Not caring what others think at all may prove to be a fool’s errand. Of course we care (even if only a little) about what those important to us think. That is natural. What I am speaking of here is how to live our lives so that the need for approval doesn’t stunt our authenticity.
Answers to big questions are often simple. Not easy, but simple. It may take a significant amount of time to actualize them, but the idea itself is simple.
Why do we Seek Approval?
There are many habits in life that are the vestiges of our earlier human development. Approval seeking is a great example. Think about it. You are out in the wilderness with your tribe. You cannot survive alone. Because of this, staying in everyone’s (particularly the leader’s) good graces is a matter of life and death. Fast forward to modern life, there are very few people whose approval we need to live a good life. The only exception may be as a child. As a child, we should get the unconditional approval of our parents, but that is a different story for another day.
We seek approval for fear of being cast out of whatever group we are in. If our friends love to gossip, chances are we will too, because our brains are telling us that if we don’t, we risk being kicked out of the group (that might not be a bad thing). Now, translate this to other areas of your life that could hold you back. Maybe you want to become a writer, but the criticism from those around you stunts your efforts. You want to study a new skill, but your sister unintentionally giggles when you tell her. That is when this perfectly normal survival mechanism becomes a sabotage mechanism.
How to not Care what Others Think
Not caring what others think comes down to values. Story time. When I was in my early twenties, I loved reading articles from Brian Tracy. One of his suggestions was to come up with a list of values. I wracked my brain and had to confront the sobering truth that I didn’t have any. I had the values that other people wanted for me, but I had not developed them on my own. I mostly forgot about that exercise for a number of years.
Fast forward 5-7 years, and with some valuable life experiences, I developed my own set of values without even thinking about it. After years of dealing with the problems of daily living, I naturally unearthed what was important to me.
Whenever we fear the criticism of others, it is because we have not decided what is important to us. Don’t get me wrong, the fear may always be there, but in a much less overwhelming way that won’t stop you from taking action. When you have your values in order, you will realize that the only person whose approval you desperately need is your own. Other people’s opinions matter, and sometimes we need to alter our values based on valuable feedback. But the ultimate change is up to us. Getting your values in order may take some time. Life experience will help you unearth them even if you aren’t trying to. Exercises like this one can help you start, but remember, life experience is what will ultimately set your values in stone.
Thanks for reading!