I have a confession: I care about what other people think of me. Too much.
Whew. It felt good to get that off my chest. Because, for some reason, that feels like the dirty little secret that people carry around with them, doesn’t it? Everyone is constantly telling you that you shouldn’t worry about what other people think of you, that if you’re confident in yourself, it doesn’t matter. If you have your eyes firmly fixed on God, you won’t even notice what others around you are whispering. If you’re a good mother, you’ll do what’s best for your family and not even notice when the old lady at Trader Joe’s throws you some serious shade while both of your kids slam their mini-carts into the banana display.
Well. Those people are probably right. No, they are definitely right. We shouldn’t care. If we were closer to perfection, we wouldn’t care. At some point in my life, I hope to not care. I’m getting better at it all the time. Like, for instance, that little vignette about the lady with the pinchy, angry mouth at Trader Joe’s? Yeah, that happened and I was kinda like, “Ha! At least they’re not crying!” (There was crying, later, but we were already halfway to the car when it happened, so I consider that I shopping victory.) It’s getting easier for me to not care what strangers think of me, and for that, I’m grateful.
But if I’m being perfectly honest (and that’s what I’m going for here), I still care way too much about how those closest to me perceive my actions. Even when I’m acting in a way that I know is right, I let worry fester. Did they misunderstand? Do they understand what pressures I’m facing in my life? Did they realize that I’d prayed long and hard about this decision? Do they know that I didn’t mean to offend? Do they even get how hard it is to keep both of my children fully clothed and diapered and fed at the same time while also trying to clean the house?
I hope you’re not like me. I hope you don’t care and that that comes easy to you. But maybe it doesn’t. Maybe you’re just a little bit like me? Maybe you care a little more than you want to admit? If that’s the case, my point is, there’s hope.
Detachment from the judgement and misunderstandings of the world isn’t something we can expect ourselves to master overnight. Or over the course of a year. Or, really, over the course of a lifetime. I mean, this is stuff that SAINTS struggled with, people! There’s a reason why you hear so many people say later in life that they give little mind to the judgements of others… maybe because they’ve had a lifetime of practice? It takes work to continue being you and purposefully detaching from the harsh criticisms (real or imagined) of others. So what I’m saying is, it’s ok to own it. We don’t have to pretend we don’t care when we do. Acknowledge it, put it in its place, and move on. Be open and honest and let others worry about their own thoughts. I can’t control the mind of that grumpy lady in the grocery store any more than I can control who my kids take out with their shopping carts. So one day at a time, I’m going to have to practice letting it go.