What Will People Think?

Ann and GennyWhen I was young and wore a new dress to school, my mother would almost always ask me when I came home, “And what  did the other kids think of your outfit?”  Money was a bit tight in our household, so new clothes were a special treat.  And sometimes my mother had sewn my new dress herself, so her question made sense in many ways.  Even so, I always had the distinct impression that what I thought of my new outfit wasn’t all that counted, and that it was important that other people liked it as well.  And I understood that, because like most children, I wanted the approval of my peers, my family, my teachers, and almost everyone else I came into contact with.   The problem is, there’s a part of me that still does.

There’s a part of me that still wants to make sure other people approve of me and what I’m doing with my life.  Did my latest blog post get enough “likes” on the site itself or on my Facebook page?  Will my atheist friends think I’m weird if I admit that I go to church nearly every Sunday?  Do people with successful careers look down on me because I’m just a volunteer now?    Do the staff at the animal shelter where I volunteer really think I’m helpful, or am I just a giant pain in the butt,  too often pointing out problems that need to be fixed?  And I’m embarrassed to say, there are still times when I wonder what others think of “my outfit.”

I know I’ve spent far too much time and energy trying to please and win the approval of other people. Sometimes its was necessary, such as when I was working in an office and needed my boss to think highly of me and my work skills.  And an essential part of my free-lance writing career was finding out exactly what my editor wanted and making sure that was precisely what I delivered.  Back when I was an English major in college, you can bet I paid attention to whatever biases my professors happened to hold and was careful not to challenge them when I wrote my papers.  Sometimes, the approval of others is a necessary thing.

But one of the advantages of growing older is that it gradually becomes easier to tune out the values and opinions of other people and to listen to our own inner voices instead.  It’s a slow process, and requires almost constant vigilance.  There will always be those moments when I find myself caring too much about what others think of me, and have to remind myself that its what I think of me that matters the most.

I want to get to the point where I care very much about other people, but very little about what they happen to think about me.  I want to have the courage to do and say what I think is right, even when the people around me disagree.  I want to be a able to stand firmly in my own truth and to follow my own moral compass.  At 57, I am still very much a work in progress, and I’m sure there will always be a certain distance between the person I want to be and the person I really am.  But I’m working hard to close the gap.

53 thoughts on “What Will People Think?

  1. I liked this. It’s difficult not to want to be liked and want approval. If I write something and then those little stats columns stay obstinately low, it’s a bit depressing. What keeps me going is having no idea what’s going to cause a stir and what’s going to sink without a ripple – so might as well write whatever comes into my head on the day. As far as outfits – I abandoned hope years ago!

    Liked by 3 people

    • It is hard… And I’ve come to the same conclusions about my blog posts. There is no way to tell what will resonate with people. Some posts that I think are a bit trivial do very well, and others that are my absolute favorites don’t. So I’ve learned to just write what I want to write at that particular time, and let the chips fall where they may!

      Liked by 3 people

      • I know exactly what you mean. There have been a couple of blog posts that are so dear to me, but hardly a ripple out there……….But, hey, I got the story out there, for me. If nothing else, one day my kids will enjoy having it all written down. Or, I tell myself, perhaps I can use it in some form of freelance writing. Of course, I have to actually start freelancing writing, but that’s beside the point. : )

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I love this post. I am way too concerned about what people think of me at work. I could care less about neighbors or random people I know from town (I don’t mean I could care less about them, I mean about what they think of me). I wish I could get past that at work. As you say,we’re works in progress. I’m a few years older than you and still trying to get past that. Thank you for this post.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Well, I’m so hip sartorially that many think my middle name is “Savile Row.” If you buy that, then you’re sure to believe that I could give a damn about what others think when I hit publish for a “Bespoke” post.

    But I do care about the tailoring of my comments on the writing of others. If new to someone’s site and find a post interesting, I then read the person’s about page and other post to better gauge if and how I want to respond. I want to show my appreciation for their effort while challenging them to so move me to feel the need to expand the energy to comment again on a subsequent post.

    I think this comes from my lack of a formal education. I admire people who learn by doing, by taking a change, who opt to move and maneuver outside their comfort zone. Their area of “expertise.”

    At one time I felt that being an autodidact was a big deal. Showed character, and determination, and so why sweat the lack of a CV. But I was watching, sometime back, a C-Span broadcast of a book fair , when I heard a writer of books remark; I paraphrase …After whatever education we acquire we all become, or should, become autodidacts.

    So I’m with you Ann, getting older is about getting bolder and tempering the need for the approval of others, while knowing that being appreciative of others does not have to, necessarily, result in a quid pro quo.

    Another good one Coleman.

    Regards,
    Doug

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Doug! I’m not surprised to learn that you put some effort to personalize your comments, as they are always thought-provoking and often entertaining as well. Although I often have to get a dictionary to look up a word or two! I’m thinking you did just fine with a lack of formal education.

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    • Good point! I think those go hand in hand. The less I care about what others think of me, the less I care about whether or not I agree with, or approve of, other people. I am finding it easier and easier to just take people as they are, and that’s a good thing.

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  4. Well, it happens at times that we become dependent on people for their judgement. And this is where the main problem getting started.

    As you said you’re 57, it really inspire me at 20 to think about these problems in my own life. Thanks Ann for sharing your thoughts. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  5. For what’s it worth,………I doubt very seriously that those at the animal shelter find you a bother. (And kudos to you for volunteering there!) I bet they are quite happy to have another set of hands in what must be a very busy, sometimes sad, but rewarding job. One this is for sure, whether the people appreciate you or not (and I know they do!), those animals sure do!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Great post Ann and lots of home truths in here. I’m much the same, thinking too much of what other people think, I was especially like this growing up. As I’ve got older I’ve realised what’s important is being true to ourselves. But still, I think it’s human nature to want to be liked and approved of, much like our posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “Just a volunteer?” You’re performing a valuable service & donating your most precious asset without expecting compensation. The world needs more volunteers!

    I think most of us suffer (to varying degrees) the fear of not measuring up to the standards of others. As you point out in your post, it IS important in some circumstances, but certainly not in most. Growing older has made me more concerned with my own opinion versus that of others. We need to be more compassionate with ourselves and understand that if we’re happy with ourselves that’s what really counts.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You’ve come further than me… I have more moments these days when I feel able to stop needing others approval or wanting them to like everything I do, but my progress is often interrupted by niggling worries about it. Not so much the clothes – I don’t give much of a damn about what people think of them – I wear what I find comfortable – . but more often I worry about if I’m expressing myself clearly enough… but then remember that we are all ‘just human’ and most of are struggling on a daily basis to ‘be’. Often that’s what makes me feel better, and helps me to feel I fit in – knowing none of us are perfect. Age certainly lessons some of that but I think probably – as you say – some of it will remain.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I know! Sometimes I think the reason I talk so much is just to make sure I’m understood, because I worry that someone might take what I’m saying the wrong way. But you’re right, remembering that we’re all in the same boat, just doing the best we can with our lives helps. And so does aging. Thanks for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Great post. The fact is that you care and this is important. I do too, but like you, as I get older–I care less about what others think and more about what I think. I have to be very careful (still) about my filters though 🙂

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  10. It sounds like you have a very healthy attitude toward getting approval. I find myself still caring what others think rather more than I perhaps should. On the other hand, I suppose this does at least stop me from, say, strolling across to 7-Eleven in my underpants, so there is something to be said for it.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Another terrific post, Ann, revealing what so many of us feel but find difficult to honestly express. I believe, without a doubt, that you will get to the place you find most comfortable. Enjoy the journey..:)

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I think it boils down to… Am I Good Enough? And I struggle with this too. I think for me remembering that I am going to TRUST Myself and my judgement helps me… on bad days I practice gratitude and on REALLY BAD DAYS I drink wine! So got all my bases covered! And HERE’S A TOAST to those of us who are WORKING ON IT!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right, it does boil down to the age old question of “am I good enough?” And it’s so hard to answer that question by ourselves, without looking to others for validation. And as you point out, some days are easier than others, and wine does help! We can definitely toast on that!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I suffer from the same syndrome! Trying to Live Above Reproach. But truly NO matter what you do you will NEVER make everyone happy so it’s time to stop caring. At least that’s what I yell at my self when I see my mental pattern go that way! WE can DO THIS!

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  13. I’m just about the same age as yo and I’ve found getting “older” liberating. While I do care what people think of me as a person it’s not often that I care enough to let it affect me or make me change or regret something I said or did. That’s the liberating part. When we aren’t seeking approval we are much more likely to be true to ourselves. Opinions and contrasting points of view are data points. The source of those data points may affect whether or not, or to what degree, I may incorporate them into my future actions and if I do it is a conscious and objective choice rather than derived from peer pressure or from a desire to be liked or validated.

    Adopting this demeanor over the years has not made me better or worse than any other person. But it has made me happier. And liberated.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you have managed to stop seeking approval from others! That is what I’m aspiring to, and while I’ve come a long way, I’m not there yet. And I want it for the same reason: not because I think I’ll necessarily be a better person, but I think I’ll be a happier person, because I’ll be living according to my own standards and values…and that is liberating! Thanks for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. My name is Ashlee. I’m co-founder of the Youshare Project, with the mission to connect people around the world through true, personal stories. I came across your blog a while back and left a similar message. I never heard back but wanted to reach out one more time, because I stumbled across your blog again today and it feels like fate 🙂 I really enjoyed your story, “What Will People Think?” This is something that I have dealt with myself, and I think it is an ongoing process to change, but also something so many people could relate to. I think it would make a wonderful Youshare story. Would you consider sharing it with our community? We also post an author profile next to each story that would link back to your personal blog.

    If this sounds interesting to you, I would love to email you directly with more information and formally invite you to share your story with the project. You have my email address and website. I hope to hear from you soon.

    Best,
    Ashlee
    http://www.youshareproject.com
    ashlee@youshareproject.com

    Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for responding to my comment, Ann. That’s great! We don’t actually reblog posts, though. It is more of a community feel where we ask that each author submit their story directly through the website before we publish it. This way you could also be engaged in any conversation that arises out of your story. We also include a bio for you in which we link back to your personal website. Let me know if you’re still interested, and I’ll send you next steps for submitting to the site. Thanks again and have a wonderful Saturday!

        Liked by 1 person

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