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I Don't Care What You Think!

Preface: This post isn't about Right and Wrong. Nor is it about Believe in Religion or Cultural Dogma. This post is about "Freeing Your Mind" from social programming. In this I will use my own reference points. Some of these may be religious in nature and for those who are unable to relate to these points I apologize in advance.

Let me start by saying that many many years ago I recognized in myself the need for approval from my peers. I became consciously aware of my "Addiction" to constant approval of each thing I did, from family or friends. I craved validation.

I realized that I was choosing (subconsciously) to live my life based on the perceptions others had of me. In short, I cared what they thought. In about the 9th grade (15-16 years old) I started a journey of personal revolution. For my parents and teachers it was something entirely perplexing.

I consciously made the decision that I no longer cared about social norms or perceived rights and wrongs or cultural niceties. I was going to live however, I deemed was right. Setting my own limits regardless of others perceptions.

Now, honestly I couldn't have concisely expressed, as I am now, what it was I wanted to accomplish back then. All I knew was that I had had enough of the self-loathing, the fear, the constant concern over what others might think. Some how in the process I loosed an inner strength that had been bound for as long as I can remember. Who I am today is so MASSIVELY different than who I use to be.

I look back on it and realize that all the things that I did since that point of realization were in an effort to discover who I really was inside (from the college courses while still in high school, to show choir, wrestling, being a college DJ, Humanities Club Pres., Assistant Poetry Editor for Weed Magazine, on and on). I had locked a part of me away for so long, I just wanted to know who I was. You know, as I work with people all over the world and as I listen to their lives I see a continuous theme.

So, when I hear things like, "I don't want to sell." & "I don't want to talk to anyone I know about this business until I have reached some level of success." &  "I don't want to make phone calls." & "I don't want to do this... and I don't want to do that." I can 100% understand where they are coming from.  Rational or Not...

It all boils down to fear. Fear of all kinds of things, but Rejection is the biggest one (fear never was rational). This fear hold us back, and I recognized the limitations I had even back there because of these Fears. Fears of what others think. Which causes Inhibition.

As a sociology Major in College we studied social issues... unfortunately I got sick of focusing on social "problems" and wanted to delve into the cross over between sociology and psychology, more the study of why people do what they do.

Judith (from a forum I am in) mentioned in a response to my post on the topic about finding her writing voice, "I am beginning to realize my blockage(s) lie in fear of failure, and fear of appearing foolish. It was very hard for me to even ask the question here!"  I applaud you Judith for this realization.

My absolute most favorite quote is this, "Life is 10% what happens to us, and 90% how we react to it."

It is for me a powerful illustration that WE are in control to behave and act as we so choose.

Comments like - "He makes me so mad." - "I can't help it if I'm jealous." These statements just spit on the most powerful of gifts that each of us have, Choice, Free-Agency.

When we see an individual walking down the street with a funny hat, do we think "Wow, what a weirdo!"?

When we see someone walk out with a paper bag with a bottle in it and a stagger, do we think, "What a drunk?"

We find ourselves riddled with fear at the judgments of others... have you ever gone to a Karaoke club? You need to! You'll see people tossing and turning with the desire to sing... but overcome with fear that others will think they were awful.

I am a big fellow, a 6 foot 1+ inch fellow at 240 Lbs. When you see me in the park with my kids... should I be worried about what people will think as I skip and run and do cart wheels and dance with my children? Should I worry what they think when the time comes for a spat to the bottom? Should I worry if they'll think I am a good parent or a goof ball?

Should I worry about what may hair or cloths look like as I go to the grocery late at night for a can of formula because we were out?

Should I worry about posting to a forum, sharing my thoughts with you, because I know my spelling and grammar are not very good? How many of you reading this right now have something to offer... but are afraid someone may think it is foolish? SHARE AWAY I SAY! Discard your concerns!

Where does this MADNESS END? We as humans in a societal group are HORRID creatures.

Have you looked at the road sides and the trash that lines it? Who's fault is that? Oooo this little cigarette butt wont do any harm, this packet of catch-up, this napkin, this pop can... No one is responsible.

Have you looked at the disintegrating family structure and societal values? No one is responsible.

Who creates these social "rules" of how things should look, smell, sound, talk, be written, or be left unsaid?

Who taught us to be this way?

I watched my wife prepare my children today for school. She fussed over them here and there with the utmost of love, tucking in my sons shirt 3 or 4 times, trying to get his hair to stay in some particular configuration she had in mind. She sat there and brushed my 2 older daughters hair, to the point the youngest one cried in pain... just to get the snarls out before they left the house.

Sound familiar? Are we doing these things for the education and betterment of our children or so they will be perceived by society as acceptable? Or so we as parents will be perceived as good parents?

A Shift....

When is it okay to Judge? When is it okay to evaluate a situation, determine it shouldn't happen, and do something about it?

In a recent conversation about the appropriate way to go about "Living a Christ Like Life" I found myself being lectured on the overall concept of Gossip, Forgiveness, and being Judgmental. It's an interesting topic for me because I spent the better part of my young adulthood and early adulthood not caring about who was or was not Judging me or who was gossiping about me or who was forgiving me for whatever reason.

However, to look at it from the other side. How I perceive others, how I evaluate others... it is an interesting dichotomy.

The point they were making was that we have an Obligation to stop wrongs from happening. For example, if someone is cheating on a test... should we tell the teacher, do nothing, tell everyone else, or talk to the individual. They also mentioned gossip about others, talking badly of others, etc. Their point was that we should go directly to the source. See someone cheating... talk to them.

I had to interrupt them... In the old testament Cain is asked where Able was by God. And Cain said, Am I my brothers keeper? God in essence replied, Yes.

In the new testament, we are taught that judging others is the responsibility of God, and God alone.

Here's the quandary, I see someone with what "I THINK" is a cheat sheet. Does this impact me or others I am responsible for? Will confronting them accomplish anything? Will I be a better person by "judging" them to be a cheat? What benefit is there to even care what "I Think" I saw?

The fellow telling the story of this cheat went on to mention that the cheat is now a doctor. Additionally, at his recent 20 year reunion he felt hostility (all these many years) toward this fellow. Have you ever worried if your Doctor cheated? Would you want someone to step up to the plate and confront your them about the cheating?

2 people. (a) One might have Cheated 20 years ago. (b) One might have seen him cheat 20 years ago, and as a result might have gotten a lower grade. 20 years are past and person B has lived half his life with guilt and anger over this one incident.

The human mind is a twisted and weird place, while at the same time creating and offering some of the most beautiful and inspirational pieces of work or thought.

Put aside Right and Wrong... or perceptions of Right and Wrong. The biggest questions that come to my mind are:

- Does this affect me and those I am responsible for? (Everyone is your brother/sister)
- Does what I saw it matter?
- Is it my job to help them be a better person?
- Is what they do between them and their God/Conscience?

If I see someone run a red light, should I take down their license plate and report it to the police? What if it were your child walking across the cross walk?

If you witnessed a murder you'd want to share everything you knew right? Even if it was done by your child?

We find ourselves on a daily basis riddled with judgment calls, making decisions, checking them against what we understand to be right and wrong.

Quote from about: "we have an Obligation to stop wrongs from happening." Do we?

Some are HARD calls. So, why get hung up on the STUPID little details?

After raising 5 children, my father mentioned to me that the one thing he wishes he had done better was to pick his battles better. This seems to ring very true in this case as well.

If you listen to the theologians of most all religions you will hear them say that in the end the only one whose thoughts matter are those of God, that God alone is our Judge.

This idea should be both frightening and liberating. If man is not my judge why should how I sing on Karaoke Night matter except to me and my God? Why should I fear what others think?

A Shift Back....

I have often said, to the horror of most who hear it, I don't care what anyone thinks of me. (I'm not perfect... but that's my goal... or it was for a long time. My second favorite saying, "What you conceive and believe you will achieve. And what you confess most will come to pass.")

My wife hears me say that and I remember an exchange where she started crying. She said, "You don't care what I think?" And I was forced to make an addendum to what I thought was an otherwise perfect solution to stupid social fear.

I do not care what anyone thinks of me, other than those I care about.

And then... how muddled does that sound. Not firm or sure or confident in the least. Riddled with feelings of "I'll try" and "other than xyz"... exceptions to an other wise PERFECT rule. There is this door that opens and allows some in, while blocking others out. A choice of who I'll let affect me must be made from time to time, a choice I make.

Yet... I find that I care a great deal about a lot of people. I find myself emotionally invested into people who I have never physically met and yet, I DO care what they think... to an extent.

So, I come full circle in the evolution of self-discovery.

I do care! It drives me to be a better person. Input and constructive criticism build character. The trick is to filter who you will and will not allow to impact your life, to filter constructive and destructive input.

There is one critical element to this whole equation... YOU ARE THE ONE IN CONTROL!

Never fear for the sake of fear itself. Lose the inhibitions you find yourself bound by, by realizing that what others think is irrelevant UNLESS you give them the power. Strangers are NOT people you should give power too! They do not have your best interests in mind. Be careful who you give this power too, because it will dictate how you live your life.

On the Flip side, be careful how you "evaluate" and "categorize" and "judge" others. Be sure your criticism is ALWAYS constructive. You never know if a sideways comment made out of a careless evaluation could damage or hurt another individual and limit their endless potential.

I think we all have GREAT responsibilities to "let go" the things of this world that are trivial from every aspect; let go of your worry about what others think and let go of your need to categorize every person (evaluating their behavior, guessing at their motives).

Phrases like, "Like water off a ducks back" and "pick your battles" come to mind.

How much more simple would life be if you knew everyone in the world lived like that and you lived the same way?

Good Luck on your Journey,
Mel Atwood

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