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How to Master the Art of Not Caring What Other People Think: A Four Step Process

photo: Winston Hearn on flickr

photo: Winston Hearn on flickr

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the least and 10 being the most, how much do you care what other people think of you?

If you said 1, you’re a liar totally enlightened.

If you said 10, Welcome to my world.

It’s not that I always care what others think about me. I care a lot less than I used to. The older I get, the more I seem to be adopting a fuck it nonchalant approach to what others think of me.

That said, these days I’m on stage a lot, which means I’m in front of lots of people on a regular basis, which means I’m exposed to lots of potential opinions about me. In other words, I now have lots of opportunities to totally wig out calmly notice my reaction to what other people might be thinking about me.

Notice that I say might be thinking about me. Most of the time I have no idea what people are actually thinking. Especially when I’m on stage. The audience members might be smiling, they might be frowning. Ultimately, I have no idea what’s going on in their heads.

Maybe they’re smiling because they just got a promotion at work. Maybe they’re frowning because their pants are too tight.

What do I know? I’m just a Nerd Rapper.

photo: Will Bakx

photo: Will Bakx

Recently, Melissa and I were performing at a local spiritual center.

Early in the service, the host announced that they were celebrating a member of the congregation who had recently received a prestigious award. The award winner was in the audience, along with some of his family.

Two of the family members immediately caught my attention. They were both women, one a young adult and the other a few decades older. They looked like they might be mother and daughter. Both women were dressed up and sitting quietly next to their honored family member.

It wasn’t their family resemblance or their fancy clothes that caught my attention, however. What was most striking about them was that they both looked utterly and completely uncomfortable to be there.

Did they hate church? Or did they just not like this church? Or maybe they didn’t like the family member they were honoring. Or maybe their pants were too tight.

I had no idea.

I just knew that, as I looked at them, a tiny thought entered in my head:

I want them to like me.

Melissa and I were performing one of our word songs that morning. This particular song, Fortify Your Faith, involves an audience echo and dance moves.

Younger people often like our word songs. Perhaps the younger member of the Utterly Uncomfortable Duo (UUD) would melt in joy and appreciation once she realized we were going to do something cool and groovy like a spoken word song.

photo: Cristian Borquez on flickr

photo: Cristian Borquez on flickr

When I was teaching the congregation the echo part and the dance moves, I saw someone in the family nudge the younger member of the UUD. They appeared to be teasing her about something.

Maybe she really was a fan of spoken word. Or maybe she thought the whole thing was stupid.

Only one way to find out.

Melissa and I started the song. The audience immediately joined in. They were rapping. They were moving. They were having a great time.

For most of the song, I couldn’t bring myself to look at the UUD. I knew they were there. I could see them out of the corner of my eye. I just couldn’t bring myself to look.

Finally, near the end of the song, I peeked.

There, in the second row, both members of the UUD were staring at me. They weren’t moving. They weren’t speaking or singing. They were just staring and looking Utterly Uncomfortable, just as they had been the entire service.

Needless to say, this threw me off.

I had not succeeded in my goal! I had not gotten them to like me! At least, not as far as I could tell!

I could feel my energy start to flag. But the song wasn’t over. I still had more to do.

photo: Will Bakx

photo: Will Bakx

I turned my gaze to the rest of the congregation. They were still happy. Still moving, still rapping and singing. They still liked it.

When it was over, Melissa and I compared notes. Turns out she had the same reaction to the UUD. She had noticed them too, both before and during the performance.

And she, like me, had to turn her attention away from the UUD and toward the rest of the audience in order not to be thrown off.

I promised in the title of this post that I’d teach you four steps to master the art of not caring what other people think.

And I will! After all, I want you to like me!

Here are the four steps:

1. First of all, you have to admit you care what other people think. If you’re a sociopath super-duper enlightened, you don’t care. But the rest of us do.

Admitting that you care what other people think is the first step to getting over it.

2. Next, surround yourself with people who love and support you just as you are.

photo: Mountain View on flickr

photo: Mountain View on flickr

If you don’t currently have these kind of people in your life, find some. Look for a group of like-minded individuals who will appreciate you for you. Maybe it’s a spiritual community. Maybe it’s a knitting group. Whoever they are, the Number One Criteria is that these folks accept you as you are.

3. The third step is to cultivate self-acceptance. Affirmations are great for this. Quieting the mind and finding a calm center, through meditation or yoga, also works.

Some people start with self-love and then find other people who love them. Either way, having a strong sense of self-worth within and without is key.

4. The fourth and final step is that when you find yourself being affected by the negative opinion of others, call upon steps two and three.

Meditate. Step up your affirmations. Phone a friend.

photo: Cambodia4Kids.org on flickr

photo: Cambodia4Kids.org on flickr

In my case, I needed to turn my gaze from the stone-faced UUD and look out to the rest of the audience. Melissa needed to do the same thing. Steeping ourselves in the positive regard of others helped soothe the sting of the UUD.

It also helped that I’ve built my inner self-worth to the point where I could let in the appreciation of the rest of the group.

Ultimately, I have no idea what the UUD was thinking. Maybe they were both in ecstasy and that’s how they chose to express it.

All I know is that they appeared to be thoroughly unimpressed with what Melissa and I were doing, and I allowed this to throw me off center.

As long as I’m alive, I’m sure to be affected by the opinions of other people. We all are.

But the more we practice these four steps, the less we have to let the opinions of others – real and imagined – stop us from expressing our unique forms of humanness.

Now, that’s an art worth mastering.

photo: Travis on flickr

photo: Travis on flickr

How do you handle the opinions of others? Share your comments below!

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32 Responses to How to Master the Art of Not Caring What Other People Think: A Four Step Process

  1. Melissa May 20, 2014 at 7:47 am #

    I’ve had this experience over and over where I see someone – and seem to be eyes glued to them while on stage – who is seeming totally bored, or even angry. And after the event was completed, THAT person was the one who came up to me to express how completely powerful it was for them, or how it changed their life. Seriously – SO many times this happened….I finally began to realize that perhaps what I’d heard was true – maybe I really can’t tell what is going on with other people. LOL

    • Z Egloff May 21, 2014 at 11:21 am #

      Hi Melissa,

      How nice to see you here! 😉

      I’m commenting on these comments backwards, so I can now see that what I told Sauda in her comment, you already said! So now I don’t have to say anything else. Other than that I love you, wifey dear.

      XOZ

  2. Sara Nichols May 20, 2014 at 7:48 am #

    I look forward to moving towards total enlightenment as I read the rest of your series. In 12 step we have a saying, “what other people think of me is none of my business”

    • Z Egloff May 21, 2014 at 11:20 am #

      Hi Sara,

      Actually, it’s not a series. It’s just this one post, and the four steps are all in the post. I went back and made some changes in the post after I read your comment, just to make it more clear. But I didn’t do it so you’d like me. Though I’m really hoping that you DO like me more because of it. 😉

      XOZ

      • Sara Nichols May 21, 2014 at 11:22 am #

        oh no, what if you think less of me because I didn’t read your post more carefully? What if the readers think less of me because they’re reading this comment? what if no one reads this comment? What am I to do?

        • Z Egloff May 21, 2014 at 11:27 am #

          I know, it’s a vicious cycle, isn’t it?! That’s why “f**k it” is such a great mantra. Just sayin.

          • Sara Nichols May 21, 2014 at 11:33 am #

            what do the two asterisks stand for, Z? Actually, it reminds me that recently I got to listen to a brilliant monologue by a close family friend named Jerry Farber. Jerry, for the initiated, is the author of the books Student as Nigger and University of Tomorrowland both of which were widely read. He is a professor emeritus at San Diego State and still teaches at University of San Diego.
            Jerry said that he (born in 1931) has been on a lifelong crusade to take the hate and the violence out of the word “fuck.” He said, why should this work that stands for making love have these other meanings.
            He figured out that the only way to make this happen was to use it constantly until it was meaningless. He began doing that and he believes he may have been the first college professor to use it in the classroom (late 50s).
            he said that he recently realized that he had succeeded, when he overheard sorority girls using it to modify every word they used.
            “No one can ever be hurt by that word again,” said Jerry. “When it has been used to modify the word ‘sweater.”

          • Z Egloff May 21, 2014 at 11:55 am #

            Sara Nichols, Have I told you lately that I fucking love you?!

  3. squirrel May 20, 2014 at 9:19 am #

    Ahhhh Z, you wonderful godling, how I relate to wanting to be loved… perhaps the UUD was Vulcan. :)

    On your 1-10 scale, I place myself at about 5, which is pretty good considering not too long ago I was at about 12. I would like to attribute my new, “enlightened” approach to life to the Second Agreement, but that would be breaking the First Agreement (see what I did there?). If I’m being honest, it really is a “f-ck it” attitude; I have become jaded, thus apathetic.

    Apathy is just part of my process, however. I break my life apart and get down to what really matters to me, and then build it back up (there’s a post for you – apathy as a spiritual practice, lol). I put myself at a 5 because I do still care about what certain people think about me. I am, after all, human.

    Remember: “You can please some of the people some of the time, all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time but you can never please all of the people all of the time.” – Abraham Lincoln

    And: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” – Bernard M. Baruch (often attributed to Dr. Seuss)

    And I love you just the way you are! Don’t ever change (for someone else)!

    • River May 20, 2014 at 5:59 pm #

      I have to say I am on the same page as Squirrel! So put me down for a 5ish. I do care what some people think of me. But I also agree with Sara Nichols that its none of my business.
      Also, I am a stubborn ole River -I like not giving my power away to others – if I let go of others opinion of me, I can flow easier and life is sooooo much simpler when I let my Higher Self be in charge and not my ego or someone else’s.

      I would love a lesson on the power of apathy as a spiritual practice. What say you, divine Z?
      River

      • Z Egloff May 21, 2014 at 10:50 am #

        Hi River,

        Keepn on flowin! I like this idea that your stubbornness is part of what keeps you in your power. I can relate to this! :)

        As for apathy as a spiritual practice, I will put that in the hopper. I really never know what I’m going to write about – I let Source direct it – but the idea has now been added to the realm of stuff that lives in my head! 😉

        XOZ

    • Z Egloff May 21, 2014 at 11:18 am #

      Hi Squirrel,

      I think you’re right. They were Vulcans. That would explain a lot.

      I love that quote by Abe. I’ve heard it before, but I forgot it. It’s actually more complicated than I remembered. Abe was a deep dude.

      And the Baruch quote is awesome as well. Thank you for that!

      And I promise to never change! Unless I do! But only cuz I want to! :)

      Thanks for the Love!

      XOZ

  4. joe May 20, 2014 at 9:57 am #

    Just… thank you for the fun and thought provoking expression of your mind. Love your ‘strikeouts.’ What a hoot… and meaningful besides. Best to you both.

    • Z Egloff May 21, 2014 at 11:15 am #

      Hi Joe,

      Glad you like the strikeouts. They’re one of my favorite things. Lets the naughty voice inside me have a say. 😉

      XOZ

  5. Catie Kniess May 20, 2014 at 10:51 am #

    Always love your writing, Z. But I don’t like you…(Yea right :) Love ya, spirit sis.

    • Z Egloff May 21, 2014 at 11:14 am #

      Hi Catie!!

      Oh thank you for this. Now I can make peace with the fact that you don’t like me but you love me! 😉

      XOZ

  6. Cindy May 20, 2014 at 11:08 am #

    I just love you Z! Thanks for your honesty and so clearly articulating this universal phenomenon that people almost universally deny. LOL! When standing in the front of the room it’s virtually impossible not to notice people’s expressions…and we all want to make a good impression. I can get thrown by people looking angry or UU, people checking their cell phones, crying, etc. I do exactly what you did and focus on people who look enthused, engaged and happy to see me. It’s a great metaphor for life in general….not just when onstage. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Z Egloff May 21, 2014 at 11:13 am #

      Hi Cindy,

      Yes, I know that you can totally relate to this! Another thing I’ve noticed is that when people are listening to something, especially when I’m speaking, they look kinda blank and passive. It’s like seeing someone you know when they’re behind the wheel of a car and they don’t see you. They look all blank and expressionless. But that’s just because they’re concentrating. Which is also what people are (sometimes!) doing when I’m speaking. But does that stop me from trippin? Oh no, it doesn’t! 😉

      XOZ

  7. Kat May 20, 2014 at 11:24 am #

    Hi Z!

    If I had a dollar for all the times I heard, “What will people think?” while growing up. Gosh, there’s a lot I could do with all that loot!

    This phrase/idea/belief was so ingrained in me as a child living in a small town where EVERYONE knew your business, that I still carry it with me, many decades later.

    Like you, I have become less bothered about other people’s opinions of me as I’ve ‘matured’, okay, as I’ve aged. LOL

    It seems much less important what other people think of me now, perhaps because living an authentic life is more essential to who I am now than the image others have of me.

    It’s probably been that way all along, I just needed to figure that out on my own, then disintegrate the old, worn out tape in my head, freeing me up to be the ‘me I truly be’.

    As always you’re ‘spot on’. I appreciate your honesty and your wit. I really do! And I don’t say that so you’ll like me…well, maybe just a little! :)

    Bountiful Blessings,
    Kat

    • Z Egloff May 21, 2014 at 11:10 am #

      Hi Kat,

      I like that you point out the link between living an authentic life and caring less about what other people think. When we learn to tap into our inner guidance and our authentic power, which ultimately comes from the Source that creates everything, it’s harder to believe that other people’s limiting views of us are correct.

      I’ve noticed that women often carry the concern about what others think more than men, though there are certainly women who don’t care so much and some men who do. That said, I think that one reason women often talk about being happier when they get older is because we let go, more and more all the time, those fears and worries about what others might think of us.

      And thank you for the ‘spot on’ comment! I like that – and you – very much! :)

      XOZ

  8. Anne May 20, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

    Not that long ago I learned a funny thing; people are Not thinking about me as often as I thought. They are usually thinking about themselves and all there own stuff. Another funny thing is that learning this only helped a little bit. You would Think this would be a huge relief but alas……………sigh. Love you Z!

    • Z Egloff May 21, 2014 at 11:04 am #

      Hi Anne,

      Yes, this is so true! Everyone is ultimately rapped up in themselves – which sometimes included worrying about what other people are thinking about THEM. “Enough about me, what do YOU think of me?”

      Love you back!! :)

      XOZ

  9. Sauda May 20, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

    I care about what others think ALOT! It tends to run my life and wear me out energetically! Whew! How I’ve been handling it lately is tuning in to what my inner being thinks of me and it’s always so amazing to feel and hear it:)

    Using the four agreements also helps specifically agreement #2 which is don’t take anything personally. My goodness this is a good one and sometimes I say fuck it out loud and ask myself out loud what do I want and I answer out loud and that always makes things clear:)

    Also I’ve noticed I’ve spent all this energy caring what they think of me and they are happily living life doing their own thing and I’m stressed out and worried.

    I’ve also had people who didn’t look like they enjoyed my performances come up to me afterwards and say how much they enjoyed it. Who knew:)

    • Z Egloff May 21, 2014 at 11:03 am #

      Hi Sauda!

      Thank you for all these wonderful reminders. Not taking things personally is SUCH a liberating idea. And so true! It really is never about us at all. I love that you actually talk to yourself out loud about it – I’m gonna have to try that!

      Melissa has had the same thing as you happen a lot – someone is totally frowning and looking miserable when she’s singing, and then they come up after and tell her how much her music moved them. So it’s true – you never know! :)

      XOZ

  10. dahlila May 20, 2014 at 2:11 pm #

    Funny that this piece should pop in my life just now. I care more than I like to admit what people think. It was, unfortunately, drilled into me from a very young age that what other people thought about me was VERY important–so look & act correctly–ie, normally–be always reserved, polite, well dressed, a “lady”. Oh, dear, because although very shy, I am also very outspoken. I have purple hair. My mother is horrified; strangers are not sure what to think, but then some random woman will say, hey! I love your hair! And I am swept away in appreciation for their kindness. It gives me courage. It makes me happy that they acknowledge who I really am–a 50 yo woman who got a wild streak to have purple hair. So, I cling to the kind words & try desperately to ignore the negative. It is NOT easy, but I try. 😉

    • Z Egloff May 21, 2014 at 10:59 am #

      Hi Dahlila,

      For the record, I love purple hair. Or any different colored hair. I occasionally think of doing it myself, but my hair is so short, I’d have to dye it a lot and I don’t think I’m up for that. But your comment is another reminder for me about the awesomeness of wild-colored hair.

      I also like that you point out that sometimes, because we DO all care what others think, having other people give us love and approval is a wonderful thing. It can feed our souls – and the oh-so-human part that we all have, that part that likes to belong and feel connected to others.

      So go you! Purple hair rocks!!

      XOZ

  11. Jo Lauer May 20, 2014 at 2:30 pm #

    Okay, truth time. I don’t like rap. I try–I really do–but I just can’t get into it. I may indeed be one of those people you see with a scowl, though I try my best to hide it. I LOVE you and I LOVE Melissa, but I don’t love rap. If I’m doing a good job of it, you’d think I was all blissed out like everyone else around me…and you’d be wrong. So… you’re right–we really DON’T know what people are thinking, nor can we always accurately guess or assume.

    Another truth: spiritual rap is coming closer to getting through my defenses, but not the other kind of rap.

    Last truth: you two are musical geniuses and bring an abundance of joy and love to any audience lucky enough to have you.

    • Z Egloff May 21, 2014 at 10:55 am #

      Hi Jo,

      Well, now I’ll know that no matter how you appear, you are in a state of Not Digging The Rap. At least we’re clear! 😉

      And I’m glad to know that we’re coming to closer to getting through your defenses. Though if I start rapping about bitches and ho’s, I suspect we’ll lose you.

      XOZ

  12. Janet May 20, 2014 at 3:00 pm #

    Well, Z–I’m with you on this! Would love to be enlightened, but not the sociopath kind. I have a great story of my own about what other people do or think. Sometimes it’s NOT all about me…I’ll tell you the tall tale sometime.

    • Z Egloff May 21, 2014 at 10:51 am #

      Hi Janet,

      Ooooooh. This sounds intriguing. I look forward to hearing the tale. Remembering that it’s not all about me is certainly helpful. Though challenging at times. 😉

      XOZ

  13. Karen May 21, 2014 at 2:20 pm #

    Terrific post and discussion! Like Kat, if I had some moolah for everytime I heard, “What will people think?” growing up, I’d need to open a Swiss bank account. But I’m so thankful to live in a time when people are now encouraged to explore and appreciate their uniqueness instead of simply try to always match the “norm,” whatever the heck that is. We’ve come a long way, baby!

    I love how you and Melissa chose to look at the joyful folks in the audience instead of the UUD, for the most part. Abraham has said that when Jesus said to turn the other cheek, he meant to turn your head and look in another direction that feels better. You did that!

    • Z Egloff May 22, 2014 at 11:33 am #

      Hi Karen,

      I love this! You’re right, I literally turned my cheek away from the UUD and toward the more positive and receptive peeps. And it made all the difference. Thank you for that reminder! :)

      XOZ

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