There’s often a generalized line of advice that you shouldn’t worry about what other people think, and just do what seems right to you. It’s meant to cut through the self-doubt, the people pleasing and get you finally doing the things that you’re best suited for doing. There are some people who feel like their life is an endless jury trial where everyone passes judgment on them. It’s generally good advice.
However, there are two basic problems with this advice…
(1) The type of people who really don’t care what other people think and just do what seems right to them, tend to also be called sociopaths.
(2) Most people who aren’t sociopaths, are pretty terrible at trying to act like sociopaths.
So let’s just admit that we all do worry about what other people think to at least some degree. We all like to be liked, we all like friends, most of us don’t want to screw our fellow man over either. In short, we do care what other people think.
The real question though, is not whether we care what people think, but who you allow to sit on your internal jury to pass judgment.
Seriously now, sit back and have a long think about who you worry about pleasing, who’s opinion you to try and follow and why you want to follow it. Who have you put on your jury? Most of us tend to have some automatically assigned people like parents, siblings, spouses, close friends and peer group members. All these people have been selected uncritically.
Now think of all the different situations you have today, the choices and challenges you face.
Are any of the people currently sitting on your jury, qualified to have a genuinely valuable opinion on the subject at hand?
Are any of the people currently sitting on your jury, free of self interest when it comes to the decisions you’ll be making?
If you were starting from scratch in picking out a jury for yourself today, would you pick any of the people currently on it?
Who would you pick instead? If you had to please / impress / get the approval of five or six different people for the rest of your life, who would you pick?
What’s interesting is how much power we give away to people who essentially have no real leverage over our lives, apart from that which we give them.
So who is on your jury? Who should be?