Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Not caring what other people think

"My new motto is, 'I respectfully do not care.' Say it to anyone who passes judgment on something you believe in." ~Martha Beck

Apollo with sunglasses / Cindy La Ferle
Martha Beck's wisdom always tops my gratitude list, and I've decided to borrow her motto this year. Repeating it aloud is incredibly liberating when the situation calls for it: "I respectfully do not care."

I'm a few years late in arriving at this place. Learning how to disagree respectfully -- or how to stop caring, as Martha puts it -- is an ongoing challenge, especially if you're genetically encoded to be a people-pleaser. But as I age, I'm gaining more confidence in my own opinions and tastes. This applies to everything from my political viewpoints to the clothes I wear. 

For instance, I'm fully embracing the right to break or ignore rules such as "Never wear white pants until after Memorial Day" or "Women over 60 shouldn't wear long hair or patterned leggings." If I want to grow my hair like Rapunzel and wear my polka-dot yoga leggings in public, I will do so proudly. 

Likewise, I'm exercising my right to step away from all sorts of relationships and institutions that no longer feel healthy, true, or comfortable for me. I'm embracing the right to reconsider my career goals as well as where I shop for groceries. Sometimes it's more respectful to change my mind and move on rather than stay stuck in a gear that's no longer working.

Growing up, I noticed that most people avoided conflict by playing it safe. They kept quiet, did nothing to stir controversy, and told other people what they wanted to hear. That's not the way I want to spend the rest of my life. 

"Once you get that it's truly impossible to please everyone, you begin to live purposefully. You begin to play offense. You start spending your time and energy on things that bring meaningful results, rather than on the impossible goal of making every else happy," writes Dr. Henry Cloud in Never Go Back: 10 Things You'll Never Do Again.  

In other words, trying to meet everyone's expectations is not only a waste of your time, but also a surefire guarantee that you won't reach your own highest potential. At the very least, it's insincere. 

I've always admired people who act as if they respectfully don't care what others think. I want what they're having. They're not divisive -- because they're too busy minding their own business. They simply live by their own lights, even when those lights look blinking crazy. They don't do things to earn approval or "likes" on their social media posts. They don't carry status handbags or wear designer logos. They don't care what other people are eating, sipping, buying, cooking, driving, wearing, or watching. They dig deeper.

Sometimes it's scary to speak your truth, especially when you're standing face-to-face with folks who vehemently oppose your viewpoint or your lifestyle -- and especially if they try to shame you for not believing what they believe. 

The way I see it now, you've got two options. You can either change the topic and pretend that everything is fine and dandy, or, as Martha Beck would suggest, you can remind them that you respectfully do not care.

The photo at the top of this post was taken in my garden last weekend -- before I had a chance to plant Apollo's new hairdo. Nonetheless, it's clear that he's got the confidence to rock a pair of sunglasses, with or without a new crop of hair. I love his attitude.

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