It seems almost universal – worrying about what other people think about you. When you get right down to it, people barely notice your angst unless it impacts on their life.
Case in point: the woman who cleans your house has an accident and will be in the hospital for several weeks and may be laid up for several months after she gets home. You feel sorry for her but your first thought will probably be, “Who can I get to clean my house?”
Then you go through a mental list of your friends and assorted contacts and wonder if any of them have a reliable housekeeper they can recommend, all the while making the appropriate sounds of commiseration for the terrible thing that happened to her.
It’s not that you don’t care about your housekeeper’s plight, it’s that you care more about your own situation.
I have watched people twist themselves inside out, never able to be happy with themselves or their life because they are so worried about what other people think about them. And my conclusion is that most people don’t give them a moment’s thought; they’re too preoccupied with their own dramas.
If you think that sounds harsh, ask yourself what your first thought would be if you depended on someone to take care of your child and she called in sick just as you were about to go to a meeting to close a multimillion-dollar deal. Do you think of your babysitter or do you think of the multimillion dollar deal that might fall through because you can’t be there?
It’s next to impossible to not change who you are or not change your personality when you are so concerned about how you are being perceived. It’s equally difficult to really care about other people when you care more about how these other people see you. It’s as if you are play-acting, saying the appropriate things but thinking about yourself at the same time.
The solution that makes the most sense to me is to stop caring about the opinions of other people and start caring more about the quality of your life. I’m not advocating selfishness or lack of concern for other people. I’m merely saying that if you do the things that give you pleasure, you’ll be happy and you will bring that happiness into the lives of the people with whom you interact. Results: win-win for all.