December 23, 2015

On Caring And Not Caring About What People Think

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I often wondered if writing a post entitled “I Don’t Care What People Think” makes it sound like you really do care about what people think. Like someone “not caring” if someone invites them to a party or not and then crying themselves to sleep hugging a box of Maltesers.

In the past, I’ve waved my glass of wine chatting away at a dinner party with friends, slightly slurring: “You know this person said this thing about me, but I don’t actually care, you know.” Their eyes would narrow and they’d be thinking: you care, dude. You care. But they would nod and smile and we’d put some different music on.

“Oi. So if you don’t care, then why are you writing about it?” Someone would probably snidely say.

Like celebrities who write tweets about how they are “real”, always “keeping it real” – just them and their “real” life – does unfortunately make people think: are you though? You keep saying you’re real! Stop it and just actually be real then.

But when I read Dani Shapiro’s piece “On What People Think” it was clearly possible to write about it truthfully and explain that it’s not an easy journey to be a fucking COOL badass who doesn’t instantly believe someone when they tell you their opinion of you or your work. That you can eventually get to a point where you Just Don’t Give A Fuck. She wrote this:

“I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way, I stopped caring what people think of me.  I don’t mean that I stopped caring what the people I love think of me – I care enormously about that – but I stopped caring about the big, wide swath of people who have opinions of me based on their own projections.”

Dani wrote this piece in November this year – and I selfishly wish she’d written it earlier. I needed to read it last year, or the year before that or the year before that. Not everyone is blessed with the ability to go “sorry, nope!!!!” when someone tries to tell you who you are with hardly any real information to hand. And Dani made me feel so less alone in thinking that.

A true Zero-Fucks-Given woman in business is Cindy Gallop. I’ve watched countless videos of her speak and I am always mesmerised. We are all mesmerised by people who don’t care, aren’t we? That’s because it’s actually pretty hard and rare to genuinely own it. We squint and scratch our heads and think “how did you get there?” and “how can I?”:

“Fear of what other people will think is the single most paralysing dynamic in business and in life. You will never own the future if you care what other people think. The single best moment of my life, quite honestly, was when I realised I no longer gave a damn what anybody thought. It’s the only way to live your life.”

Last year I can admit I went through major worrying spells about what “people” thought, wracked with nervous energy about what people might be saying about something I’d written or posted or done:

“Maybe this job isn’t for me,” I said to my boyfriend and family one night over Christmas. “Maybe I’m not cut out for all this. Maybe I should stop putting myself out there.”

ERRRRRR. WHAT?

Huuuuuh?

WHO AM I KIDDING?

Their reaction was gentle. Along the lines of: “you must do you what makes you happy.”

It was a bump in the road.

But inside I knew one thing for sure – it was bubbling up inside me – there was no way I was not going to write.

Present-Me is angry remembering that Past-Me said that. You don’t just quit doing your biggest passion in life because you get a few hail stones in your face. I wouldn’t let my friend to say something so negative about herself — so would I allow myself say it?

I didn’t write and write and write for years publicly and privately, putting my life online in order to connect and bond and share with strangers who want to lead a creative and brave life to just suddenly STOP because a few random people didn’t like it.

Nope.

Not an option.

So if “stopping” is not an option – what is the solution? It’s to find a way to Get. Over. It. A way to not care. To care about critical reviews (to a point), to care about feedback from an editor, to care about what the people who love you say, but to not care about a collective mass of people who have no control or impact on your life.

Brené Brown (aka Queen of the Entire Universe) says she writes down the people who matter on a tiny tiny piece of paper in her wallet. This is to remind her whose opinion actually matters to her. Social media has made putting your work (books, blog posts, articles, your soul) out into the world easier than ever – but the downside is that people’s direct responses can be scarier than ever. It’s important to take on feedback, but not if people are crushing your spirits for no reason. I just won’t take that. About my work, or other people’s.

Something else that totally spurred on this blog post – an absolutely brilliant excerpt from Anne T Donahue’s newletter (I ADORE this woman, sign up to read the whole thing). It’s about a random old school friend who wanted to give Anne some “pointers” on her work, and she slammed it down:

“I mean, I’m your audience, so shouldn’t you care what I think?”

PAUSE. Nope.

“Yeah, no. You’re not my editor. You’re not my close friend. I  mean, you can tell me what you want to tell me, but I’m not going to change anything, and I’m not going to listen, and it’s not going to effect me, and I’m going to ignore it completely, but sure — go for it, man.”

“Well . . . never mind then.”

And that was that. We kept chatting and I didn’t apologize for being direct or telling him exactly what I thought because I truly — and I mean truly — didn’t care. I finally felt like Amy Poehler when she looks at Jimmy Fallon in that Tiny Fey anecdote and, after he says he doesn’t like her OTP impression, she responds, “I don’t fucking care if you like it.” Which is a state of mind I’ve been aspiring to for since the day I was born.

I feel empowered this year.

I feel good.

I feel GREAT.

There’s no option but to keep working.

And for once, I’m not pretending I don’t care.

I just……kinda……don’t.

This video below is the most powerful thing I watched all year. Here’s to most badass 2016. Ever.

Photo taken by the ace Holly McGlynn

  • Thank you for posting this Emma. I feel the way you felt when you read Dani’s piece and I’m definitely glad I clicked to read this before the new year. My motto going into this next year is to conquer the things that make me uncomfortable and this fits hand in hand with that, to me. Thanks for sharing!

  • I wish I knew all this one year ago. Heck, I wish somebody had told me all this ten years ago so that high school wouldn’t be such a nightmare for me. Then again, thinking about the kind of person I was, I wonder if I would have taken that advice at all? I guess it’s a state of mind you have to come to on your own terms.

    Great blogpost!

  • This was so good!

  • Boom! This is exactly the type of thing that should be talked about in schools more. Recently I’ve become more aware of the fact that I care what people think about me, but I’ve also taught myself not to care. It’s reading posts like this and watching videos of other people talking about it that have helped change my mind set 😀
    So thanks
    James

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