How to Stop Caring About What Other People Think, Once and For All
This week I asked a few folks to read and critique the short story I’ve been working on for this month’s challenge.
Normally, I’d work myself up into a frenzy, anxious about what they’ll think of it, and worse yet, what they’ll think of me (talentless wannabe…my 8 year old could write better than that… piece of garbage waste of time).
But not this time.
This time, I don’t care, and it feels really good. Of course feedback and constructive criticism are welcome and wanted, but worry over what other people think? No more. No thank you.
It’s frustrating, isn’t it? To get worked up over something trivial and be powerless to let it go? And then to watch other people (I’m sure you know at least one) go through life doing their thing and not giving a crap about what anyone else thinks?
I, for one, have spent much of my life ruminating over things not worth ruminating over, stressing over what ifs and how dare she’s and why me’s – and I’m done with it.
No, I didn’t flip a switch and experience a dramatic shift in mindset, and even now, I’m far from immune to criticism. But I’ve realized a few things recently, things that I’ve know all along (as I’m sure you do too) but only now are starting to sink in.
Like the idea that I need to stop taking things personally. That not everyone is going to like me and people will judge me and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. And that most of the time people aren’t thinking or talking about me at all because they’re busy thinking and caring about themselves.
There are other, mostly mindfulness-related things that I’ve actively worked on this past year that have slowly helped me learn to let go of the fear of being judged. They might seem a little touchy-feely, but remember, the decision to care or not care about something is made in the head. So if we’re going to overcome our fears and frustrations, we have no choice but to change our mindset.
Here’s what has worked for me:
- Getting outside of my comfort zone. Because the more I expose myself to failure, rejection, criticism and other challenging activities (like planking, promoting the wedding blog, promoting this blog, or guitar) the more immune to those things I become. I’m far less terrified of falling flat on my face, asking for feedback, pitching my work, and being told no.
- Meditation. I’ll be the first to say that there’s nothing enjoyable about sitting down to meditate, but it’s been such an effective way to get a grip on my thoughts and emotions. I’ve learned to be accepting what is and what has already happened, and I’m a calmer and saner person for it… most of the time at least.
- Reading. As someone who easily gets discouraged and frustrated, I constantly have to read things that keep me going. It’s why I keep a constant rotation of books on my nightstand. That and I learn so much about writing, health, productivity, history, success and more. If you want a great, short morning pick me up, I highly recommend the daily emails by Brian Johnson.
- Journaling. For years I’ve been writing in an online private journal, 750words.com as a way to brainstorm, vent, complain, practice gratitude, and work through any problems or challenges I’m facing. It’s my therapy!
- Finding the right things to care about. There are lots of things to care about. Things worth standing up for, fighting for, pursuing, and being honest about and it’s that much easier to stop caring about the smaller things when you have something that you genuinely love and are inspired by to spend your time and energy on.
The word inspired, incidentally, comes from the Latin word spirare. It means something from the outside breathing within us, and that’s how I feel about my short story, and this blog for that matter. I care about them. I love them. And because of it I can handle the not so shiny parts of the process without getting so easily bruised… like the drafts of my story that were returned to me blanketed in red ink.
Just about every other sentence was marked with a comment or suggestion. Yikes.
But my story is so much better because of the feedback, which is ultimately what I want. To produce my very best work.
Besides, at the end of it all, everyone who critiqued my story said the same exact thing: I wanted to read more.
Okay, okay, I know I said I wouldn’t care about what people thought, but the compliments, well, I’ll take the compliments.