How Much Should We Care What Other People Think About Us? An Investigation

There are always polar opposites in society of some people not caring what other people think about them while other people put their stamps on their envelopes with a ruler to guide them. Overall, it seems the advice we hear most about the topic is, “You should care less about what people think about you.” We hardly hear it the other way—“You need to care more about what people think about you”—unless we have done something very, truly wrong in that person’s heart. Well? Do I care or not care about what people think about me?

Self-awareness, in a way, could be defined as caring what people think about you all the time no matter what. In every outfit that you buy and wear you make sure that it is 100% appropriate for you, appropriate for the occasion, appropriate towards everybody else who will be in the room, and appropriate for your age. This is self-awareness in a textbook definition. In every word of every email, a self-aware person will make sure that they are being thoughtful, considerate, and kind-hearted. A self-aware person like this could have selfies or emails leak and think, “That’s quite alright.”

Can you be a self-aware person and not care what people think about you all the time? Maybe if you have sound philosophy guiding it. In the case of semi-revealing clothing, you might philosophize that fashion should be more innovative or more inclusive. My great-aunt wore spaghetti straps to my bat-mitzvah. She was a philanthropist with a big heart for people and also for edgy fashion. She probably philosophized also that fashion is art. My sister is a self-aware “Jew with tattoos” who has always embraced counterculture scenes as feeling like home. I think the Jewish community is so small in America, Jewish people have always sought out additional communities, and Judaism embraces the concept of community in general. So she might philosophically equate tattoos with a concept of home, but tattoos technically are as taboo in Judaism as it is for seniors to wear spaghetti straps. I’m sure my great-aunt, who was Jewish, was in the fashion community as well, and the fashion community felt like home to her.

Personal philosophies open doors for us in caring what people think about us less so, with good self-aware intentions, but perhaps there are some situations where we tend to care about what other people think about us that we shouldn’t care about at all. We just have to let go. As a self-aware person, my constant joke is that I don’t care what other people think about me when it comes to eating lunch. In the ‘90s, if you were a kid with an uncool lunch, you risked becoming an outcast for some odd reason. I still remember who had an uncool lunch to this day, and I remember the times when I had a borderline uncool lunch and what that felt like. I remember the time I had an uncool lunch at work in 2010. And yet, maybe I care less what people think about me now appropriately because a lot of uncool lunches are delicious and nutritious and packed with energy. For instance, today I had a fish burrito for lunch. Fish is always traditionally an uncool lunch. However, I have a hankering for a tuna melt sometime in the future and I will indulge that hankering. It is one of my regulars. I will heat that fish right up until the whole place smells and dive right in.

Dating is kind of a gray area of caring what other people think about you. Imagine the person you would want to date that would make everybody happy. If you say there isn’t one, you’re wrong. You could really fulfill everybody’s desires I feel theoretically. Now find them. They don’t exist. So what should we care, and not care about, when it comes to what people think about us and who we’ve chosen to be with in the dating arena? Well personally I don’t think height should matter. Neither should eye color. Basically nothing physical. It doesn’t matter what they look like next to you. You shouldn’t care what people think about you in that sense. There should be physical attraction, I suppose, but when people clean up basically there’s nobody that nobody could not be attracted to in a pleasing, you’re one of God’s paintings way. Next is personality. We should all be accepting of every healthy expression of personality. We shouldn’t care if people think our significant other is loud if we accept their loudness. They shouldn’t care either. Now we’ve accepted basically everybody as a potential mate for our nephew.

But you can’t cheat. That’s out. No matter how much or how little you care about what people think about you, you definitely can’t cheat. They say all is fair in love and war. That’s caring what people think—not 0, but below 0, because cheating is beyond taboo, treading into aggressively unethical territory. Situations where you might say “they say all is fair in love and war” are often aggressively unethical.

Honestly, I feel that people who don’t care what other people think about them at all crave freedom, but people who do care what people think about them, even maximally, have more freedom in a way in their hearts. I just have this last name “Freeman” so I’m really in touch with what does and does not feel actually freeing. If you care maximally what people think of you, you can do anything you want within those parameters. There are actually a lot of options.

Equally honestly, I feel the most freedom is in being a deliberately, extrovertedly, enthusiastically good person at all times, because then you can care less about what people think about you because you know that you are always doing the right thing. Once you are always doing the right thing, you can wear any pair of glasses you like, read any book you want at the library, and eat the maximal amount of hot fish. If you are a very nice person at all times, heating up a fish sandwich in the office microwave is quirky. It invites a heartfelt joke, like asking you if you went fishing over the weekend, and maybe a running joke, like will you serve fish at your wedding, and it makes everybody at the office in the mood to eat fish for dinner. Years later, they will remember you fondly when they eat fish. If you are a mean person, or even a questionably nice person, heating up that fish sandwich in the office microwave is also questionable. Does she even want to eat fish at all, or does she just want to make our office smell bad? So, more important than caring about what people think about you, and when, and to what extent, is being a good person.