Just last month, I said yes to a speaking gig at a Chamber of Commerce meeting a few towns away. I said yes even though I am a true introvert, and even though I am terrified of speaking in front of others. And even though I have no presentation ready and very little time to create one, I said yes without batting an eye.
When my logical mind screamed, "Noooooooooooo!" I shut it down and said yes instead. And now I wait; terrified and stressed, but extremely excited.
You might wonder why I would force myself to do something I am afraid of, and I wonder the same sometimes. The thing is, I know deep down that improving my speaking skills will be good for me in the long run -- it will be good for my career.
And I have good reason to believe so.
A few years ago, I was a commentator on a national news program -- a talking head, an “expert guest.” After writing an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal, I was there to defend my case. And I knew exactly what I wanted to say; I took notes, wrote up arguments, and practiced them in front of a mirror.
Unfortunately, my “performance” didn’t turn out as I planned. With headphones in my ears, I could barely hear what the TV host was saying. And without a screen or person to look at, it took me far too long to process the other expert’s words. I suppose I did OK, but I didn’t perform the way I would have hoped.
Ever since then, I vowed to do better. I promised myself I would seize any and all opportunities to improve myself -- even if I was scared and didn’t want to do it.
And if I embarrass myself, so what? If you want to get better at something, you have to practice, right? And if you're too afraid to practice, you'll never get better. That's an unfortunate truth, but it's one I've made my peace with. So I keep putting myself out there, even when I am pretty sure I'll fumble things or mess them up.
The Power of Not Caring What People Think
Just a decade ago, I wouldn’t have dared to sit in front of a camera on a national news program. And I certainly wouldn’t have been able to get up in front of a crowd of my peers and give a talk on my own.
Come to think of it, I probably couldn’t have written for national audiences like I do now -- not with the prospect of critical comments, the hate mail I receive almost weekly, or the thought of those I know laughing behind my back.
But something happened to me along the way. At a certain point, I just quit caring what other people thought about, well, anything. I stopped caring if I made a fool of myself, or if I was misunderstood. I quit worrying whether someone would criticize my efforts, and focused my energy on my own goals instead.
This transition began when my husband and I were paying down debt in our late 20s. We had car loans, student loans, and personal debts and made some tough decisions along the way. We canceled our cable TV service, for example, and quit going out to dinner or spending money on things that weren't entirely necessary.
When family and friends balked at our choices, we were confused at first. Why wouldn’t they want us to get ahead? And why would anyone care how we spent our money?
After a while, we realized that what other people thought didn’t matter at all. We knew what we needed to do, and exactly how to make it happen. So we kept budgeting. We kept saving. And once we became debt-free, we held our heads high, knowing that we had made the right move.
That is the power of not caring what anyone thinks. When you let go of the worry, you can do your best without any fear. You can experiment with new things. You can really put yourself out there. You can try and fail, and get right back up and try again. And when others laugh or roll their eyes, you can stand confident in your decision to keep trying in spite of them.
Four Reasons to Stop Caring What Others Think
If you’re tired of caring what other people think, now may be your time to shine. Here are four reasons you should let go of the worry and start putting yourself first.
1. You Can Reach Your Potential
By far, the worst part about caring what other people think is that it stunts your growth. When you’re afraid of what people will say, it’s easy to shy away from new opportunities -- to shrink away in a corner and avoid pushing yourself or making yourself uncomfortable in any way.
In a post Trent Hamm wrote on trying new things, he shared some insight that rings true in this regard:
“Human beings are creatures of routine,” he said. “Even the most spontaneous among us stick to a lot of routines and habits in life. For us, it is challenging to try different approaches to the problems in our life.”
As human beings, we are hard-wired to stick with whatever is safe. We are prone to taking the path of least resistance; we are fearful. Unfortunately, that fear can hold us back and keep us from finding our true and best selves.
But when you stop caring what others think, everything changes. You can push yourself; you can try a little harder. You can experiment with a new career, start a new business, or work to improve yourself in a multitude of ways.
And you can do it all without worry of what your friends, neighbors, or colleagues will say. Because, if they don't want to help, then they are merely standing in your way.
2. You Can Stop Keeping Up with the Joneses
When it comes to money, not caring what other people think can actually make you rich. Think how much more money you would have if you didn’t feel compelled to buy brand-name clothes, get the latest tech device, or if you had chosen your home based only on your family’s actual needs.
Now imagine how much more cash you would have if you quit worrying about how much money you look like you have, and focused that attention on what was in your bank account –--if you took every ounce of energy you spent trying to look rich, and used it to become rich instead.
When you stop caring what other people think, that’s exactly what can happen. When you focus your attention on improving your life in tangible ways instead of superficial ones, you might find that the stars align in your favor.
When you stop worrying about others, you can spend less on your wardrobe and wear clothes that are actually comfortable. You can spend your free time doing the things you love, and you can spend your money in ways that help you reach your long-term goals. In other words, you can put your needs and your family’s needs first -- which is exactly where they should be.
3. You Can 'Live Like No One Else' Later
Dave Ramsey is famous for his words and lessons on frugality and putting your family first. And one of my favorite sayings of his falls in that category as well:
“If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.”
While his message is somewhat cryptic, what he means is that, when you sacrifice today, you can often reap greater rewards tomorrow. When you live well below your means, it’s a whole lot easier to save for the future. And when you make the sacrifices it takes to stash away that money now, it will be waiting for you.
Unfortunately, part of that can mean doing things a little differently. It might mean telling your children "no" a little more often, or forgoing some luxuries in favor of your long-term goals.
Either way, living like no one else later requires putting in the work today. And that’s a whole lot easier when you don’t care what other people think. When you’re willing to put your family first no matter what, you'll be that much closer to creating a life you are happy and content with.
4. You Can Put Your Family First
In the flashy and materialistic world we live in, it’s easy to spend family money on wants and desires while neglecting your personal savings. No matter where you look, you can find examples of this phenomenon -- kids who have $300 tennis shoes but no college savings, families with giant, empty houses but no healthy food in the fridge, and parents who waste thousands of dollars (and Saturdays) on their kid’s sporting events with the hope of them getting a small scholarship.
A lot of times, we’re not even doing it for ourselves, either; we’re doing it because we want to impress others, appear to “have it all,” or simply because our priorities are messed up.
If you truly want to put your family first, stop caring what others think. Recognize those $189 designer jeans and expensive sneakers for what they are -- overpriced status symbols that stand between your family and your family’s financial goals. Help your children recognize that the approval of others is fleeting, and that real freedom means doing what makes you happier, wealthier, and more fulfilled in the long run.
Recognize the Power and Seize It
One of my all-time favorite quotes is from American businessman Bernard Baruch. In a saying that is commonly attributed to Dr. Seuss, he said:
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.”
This quote embodies the essence of this lesson: The idea that we should all pursue the best of ourselves and the best for ourselves -- without worrying about those who might laugh at us, tear us down, or stand in our way.
We each have one life to live on this earth; we have one chance to do it right. We have a handful of years to raise our children with the values they will carry for a lifetime, and to put away the money we need to live the life of our dreams -- maybe not today, but in the future.
When we stop letting others dictate our actions, and rely on our own intuition, courage, and strength, amazing things can happen. But it has to start within.
So, figure out what you really want in life -- whether that’s getting out of debt, retiring early, or simply living your best life without a care in the world. But don’t stop there; once you find out what you want, pursue it with wild abandon.
Those who might criticize you never mattered anyway, so don’t let them decide what you do or say. Put yourself and your family first, and most of the time, everything else will fall into place.
When did you stop caring what other people think? Have you changed your mindset since then? Are you taking the steps to be where you truly want to be?