"Why do you care what he thinks," my husband asked? Ugh, not again. I don't want to have this argument. I felt defensive and foolish for letting myself care. When I feel this way I act poorly. Why do I care? I'm not supposed to care about what others think. I'm 41-years-old! It's the unwritten rule of adulthood. My life would be so much easier if I didn't care what others think! He's got a point. However, he thinks I have a choice in the matter, and this irks me so darn much! I'm not capable of not caring. Duh. Have you met me, dear husband? I care. It's who I am. Hello!?!
It's hard to be mad at him though. He doesn't like to see me hurting so he offers this simple solution to help me. I know that. But it doesn't stop me from getting annoyed! If it were that easy to stop caring, wouldn't I be doing that already? How many of you can relate to this? How many of you are so sick of feeling judged for caring?
Is it possible to not care what anyone thinks? Can not caring be learned? Why does it seem so easy for some while others are paralyzed by criticism? Why do we care what others think? I was determined to see if learning not to care was possible.
I want this to be the part where I tell you it was so easy for me to figure this out and change my thinking for the better, but that's not the case. I really didn't know how I felt or why I felt that way. Most of the time I felt numb, scared and angry and had no idea why. I also had no clue where to start. I wanted to feel at peace and knew I needed to figure this out, but it wasn't easy. And, let me be perfectly clear, I couldn't do it alone! I found a great counselor. Months have passed with lots of tears and talking and loads of reading and learning. I've learned a ton.
I'd like to share with you my revelations because I don't think my coping style is rare. Many people take my very same approach. If I'm right, you're walking around feeling anxious and angry and have no idea why. I can't let you do that anymore. You do not have to live this way!
I do care what others think but I had managed to convince myself otherwise. I don't care what anyone thinks! You're sooo stupid for caring! You'll show them! Don't CARE! They can't hurt you!! These phrases lived inside my head for decades. I thought I was so smart. I pretended not to care until I believed it myself. Here was a typical day in my life: feel hurt, convince myself to push the hurt away, feel confused, hide my pain, take the I-don't-care-you-can't-hurt-me approach, become angry, repeat. I was so good at this cycle that I trained myself to not even recognize the hurt! I'd push it away completely and feel confused and angry. All the damn time. Every new situation dug a deeper hole in my heart and turned me into an angry jerk. A series of small let downs and sadness piled into a mountain of depression that I had no chance of escaping.
For example, when I was in 9th grade and moved to a new school, many girls gave me dirty looks and called me names like "slut" and "bitch" purely because I was the new girl, attractive, and they felt threatened. It hurt, but instead of crying in the corner and being sad, I thought the appropriate response was to show them how little I cared. I'd push the hurt aside and fling my hair back thinking "I'll show you!" They made me feel anxious and confused, but I thought letting them get to me was the worst thing I could do. Well-intentioned adults would tell me "they're just jealous!" and "ignore them!" No tolerance bullying policies were not established in the early 90's and relational girl type bullying was hardly a thing. Being attractive and new was my cross to bear. Just deal with it.
I don't care what you think. I don't care at all.
This you-can't-hurt-me approach? Well...eh...you can see from the example above it did not serve me very well. I did care what people thought. A lot. I was living a lie and felt super confused and anxious. I had learned to ignore my hurt feelings so well, anger became my instinctual response whenever I felt hurt. I took the "I'm better than you, so screw you" approach most of the time. I bet you several of my high school peers have no idea how scared I was to go to school everyday. Some may even describe me as conceited! I put on a very good front to cope with the hurt I was feeling. My career choice as a School Counselor is no coincidence. This was a very difficult time in my life.
Think about it. Imagine the young teenager who desperately wants to fit in. They get rejected and convince themselves they just don't care to fit in. They become angry and depressed. It's a cycle that is all too familiar for SO many of us. We need to feel loved. We need to belong. When we don't, it hurts and it often leads us to anger. We let anger win and lose touch with our true feelings. Anger is acceptable by society. Sadness and hurt, not so much. We become resentful and disconnect from others. This often leads to unhealthy choices.
Here's what months of therapy uncovered for me:
Guys, I'm not writing this as a punishment for those who have hurt me, nor is this about any one person. I debated not posting this for days because I didn't want to hurt anyone who may read this and thinks its about them. It's given me tremendous anxiety. There were several relationships and patterns in my life that were unhealthy from my past. Not so much now. And, I contributed to the patterns above. I let them happen! I let my anger seep out at very inappropriate times in very inappropriate ways. My end goal is peace, truth, and happiness. For you and me.
If you can relate or see of these same patterns in your life, hear me out. If you often feel confused, angry, sad, and beat down, you are not crazy! You are strong enough to get to the root of the problem. Be brave. It will be scary, but you will learn and you will grow. I know it seems impossible, but its the truth. Happiness is possible if you are brave enough to deal with your pain.
If there is someone in your life who is constantly moody, unhappy, or angry, I can tell you with utmost certainty they are hurting more than you can ever imagine. Don't take it personally! If you love them, you can find a way to reconnect. (I have some tips to help you connect and help these people that will be coming in a future blog post, so be sure to subscribe and/or like my Facebook page to be notified of new posts)!
Me? Well, I still have my days but I'm less angry and much more aware of my feelings. I still hurt and feel sad, but I have established boundaries and feel stronger everyday. I don't bury my feelings and let them fester. I deal with them, learn, make adjustments, and move on.
Should you care what others think? Nope. 100% NO! But you do. It's the truth. I do too. Therefore, I propose we all stop hiding behind our I-don't-care-what-you-think attitudes and deal with it. Head on. We can care! We just don't have to let it matter. It doesn't have to define us. It doesn't have to change who we are. Yes, we may feel hurt. We're human! But, we are way stronger than we give ourselves credit for. We can deal with the pain and move forward.
Let's stop pretending. Let's live our truths. Let's live freely. The world needs more of us!
It took a long long time to get here
It took a brave, brave girl to try
It took one too many excuses, one too many lies
Don't be surprised, don't be surprised
if i talk a little louder
If I speak up when you're wrong
If I walk a little taller
I'd be known to you too long
If you noticed that I'm different
Don't take it personally
Don't be mad, it's just the brand new kind of me
And it ain't bad, I found a brand new kind of free
Heidi shares personal stories of her ordinary chaotic life. She gives an honest raw look at what it means to be a mom, wife, counselor, and friend struggling to keep it all together. Her personal experiences with grief, relationships, depression, poor self-image, bullying, anxiety, and relational aggression give her a unique perspective on what its takes to overcome tragedy as an adolescent and adult.