Birthdays, reunions and exes: How to stop caring about what other people think of you

Your best friend’s wedding.

Your 10th high-school reunion.

Your 30th birthday. Your 40th birthday. God help us if we don’t have this figured out by the time we’re 50.

Why is it that we have to wait for one of these “major life events” to take care of ourselves, lose the weight, splurge on a mani/pedi, get a daring new haircut or wear those sparkly earrings?

There are many reasons, of course:

  • It’s about pleasing others, not ourselves
  • It’s an opportunity to show off our “good side”
  • It’s the love of the challenge
  • It’s an excuse to finally make a change
  • It’s a twisted sort of hope for the future

Those may be my interpretations alone, but regardless, making a rash decision to change quickly and radically is just another way to take us out of the present moment. To sit with what we have and who we are right now is to say that it’s okay, that we don’t need to change, and that’s scary.

Although it’s likely unnecessary, I will say that of course it is fine and even admirable to have goals, to set dates, to always be learning, seeking and growing. But when it’s based on what someone will think when they see you, or how they will feel rather than how YOU want to feel, it’s garbage.

On Friday of last week I was face to face with people who have commented on my weight in the past. My maybe 10 pounds over “weight,” if you ask me. My I have 2 kids under age 3 “weight” and I work 40 hours a week, volunteer, participate in women’s groups and try to write a little bit on the side. My I’m not feeding my soul “weight” and thus I probably too often indulge in an extra cocktail, dessert or bite of this or that. Nothing. Meaningless. Totally irrelevant.

So this time, unlike past times, I didn’t spend hours on the treadmill to try to do some emergency weight-losing before a vacation or a date on the calendar. This time, I wasn’t thinking of ways that I could cover up cellulite or position myself on the lawn chair so that my bathing suit looked more flattering than it otherwise might. This time, I tried really hard to just be present, eat when I was hungry (no more, no less), stay with the moment and the feelings and do the right thing. No planning out conversations in my head, no imagining having to defend myself or explain myself.

It was hard. It really was, and I won’t deny it. But there is no going down that path again. I’ve tried it before, and it’s useless. How and why we end up doing so many things in our lives that we really just have no desire to do is sad and lonely, and although it’s often a fact of life, it can also be a catalyst for change: to either stop doing those things or to view the situation differently. You don’t have to force yourself to enjoy a meeting, a reunion or a special get-together if what’s really going on is that you’re nervous about seeing people or coming close to touching old wounds, but if you’re present and truly there with what’s going on around you, it actually could turn out to be enjoyable (or at least, guaranteed, not as bad as you imagined). Anything is better than wishing you were somewhere else, after all. That doesn’t serve any of us.

To stop caring about what people think, you need to care about what YOU think. You need to get quiet, be present, feel the sensations of your experience (sun on your shoulders, cold breeze, ocean in the background, whatever it may be) and…that’s it. That’s enough. You don’t have to say the right thing, wear the right shoes, act like they do or discipline your kid the right way when he jumps on the couch. You just need to be, and be “you” — noticing what feels good, what feels right and of course how it feels when you get away from that calm center point.

As I said above: Sometimes it’s hard. When people talk about something that bothers you, it’s can be difficult to keep quiet. Take a mental note to come back to that place yourself, and figure out why X topic makes your skin crawl. When something happens at a party and all you want to do is crawl under the rug, sit. Be still. Breathe deeply. Then later, revisit the oops or the faux-pas and ask yourself what that situation touched on in you as a sensitivity or wound. Be with it. Pray about it. Meditate on releasing it and letting it go.

Not caring about what other people think is a daily exercise. And I don’t mean, of course, being rude to a sales clerk and not caring what she thinks because I said so. You know this. What we are working on is pleasing our innermost selves first, and bringing fuller versions of our lives to the table. Serving others. Taking care every day, not before a special presentation, celebration or milestone.

Center yourself first. That’s the only step you can take to help make everything else around you fall in line behind.


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