One of the greatest things about being older (ish) is not caring much anymore about what other people think about me.
I don’t mean my husband or my kids, or especially my mother – I still need her approval more than anyone’s, and I’m ok with that – I mean the rest of the world. I mean the snotty salesgirl at the exclusive department store, the disinterested and distracted waiter at the expensive restaurant, the woman at the party who I know knows who I am but doesn’t say hello, or even (forgive me) my mother-in-law.
I mean, pretty much, the whole world.
I don’t care what they think anymore because I’ve finally realized the most amazing thing – they probably aren’t thinking about me at all.
Can you imagine?
And you know what? Those people, the ones you think are judging you or deliberately ignoring you – they probably aren’t thinking much about you, either – sorry to say.
Because for most of us, the only thing worse than being thought badly about is not being thought about at all, right?
I’m not saying I don’t wonder what goes through someone’s mind when they see me out in the world – do they think I’m attractive? Do I look too old? Are my clothes ugly? What about those comfy shoes, do they look frumpy? Do they find me interesting, or am I a bore? It crosses my mind, but it just doesn’t matter. I’m fine with who I am, so they should be too. And if they’re not, well tough luck. I know who my friends are…and come to think of it, they’re probably the only people thinking about me, ever.
And I do care what they think.
I care about what my friends think because they know me. I care because I trust their judgment and value their opinions. I know they’re not always going to tell me the truth, and that’s fine. Friends know when to speak up and when to keep quiet. My friends won’t tell me if the blouse I’m wearing is unflattering, even if they think I look like a Mack truck. They’ll just not mention it at all, and eventually, I’ll probably figure it out for myself: that particular top is not one of my better fashion moments, and off to Goodwill it will go. My friends will tell me when they think I’m overreacting to something (yes, that happens), or missing the point, or avoiding the issue – because that’s what friends should do.
I care what my husband thinks about me – a lot. And I think he cares about what I think of him, too. To stay united as a team, we need to be honest about, more or less, everything. Thank goodness for the blurry lenses of aging eyes, for the words missed (or ignored) that shouldn’t have been said. And I’m grateful for thousands of things that we’ve stopped ourselves from saying to each other over the years. A little kindness goes a long way – and as we grow older, we grow kinder, it seems. As our bodies have softened with age, so have we.
I care what my kids think about me. I want them to worship me like they did when they were tiny people, but since that isn’t going to happen, respecting me, enjoying my company, listening to my advice – those things make me feel that they think well of me.
What others think used to be important to me – I spent far too much time wondering if others thought I was pretty, or interesting, or how I measured up next to other people around me. As a young mother, I was always sizing myself up in comparison to the other moms at preschool, wondering if they thought I was doing a good job with my kids if a temper tantrum or meltdown (usually my kids, not mine) would forever taint me in their eyes. And now, all these years later, I know for sure that none of them were paying much attention to me at all – they were all too busy having the same kind of thoughts I was, managing their lives the best they could.
So the next time you’re wondering what others are thinking of you, consider that they may not be thinking of you at all. And though it might be disturbing at first, to realize that you have barely registered on their radars, it should make you feel relieved. Because when it comes right down to it, the only person whose opinion matters is yours. What you think of yourself is the most important thing of all.
And I think I’m ok.