It’s great advice to stop caring what other people think. But as is usually the case, reality is more complicated than a snappy piece of “life wisdom.”
So what’s the problem with this idea?
The problem is that it’s human nature to care what others think. It’s literally hardwired into our DNA. We evolved in small tribes of less than 150 people, and if you were ever ostracized by your group, it meant you had to live on your own without any support. This often lead to death, because our ancestors succeeded by cooperating with hunting and gathering.
When I first started learning the social psychology we teach at Inner Confidence, I came across the piece of advice to be “internally validated.” There were times when I fell into a trap that a lot of guys encounter, but no one really talks about. It’s impossible to always be internally validated, and when I felt myself seeking others’ approval, I beat myself up more for not being internally validated. Sigh. I was worse off than if I had never known the concept in the first.
Don’t get me wrong- every action you take should be a step on a journeyed towards more internal validation. But give yourself permission to be human. Recognize that if you are seeking or even craving the approval of others, it’s completely normal.
What’s the alternative?
If you’re able to flip a switch and stop caring what other people think, more power to you. Do it and don’t overthink it.
But for guys who struggle with caring what other people think, here’s my suggestion:
Live your life based on what matters to you and what you want to achieve, and compromise on your values based on what others may think.
Pay attention to the times when you’re worried about what others think, and then do whatever it is you want to do regardless.
There will always be times when you seek validation from others. Like we discussed, it’s in our genes as a result of humans’ evolutionary history as hunter-gatherers that lived in small tribes. The goal isn’t to eliminate this tendency altogether. That’s impossible. The goal is to be aware of it and turn it into something that helps you.
I look up to Robbie as a mentor and a boss. I look up to my parents and my sister. I have positive friends in my life and I want them to respect my actions. I want to do things that make all of these people happy, and I’m fine with this. Sure you could say I’m seeking their approval or validation, but I share the same values as them, so if they’re happy with the actions I’m taking and the way I’m living my life then it means that there’s a good chance I’m on a path that I’m also happy with.
Rather than most people who subconsciously choose to seek the approval of others without giving it any thought, I’ve consciously determined that these are the people I care about getting validation from. My internal validation is aligned with their external validation. And I’m rejecting most of the norms that society forces most people into believing, like accepting the standard 9-5 job and career path, or the standard relationship trajectory that American culture endorses.
Who are the people you are happy to seek validation from?