“You’ll worry less about what people think about you, when you realise how seldom they do.” – David Foster Wallace
When you live your life making decisions based on what strangers might think of you, your impact on the world is softened. Millions of words have been written on the subject of living ideal lives, but they were written in a vacuum. A sports magazine will tell you running every day is vital to being a good human being. A business paper is going to tell you about which companies to invest in and how you should deal with people at the office. There’s a hundred magazines telling you what you should wear this season, which celebrities you should care about, what new book you have to read.
Most people try to please others, hoping that if they can just fulfil one person’s needs and worldly obligations, everything will get better and they will be able to move on with their own lives. In reality, there’s only a few people whose opinions should matter to you.
Most People Don’t Care
Most people couldn’t care less about what you’re doing. Your goals are not important to them. Your plans for the day aren’t anything that interests them. Explaining your dreams will get at most an ‘Oh, that’s nice.’ Assuming you don’t go too outside the bounds of what is considered ‘normal’, what you do in a day will be forgotten.
Free yourself from the negative thought patterns of trying to please everyone around you. It is stressful, damaging to your mental health and self-esteem, and it makes you sit and wait for other people’s opinions rather than making progress. Your work may well be judged by others, but unless it is truly remarkably terrible, nobody is going to say anything bad to you about it.
The most interesting topic to any human is ‘me’. If what you are doing has no relation to them, they are not going to be judging or thinking about you doing your thing. They’re focused on their own. Next time you are walking through a city, take a look at a street performer. These people don’t care what others think of them in the slightest – they just get on with it.
There was a recent social experiment carried out into the effects of crowd interest. This experiment saw a professional classical musician busking in the Washington subway. He played technically difficult pieces of music on his Stradivarius violin. In rush hour, only six people stopped to listen and he made a grand total of $32 over the hour. What is interesting about this is that two days before, Joshua Bell had sold out the local concert hall at $100 per ticket, playing the same compositions on the same violin. People often only start to care about things if other people already care.
Nightlife venues often employ this tactic. They either artificially create circumstances so that the queue extends in to the street or hire people to queue for the venue. The logic behind it is that everyone else seeming to want to get in gives the place a level of social proof.
Everyone Has the Capability to Judge You
Worrying about things tends to make people act in a different manner.
Over time, if you worry too much, you’ll become a shell of a person, trying to please anyone and everyone just to get the feeling that you are doing something right. Unfortunately, most people’s expectations of you only rise higher when you act like this.
Whilst you may well be judged for breaking out of that approach to life, nobody is going to do anything about it. In fact, many people will think better of you, respecting you for your actions even if they don’t necessarily agree with what you are doing. Don’t succumb to the fear of other people judging you for striking out on your own. If you don’t care enough to challenge yourself, improve and make a difference, who else will?
So, What’s Next?
What’s next is simple. Figure out what is important to you and get more of it, make more of it, or do more of it.
Finding the things that leverage your skills and influence to create the largest results is the key to being effective and productive. Stop spectating, stop watching other people succeed, and instead spend that time planning and being strategic in your decisions. Identify some easy improvements to your life plan and make them. This is easier said than done, but everything is easier said than done.
Watching television isn’t a valuable use of time for me, and unless you are a planning a career in the field of TV, it probably isn’t great for you either. I’m a guitar tutor by trade, so practicing my skills and understanding more music theory is a high yield activity for me. Writing and playing are the things that create and increase my influence and income. Your high yield activities are going to be different, so if you don’t already know what they are, start finding out.
Today is the day you start.
You want to learn to write? There’s never been a better time.
You want to learn to sing, create music? There’s never been a better time.
You want to run a marathon? There’s never been a better time.
Insert your own dreams here.
Create your future, whatever it may be. You’ll be better off for it in the long run.
This was a guest post by Fraser Murray who is a guitar tutor and writer based in Daventry, UK.