Fuck What People Think

Aug 5, 2013 by

          My level of confidence has drastically risen since starting The Happiness Experiment, which has motivated me to regularly travel beyond my comfort zone. Each time that I do, I learn more about how to conduct myself in new situations, without thinking my way into fits of social anxiety. I’ve become increasingly comfortable in unfamiliar territory. As a result, trying new things with new people has become less and less intimidating.

          Aside from my repeated self-exposure to novelty, my newfound ability to let go of what other people think of me has been revolutionary to the way that I live my life. When I previously concerned myself with what people thought, I wasn’t living for me. My choices weren’t mine. Most of my actions were the consequences of imagined notions about what other people were thinking. Isn’t that fucked? It wasn’t other people’s thoughts of me that impacted how I chose to proceed with my life; it was my personal perception of other people’s thoughts that drove my behaviour. Given that I’m not a mind reader, my speculations about others’ thoughts were no doubt wrong; yet, I let them control me. I will never cease to be amazed by the power of the mind. It can function for or against you, depending on how you let it skew your thoughts. Feeding it with panicked assumptions about the possible (but not real) opinions that people may hold of you is like declaring war on yourself. Spoiler alert: You lose.

          The realization that initiated my escape from this prison of conceptions was that my happiness was more important to me than everyone else’s opinions. Directly, we’re told that what other people think of us doesn’t matter. However, society’s implicit message makes a grander statement. The way that we tailor ourselves to external expectations better illustrates how we truly feel about other people’s opinions: they matter. They matter a lot. Furthermore, we’re ashamed that they matter to us, as evidenced by popular expression of the words, “It doesn’t matter what people think,” which mean nothing when we don’t act accordingly.

          Whether or not the majority stands by them, these words are wise. Gaining this understanding has made me less egocentric. I’ve realized that people care little about what I do, because they have their own lives to worry about. No matter how many times I’ve been told this, it had no impact on my actions until I genuinely believed it. What changed when I started The Happiness Experiment is that I wanted to live my life for me, and that required no longer making choices based on other people. Caring about what other people thought had never been a successful route to happiness, and I knew that happiness was worth more than conformation.

          When I began to make an effort to give up my anxious notions of other people’s thoughts, I used my decision to quit my job as my model for how to move forward. The night before I walked out on my job last summer, I remember collapsing to the floor in tears, surrounded by piles of laundry that I was angry I didn’t have the time to finish. I looked at the mounds of dirty clothes surrounding me, taking in the fact that I was so bombarded with work that clean clothes had just become a luxury. I was done. This couldn’t continue. I had let my job take my self-esteem, my time, and my happiness. It was not about to take clean clothes from me too. This was the last straw. (I was clearly unstable.) My head held up by my hands as I stared at the dark hardwood, I decided amidst a sea of laundry that I was going to quit. I said it aloud to make it real.

          Olivia watched me in horror. “You can’t quit,” she stated as apparent fact.

          “Why can’t I?” I retorted.

          “Because you already agreed to work on this new program. You can’t go back on that,” she said.

          “You mean because people will think it’s unprofessional. Because I may not get a reference. Because people will have opinions about me being unemployed. You mean that I can’t quit because of what other people will think, right?” I shot back.

          Her silence said it all.

          “Fuck what other people think. I don’t know why I wake up in the morning. I can’t think of something to live for anymore. Who cares what other people think?” I questioned rhetorically.

          She didn’t have a response to this either. We both knew that I was right.

          Although this was a bold move in the direction of acting for me, this was not the moment that I stopped torturing myself with wildly paranoid ideas about what other people thought of me. That came later with the birth of The Happiness Experiment. Even still, it became the moment that I looked to as somewhat of a gold standard in the struggle to dispose my fears of other people. Quitting my job didn’t change every facet of my life. Employed or unemployed, I was still a mess without a social life until I took action to change that; but, The Happiness Experiment wouldn’t have existed without my decision to forgo my fear of other people’s opinions and leave my job at last.

          Now, blissfully deep in happiness, it’s become my nature to fuck what other people think. Ironically, launching my blog and re-entering the online world through social media, which I expected to erode my self-esteem, have been major contributors to building it. Thanks to social media, I have no more secrets. People are sometimes shocked by what I’m willing to share, but I’m liberated by it. Finally, people know me as I am. Embracing the level of honesty that I do through The Happiness Experiment has made way for a peak in confidence that I’ve never before reached. Through my blog, I’ve given everyone everything. In return, I’ve gained emotional stability in knowing that there’s nothing left for anyone to take. I’ve already delivered the behind the scenes of my life to the world. Everyone says that what other people think doesn’t matter. Some believe it. Very few live by it. I encourage you all to join me in being one of the few.

Happiness Tip: Live for yourself. Don’t worry about what other people think.

 
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