We’re social animals. It’s natural to seek external approval from others, but caring about what others think can lead to you being unhappy and not reaching your peak in all areas of your life.
But it’s also not easy to do. That’s why I sharing an embarrassing story – because I don’t care what you think ;).
In all seriousness, it’s something anyone, whether you hike or not, can relate to. And then, I share my top four practical tips to help you finally stop caring what others think of you.
Why Do We Care About What Others Think About Us?
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While it might seem to harm us today, our ancient brains evolved to prioritize connections with people as means of survival in early human communities. Social approval helped to ensure that individuals were accepted into a group, providing access to resources and protection from danger.
If you weren’t accepted, you would be kicked out of the tribe and have to fend against sabre-tooth tigers on your own while finding your own food and shelter. In other words, your chances for survival were slim to none.
The way our brains are wired makes it difficult to stop caring about what others think about us. So don’t beat yourself up. We’re social animals. But while it’s difficult, it’s not impossible when:
When The Pain Is So Great, We Stop Caring About What Others Think
For most of us, we only stop caring about what others think when we suffer so much.
Let me share a story that was a pivotal point for me that happened when I was hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc, an epic seven to ten-day hiking tour where hikers circumnavigate glacier-covered Mont Blanc in France, Italy and Switzerland.
It’s something that happens to every hiker at some point, but no one walks to talk about it because, well, let’s face it – it’s a sh*tty subject (pun intended). I’m talking about when you really have to relieve yourself, but there’s no place to do it. No tree, not even low bushes, to at least cover your privates, if not your head.
Now you may be thinking, I thought I was reading about how to stop caring about what others think. We’re getting there. I promise. But I want to share a real example that happened to me to illustrate my point.
That’s what happened to me while hiking on a wide-open mountain pass on the French-Italian border.
Normally, I’d be admiring the far-reaching views of the valleys on either side and gazing up at the formidable Mont Blanc or taking the classic photo with one foot in France and the other in Italy.
Instead, I was frantically searching for a tree, or at the very least, some large boulders to hide behind—no such luck.
I scanned the valley and noted that the valley I would be descending into was wide open and bare along a gravel road. Not even a shrub to be seen. Hikers were both ascending and descending, making a few minutes of privacy nearly impossible.
I started descending down the mountain pass along the rocky trail and onto the gravel road. But with each passing moment, it became more and more uncomfortable as I hiked with clenched butt cheeks, silently telling myself to focus on the buns of steel I was going to have and not the overwhelming urge to take a crap.
After what seemed like hours but was only 45 minutes or so, I started ascending again, and now there were some low bushes. Not enough to cover my head, but at least my private area would be covered.
But the trail was so narrow that only one hiker could pass on a section at a time. But still, at least there were bushes. This was progress. Besides, I was sure the path would get wider at the next turn, and I’d be able to do my business in private.
But then came that critical moment. You know the one where if you don’t go now, you’re going to crap your pants? So right there on the narrow trail with my head sticking out above the bushes, I leaned down to do my business so that it would land off to the side and not on the trail.
And at that exact moment, three French hikers walked by. Their astonished expressions, as they realized what was happening, quickly turned into a look of utter disgust, and one of them snarled Uncouth! No translation needed.
And as much as I wanted to retort back with a comment about the French being snobs, with my pants around my ankles while taking a sh*t, it wasn’t possible. They were right. I was disgusting. I was uncouth.
Albeit a mortified one, as if that somehow made me slightly less uncouth? Then I became even more horrified as I thought, What if I’m seated next to these same hikers at dinner at the mountain hut that night, and they tell everyone else how gross I am?
But still, the relief…..As much as I didn’t want to be uncouth or get caught with my pants down by unsuspecting strangers in an appropriate place, I even more so didn’t want to shit my pants. I’m pretty sure that’s even more uncouth than taking a shit off the side of the trail. My misery outweighed what others would think of me, strangers at that.
At some point, when you’re hiking and making your way up a mountain or on a difficult mountain trek, you’ll be so miserable that you stop caring about what others think.
Whether it’s taking a crap in an inappropriate place, stopping after every ten steps to catch your breath while the rest of your group waits for you (check out my post on how to hike with friends who are fitter than you are for tips on how to deal with this),
or burst into tears as you cling to the side of a mountain in fear of falling off the steep edge on the other side while everyone else carries on as if they didn’t see how deadly that drop-off was.
And it’s that moment when you stop caring about what others think that you can also do it off the mountain.
In a perfect world, we wouldn’t wait to stop caring what others think until we couldn’t stand it anymore. Until we’ve suffered way longer than we should have.
We intuitively know what feels right for us, even if other people think we should do something different. We know that we should disregard what other people whisper about us behind our backs, but in reality, most of us do care what others think about us.
And sometimes that serves us. If you’re in a bathroom stall at work and unaware that you’re there and you hear two colleagues rudely discussing the fact that you smell particularly bad today, even worse than your usual stank, this is useful, albeit mortifying, information to know.
At least you can change it. You can start showering more than once a week and either start using deodorant or change your existing one. You have the opportunity to fix something which maybe you didn’t know was a problem. Or you convinced yourself that you were one of those people who hardly sweats, so there really was no need to shower more than once a week.
But too often, we let our fear of what other people think drive our big life decisions. And often, they’re the opinions of people who aren’t even qualified to have an opinion on it.
Everything from what we should major in at college to what job we should take, to where we should live to who we should marry.
And should you really care what your father thinks about who you marry, much less follow his advice if he’s been divorced three times and had failed relationship after failed relationship and is generally an unhappy person?
But eventually, there comes a point in each of our lives for the average person when we’re so miserable that we just can’t stand it anymore. And it’s at this precise moment that we don’t give a shit and stop caring what others think.
It could be your condescending boss who asks you to proofread his PowerPoint presentation, which looks like his seven-year-old wrote it. At that moment, you decide to inform him of this new revolutionary tool called SpellCheck as you quit your low-paying mind-numbing job that you’re overqualified for and that has you on the road to becoming the Director of Nowhereville.
You’ve always wanted to create a documentary about the women porters on Peru’s Inca Trail, so now could be a good time to take a job as an assistant on a film to learn the ropes and work towards that dream.
Or maybe it’s while you’re having drinks with friends, and the guy you’ve been dating for a few months humiliates you yet again by telling his co-workers about the time you accidentally farted loudly in a crowded movie theatre where all eyes turned from the movie to you.
You finally decide that he’s gotten enough laughs at your expense and get up and leave during the middle of dinner without saying a word to him or to anyone.
Your worries of being single forever and dying alone while your cat eats off your face seem like a more pleasurable alternative than spending another minute with this dude.
And then you go on to meet someone really great who, while having drinks with friends, proudly boosts about how you’re unbeatable at Air Hockey. Yes, I’m Canadian, so had to include a hockey reference.
Heck, it could even be something as mundane as at the grocery store where one too many random people cut in front of you without saying a word assuming that their time is much more important than yours because, well, isn’t it obvious?
I mean, you are wearing a sweatshirt splattered with pink cats and writing that says Cats Are Always Cool. And yes, I may have been that person in the cat sweatshirt.
But you’ve had enough, and summon up the courage to tell them I was here first. Stand behind me while giving your best authoritative stare at someone who rarely hears No.
Not only do you stand a little straighter after standing up for yourself, but your great act of public service practically makes you a hero. Or at least that’s what you tell yourself.
And this moment is a brilliant one. It will very likely be painful, embarrassing, or even shitty, and you shed a tear or two, but it’s the moment you stop caring about what others think of you.
And that moment is the start of something beautiful; it’s when you start building momentum to stop caring what others think of you in other areas of your life as well.
When I quit my job as a Program Director at a university in Canada to move to Germany for a guy I’d met shark diving in Costa Rica, I decided that I wanted to start my own business. I decided on a vaguely defined hiking and adventure travel business.
The only thing I knew about the industry was that I liked hiking and traveling. That’s it. My kind friends told me I was crazy. My less kind friends told me I was stupid.
But here you are, reading what I started almost 13 years ago. And that vague idea turned into a hiking company.
And led to opportunities to get paid to travel and hike around the globe. And it’s led me to be location independent, to work from wherever I want in the world, whenever I want. That’s the power when you stop caring about what others think.
Putting your wants and desires first, no matter how outrageous they may seem to anyone else, feels SOOOO good. And it’s one of the keys to happiness.
Or put another way, by caring about others’ think more than what you think about yourself, you’re destined for a life of misery. And I want so much more for you.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- What’s one area in my life where caring about what others think is causing me unhappiness?
- What’s one step that I could take today towards aligning with my true goals and dreams, regardless of what people will think?
It doesn’t have to be a big step. It could be as simple as reading a book on the area that you want to change, such as How to Start an Online Business. Or taking an evening class in filmmaking. Or joining a writing group if you’ve dreamed of writing a novel. Or downloading an app that you can learn Spanish on your lunch break.
4 Ways to Stop Caring About What Others Think
Look closely at your Personal Relationships
Who you have the most social interactions with has a HUGE impact on your life. So surround yourself with people who push you towards your goals.
Make connections with people who share a common goal, like joining a writing group if you dream of writing a novel. Or join Toastmasters if you dream of being a paid public speaker.
Surround yourself with positive relationships. People who exude positive energy and cheer you on and pick you up when you’re down.
You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.Motivational speaker, Jim Rohn
If you have someone in your life who’s constantly zapping your mental energy and giving negative feedback, either cut them out of your life or if that’s not possible, if it’s a family member or colleague, then limit the time you spend with them.
Yes, it’s a tough habit to break, but the last thing you need is toxic people in your life, so the effort is more than worth it.
Become Aware of Your Thoughts and Reframe Them
We think 60,000 thoughts a day. That’s more than we breathe. In this article, I teach you how to monitor your thoughts and reframe them if they’re not serving you. I love doing it while hiking, as you’re free from distractions that we have in everyday life and have time to practice rewiring your thoughts. It’s life-changing!
Realize the Hardest Part is Starting
The hardest part of achieving any goal is starting. Once you start, you start building momentum, and everything gets easier and easier.
For example, I try and do Wim-hof style ice baths and cold showers. The first 30 seconds are torture, and I hate getting in. But once I get in, it becomes easier.
Check out my article, The 1st Step to Building Momentum to Reach New Peaks + Life Goals, for more info.
Become Clear on Your Core Values
This involves doing some soul-searching to find what’s important to you. What are your personal values in life? For example, I value fun, freedom and providing value in my business, so I ensure that each business decision I make reflects that.
And if I occasionally mess up and choose something that doesn’t reflect my values, it feels icky inside. It also almost always leads to problems and further complications. So that’s extra motivation to stick to my core values.
In my personal life, I have the same values, but also value personal relationships, so I make sure that my calendar reflects that and that I’m spending enough time with the people that are important to me.
There’s no right or wrong; it’s which values matter the most to YOU. And once you know your values, it makes it easier to say yes or no to certain connections with people – depending on whether or not they align with your values.
Once you’ve decided what you want to do, you need to take action and stick to your guns.
No matter what anyone else says. That’s how you learn to stop caring about what others think.
Share this post with someone who needs to stop caring about what others think, and tell me in the comments below one action YOU will take on this.