You may have asked yourself before, How do I not care about what other people think?
This is a common challenge, especially during an age obsessed with social media, where everyone is pandering for likes and followers. We are constantly getting messages that more cyber “friends” are better than quality real-life friends, shaping our approach to what we share online.
While social media is a great tool to stay connected to friends and family around the world, the shadow side is that it fills people with comparison that only leads to feeling worse about our lives. Spending hours watching others on vacation and #livingmybestlife keeps us from finding appreciation in what we have, especially if it’s a more peaceful and less adventurous life.
Being someone who has lived in Italy and Thailand and traveled the world, but who finds long periods of time living back with my parents in order to “recover” financially from my adventures, I know both sides of the coin. And while I enjoy the time with my parents as we all get older, I judge myself more harshly the more time I spend on social media watching others live more self-sufficiently.
While comparison and competition are the foundation of our capitalistic society, it’s essential to not allow these to also infiltrate our daily life and interactions with others. That is, if we want to maintain a feeling of contentment and equanimity.
Since technology has become an indispensable part of all our modern lives, we now have the opportunity to learn how to use it to achieve greater levels of happiness, rather than less. But like with all spiritual development, it always starts from within.
Develop a strong sense of self and self-awareness
The most important part of developing thick skin towards external opinion is knowing who you are—and loving who you are. Having a strong sense of self makes it easier to not be swayed by what other people say or think about you.
When you don’t have a strong sense of self you are liable to believe what other people say about you. For instance, if you don’t know that you’re kind, people saying you are mean will likely upset you deeply, or if you don’t believe you’re smart, people calling you dumb will hurt more.
But on the flip side, if you have a deep understanding of who you are, you can listen to what others say and either use it to fuel you to do better or completely dismiss it as false. Have a strong sense of discernment and only value the opinions of those you respect and trust.
Knowing who you are gives you an ability to listen to what people say and then decide whether or not it has merit. You get to decide what you think and how you feel about yourself. Not someone else. Just remember to stay humble and not delusional. Because if you’re an arrogant asshole and people tell you you’re an arrogant asshole but you don’t believe them, then you’ll continue to live in denial and remain an asshole.
Other people’s feedback is important, just make sure you don’t listen to everyone. Having self-awareness will aid you in knowing if the feedback has merit or not. If you aspire to live a life that is filled with honesty, integrity, and mindful living you’ll be able to identify your faults and work on them. Because we all have faults. But unfortunately, not everyone is working on them.
Deepening your level of self-awareness along with your strong sense of self will allow you to accept your imperfection and do the hard work to create a better you. Become someone you love to spend time with, and someone others love to spend time with.
Loving yourself will lead you to caring less about what other people think. And there’s also exercises you can do to thicken your skin and take yourself less seriously.
Post what scares you and then move on with your life
An exercise that I use to help build a more resilient approach to social media is to post things that incite fear in me. For example, if I make a video or take a photo that I think, “Will people like this or think I’m weird and stupid for posting this?” I’ll post it.
And then as the fear courses through my veins and everything inside of me is yelling to delete it, I will talk myself down and tell myself that maybe one person will enjoy it. And if that one person is only me, then that’s good enough. It’s okay to post just for yourself and to love what you create.
The truth is, people will see something and forget about it quicker than your self-criticism will leave. But you can train yourself to temper your self-criticism with joy and love.
Social media is designed to move quickly and chances are people will scroll past what they don’t like and not think about it again. So your fears about people remembering the moment you looked stupid will probably not occur, since they’ve already moved on to the next dozens of awkward photos and videos.
Ultimately, we need to realize the truth that we are not as important or special to most people, especially our followers on social media who we’ve never met or haven’t seen in years.
Exercise your DGAF attitude by posting things that people might think weird or more likely, won’t care about at all. And when you only get two likes—and one of them is your mom—you realize that you’re still alive and have much better ways you can spend your time, like watching a documentary about children starving in other countries or calling your mom and thanking her for liking your post.
Focus more on real-life
What we point our focus and attention to will be where our energy is. If you spend the majority of your time on social media, liking and absorbing what is shared online and less with people in real life, you will forget about the importance of your in-person connections.
Having moved often and lived in so many different places the past decade, I no longer have any roots and can count my long term friendships on one hand. That means most of my interactions with close friends are online or over the phone.
I’ve learned how special it is to have in-person relationships. It’s different to have someone to go to dinner with or attend an event, rather than calling someone afterward and telling them about it. Or even worse, posting about it on Instagram or Facebook and no one sees it or likes it.
Real-life relationships are able to be lived in the present moment and are where our main focus should lie. Those are the relationships that will sustain us or bring us hot soup when we’re sick.
Try to live your best life—in reality, not through a filter. Maintain self-awareness and work on being your best self while focusing on your close relationships. This is what will teach you to not care what others think about you on social media. Develop trusting relationships filled with vulnerability and love and your perspective of what matters will shift.
Because in the end, like what Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” So make people feel good by not being an arrogant asshole. And the more you know that you’re a good person, the less you’ll need external validation and care what others think.
Brittany Noelle Roa is an interdisciplinary artist with an MFA in Physical Theatre who uses her art and creativity to heal herself and others. She loves learning about health and wellness so she can optimize her human potential to live a full and happy life.