Everyone wishes we could be that one person who really doesn’t care what anybody else thinks. “I don’t care what people think” is a laudable sentiment. The care free, do-whatever-I-want mentality strikes jealousy in our hearts. It exudes freedom and a certain “above it all” quality we long for because expectations and pleasing others is so burdensome and self-defining.
Nobody doesn’t care about what other people think. That’s a farce. “I don’t care what people think” is simply a impression we try to give in order to appear carefree. What we really mean is “I hope I come off as someone who really doesn’t care what others think . . . because I really care what they think.”
Anyone who actually does not about others’ opinions is usually just a jerk. They care far too much about their own opinions of themselves. Their own self-evaluation and opinions become far too impressive in their own mind. Such people only seek to impress themselves, everyone else be damned. That’s not what we’d call an admirable character trait.
There is a fine line between caring too much and too little what people think. If we care too much we become wishy washy shills and tools in the hands of fads, trends, and influencers. If we care too little we become arrogant, irrelevant, unkind insulters. If we care too much we are at the mercy of others and their whims. If we care too little we are the mercy of our own blind spots and propensities for failure.
Common wisdom says “don’t let what others think of you dictate how you make decisions.” That’s largely true, but we must let what others think of us influence how we make decisions. We cannot determine how people think of us, but we can guess how they might. This guess allows us to communicate effectively. It helps us come across lovingly and winsomely. It allows us to avoid being insensitive and hurtful. We don’t get to decide how people receive what we say, but caring what they think pushes us to try to connect as effectively and carefully as possible.
Like so many areas of life, this is not a black and white thing. We must care what people think enough to respect them, teach them, and influence them. But we cannot care so much that they determine what we think, what we do, or who we are.