t understand why people are so quick to judge and reject, and the older I get the less I understand it or the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amen, my lovely! I certainly agree 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 I’ve always wanted to be like that, and there’s this tug-of-war going on inside me.
      “Screw ’em.”
      “Hell yeah! But I can’t.”
      “WTF??”
      “Because I’m embarrassed to.”
      “Yeah well they don’t seem to have that problem so…”
      “I still can’t.”
      “Do it! Do it! (Jerry! Jerry!)”
      “Because Bad Karma, and shizz.”
      “I give up.”
      Lol
      So I end up resenting myself for being some kind of Grade-A Wussbag, and I feel like I’ve sold out my integrity and my soul and whatnot.

      But in more recent years, especially about the last 18 months or so, I think I’m finally starting to get it. Mainly by necessity, because my energy limits of late are stricter and I need to Practice Conservation by caring less (especially about something I have subzero control over).

      I’m transitioning to a state of Don’t Mind Me, I’m Just Here Doing My Thing, And If You Disapprove, That’s Your Problem (probably a fifth state of matter or something), and it’s starting to sink in 😉🤗. Soooooo good to see you! 💗💗

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi friend! 😍 I sincerely appreciate the tag! Thank you 💞 I’m afraid I’ve been too close to threshold for overwhelm in recent months, and I’m afraid I can’t make this one 😔 Would you be willing to keep me in mind for future tags? My fog can’t last forever, and I reckon I’ll recharge enough to do one of these with dignity eventually, and I’d love to participate then! 💖💖

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Indeed, balance is required. To exist, to commune with others, find connection, we must use our ‘app,’ as described in the post. For neurotypicals may have an efficient ‘app,’ we must strive in constant question, discussion, evaluation.

    My ‘app’ usually has me asking then commenting with the question, “I don’t care what they think about me, I’m not necessarily gonna internalize it, I just care what they are thinking/believing so I can adapt, make decisions, etc.”

    I’m also going to posit the following surmise. I believe neurotypical folk likely take for granted their social skill, and, in so doing, may not be very good at socializing at all. The initial, let’s say perk they get from reading faces and getting the basics of some of those social cues may fade after time simply due to taking granted, not having to work at it.

    Perhaps we Autistics should give ourselves some due as we grow, as we work so deliberately, and understand that as we do so we may be achieving mastery where we were once pauper. And, then, in us we rise to meet social challenges, make boundaries, decry demands of respect where neurotypical society may have simply forgot to do so because they, well, didn’t have to struggle enough to worry about it until, oops, now they do.

    Just Thoughts.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thoughts indeed! And wonderful ones at that 👏🏼😊. Definitely ponder-worthy. I think you’re onto something! Skills not sharpened periodically are likely destined to dull over time. OTOH, skills honed frequently become reflexive and potent. It might even end up in a “Tortoise and the Hare”-type situation. The AS neurotype is less likely to take social skills for granted and thus there may come a time when roles are reversed, even if it’s just an individual case involving particular people in a particular situation. That’s an excellent posit you gave! My mind is chewing happily 😉👏🏼💖

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I think about this contstantly. Sometimes, I assume that I’m at a deficit, will second guess myself, then realize maybe the opposite, that I have some mastery at social aptitude, may actually be true.

        I think it important to remember this about ourselves. I mean, not brazenly declare and not be humble, mind you, but, truly, that maybe through the effort, we are onto something, and, indeed, perhaps doing just fine.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. I was thinking about this topic the other day because there are so many pop songs with lyrics saying I don’t care. I think its really sad to not care about what others think and so many youngsters have this non caring attitude. If we all cared about what others think, we might all be a bit nicer to each other. But society seems to have taken on an attitude of ‘I don’t give a toss what you think and its all about me etc’.

    I think we ( Western culture as it is) are a long way from truly being able to accept others for who they are and not negatively judging someone. We never really know the full story behind a person or a stranger and that’s what makes me sad. I think having confidence in who you are as your own person comes with age and that is when we worry less about what others think. But I think we should always care. To me, caring about coming across as authentic is preferable to worrying about if people see me in a negative way. There is a saying that says ‘What others think of you is none of your business’ I quite like that saying because people will always see what they want to see, so really we can never control what they think, only how we are. We all see others in different ways. But if you’re the type of person, like me, who analyses every word I said and re runs the entire conversation when back from the party and looks at myself from every angle possible, the that’s OK too, because it means growth and expansion. It means we can also see those who are also feeling the same , and trust me, people that really don’t care about what others think are very boring. 🙂 Lots of love. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! I’m reading your comment several times, just to make sure I digest all the cool thoughts you expressed. I agree, I think an apathetic attitude is sad, and largely unnecessary. It almost encourages the old-school definition of psychopathy (which is still used in certain circles, if not psychology/psychiatry itself). It does seem to be paired, also, with a hint (or more than a hint) of narcissism. “It’s all about me”, “I’m entitled to do whatever I want and screw everyone else”. I think that’s a dangerous path to go down.

      I think many of the people I know and have read posts by, etc, are those who go too far the other way, giving strangers *too* much leeway and *too* much control over how we perceive ourselves, and might be/are in the process of reclaiming their own standing/ground. That’s the feeling I get anyway. But yeah, that’s totally different from what’s happening with Gen Z (or whoever, maybe even younger Gen Ys) as reflected in pop culture (such as music).

      I think this statement nails it right here: “To me, caring about coming across as authentic is preferable to worrying about if people see me in a negative way.” Totally! This! THAT sums up so perfectly what I took so many words to say. Bravo (applause) 😀 ❤

      Like

      1. Laina,

        I don’t quite remember the name of my last blog, either…lol. I’m sort of here, there, everywhere, and nowhere… all at once. Ha ha.

        Still, I am glad to be friends 💕💕💕 !!!

        Tamara

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yay!! Me too 🙂 🙂 I remember it was a beautiful blog, and I think there was a combo of poems and regular prose posts? I hope I’ve got the right author 🙂 Either way, though, I remember your name, and it’s so cool to be back in touch with you! ❤

          Liked by 1 person

  13. Well written post and based on the comments you connected with your readers 😁
    We do need to be able to “play nice” and clearly it would be chaos if we didn’t (just think of driving). However a lot of things are simply etiquette and preferences and we may put inordinate importance on them.
    I like your honesty.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks to you! I think you’re right on. Playing nice is important; without it, yeah, I wouldn’t want to even think about it or go there lol 😉 But yeah, you nailed it – there’s so much that is just placating old rituals or putting on masks (and the neurotypical folks aren’t immune to this either), and yes, I think they get in the way of true bonding/connection sometimes. Like, how can I be trying to establish a true rapport with someone and feel them out if I’m preoccupied with how firmly I should be shaking their hand or how often I should be making eye contact? Or why would I say “let’s get together soon!” if I don’t really mean it? (I don’t, and it always throws me for a loop when others do) 😉 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Good post. Thanks for that.

    I believe the ideal adult human is someone who true to themselves in a socially and environmentally responsible way. It’s been my experience that none of us are quite able to completely true to ourselves, but that we do not need to be in order to flourish.

    It has also been my experience that, if I experience the sort of inner conflict you are experiencing, then it is because I am not being true enough to myself to satisfy my own needs.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I am so bad at reading other people’s blogs but I loved this one. Like you, I tend to care so much about other people think of me. I used to try to change things about myself so people would like me more. BTW I am on the spectrum too. Now I have determined that I don;’t care about other’s opinions who aren’t my friends; who don’t like me and dont treat me with respect; I could give a shit about them. But I do care what my friends and family think and if they are judging me in some way; that does hurt. Luckily most people I have comes across are jerks so I stopped caring what they think lol. Great post and excuse me if I am not best at liking or commenting on blogs. I hope you have a wonderful day and thanks for the support you have given on my blog.

    Dave

    Liked by 2 people

    1. No worries, friend! I go in spurts, too 🙂 I’m currently catching up, making up for some lost time this spring and early summer. What you said rang so true, resonated with me. You’re so right. Some people aren’t worth caring about; if they’re jerks, then why do we necessarily care how we affect them? They’re the ones being dorks lol. I figure if we’re not intentionally/deliberately rude to someone, then we’re good 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Hello Laina! Thank you for this wonderful posting. Yes, we should live our own life, not the life other want to have from us. Sorry, for the late re-visit. I had to privatizise my blog. The new EU-GDPR restricts the usage of un-defined cookies like wp.com uses,and our blog as an journalistic blog (Lol) is semi-business. But you are invited. Best wishes, Michael.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Michael! It’s so good to see you again 😍. Awww, thank you for the invite! Yes I agree; the GDPR, while well-intentioned, kind of caused some chaos for website administrators 😊. How have you been, my friend? 😘❣

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Wow, that GDPR really changed some things, didn’t it? It almost seems as though it added more headache for blog writers; the actual website hosts seem to be much more unfazed/unscathed. They still collect their data, but the little popup sure appeared at the bottom of every. Freaking. Blog. Lol 😉 ❤

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Yes, you are so right, Laina! It goes on as ever, but the GDPR only in Germany is a bigger problem. The EU legislation has to be transfered into national law, but our parliament has not done yet. And we have to much lawyers who need to earn money. Germany is the “Law and Ordner”-State No. 1. Lol ❤

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Oh my! That sounds really complicated 💜 I know they meant well, and lord knows this kind of law was sorely needed (and lacking), so better something than nothing. But I’m sorry for the hardship it has placed on innocent people who had nothing to do with the reasons for these laws in the first place. That sucks that you can’t even reblog, because I know how much you loved that (and so did your readers; many of us met really cool people through you!) 💕💕

              Liked by 1 person

  17. The problem for me is that I lack social nuance – the ability to instinctively know when to pump the brakes and when to stick up for myself and when it’s “appropriate” to do either. People don’t understand how much of ourselves we give up in order to make them feel OK. Lately, I’m falling more in the Screw ‘Em category, but I’m getting old and cranky too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OMG you nailed it 🙂 Thank you for your comment! I have the exact same issue. I don’t know when to stand up for myself and when to just let it go. So I always feel like I’m riding the impossible edge between being too unreasonable and being too doormat-like. Ugh, story of my life lol. “Screw ’em” sounds more healthy – after all, as long as we’re fairly polite and whatnot, no harm done. 😀

      Like

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