I think I do care what they think of me

Among the most common phrases that our society and culture have embraced; it has progressively become the trademark for personal success -- "I don't care what other people think about me". But I do. Sometimes at least. If I have to be completely honest.

Well, first let's debunk the myth. We humans have been described as social animals. Just another species with natural and indispensable cravings to eat, sleep and contribute to our continued existence by breeding and raising our offspring. With one added component. Which is highly significant. Language. Speech. Communication.

Our highly developed ability to communicate allows us to internalize and process complex information; something our animal counterparts are lacking. So if that's what sets us apart, it would be logical that it is that very component that makes us unique and is integral to our lives.

We process information every day about the things around us. For our education, our careers and even for our entertainment. But one area of information processing that doesn't get it's fair share of attention is the information we receive, from others, about ourselves.

This starts the day we're born. Maybe even earlier. Studies have shown that babies mimicking gestures and expressions that they see in their caregivers is essentially their perception of self. The ability to differentiate between themselves and their caregivers is a milestone that only comes later in life. But early on, their self perception is based entirely on what they see on the outside. The way people are interacting with them.

This social skill is developed in infancy; the ability to perceive ourselves through the eyes of others. As we grow older, it's our mother's pride that makes us feel great, our father's disappointment that causes us pain and our teacher's praise that gives us satisfaction in our hard work. They are constantly giving us a gauge of how to determine and assess our achievements.

It's no wonder then that the individual who is receiving harsh and punitive reactions from those caregivers is likely to internalize a negative perception of self. The gauge is sending extremely critical feedback and the natural reaction is to go along with those perceptions.

Once we reach adulthood, the hope is that we have received a healthy amount of clarity and moral reasoning to be able to determine the faults and credits of our deeds on our own. The process of learning has come to fruition, where we graduate the school of gauging the pros and cons of our own actions.

Practically speaking though, it is rare that we graduate with such honors that allow us complete freedom from the criticism and opinions of the outside world. Especially those who are closest to us. Or those whose opinions are valued by us. It's an internal safety mechanism, a checks-and-balances of sorts which are often helpful in guiding us through situations where our bias can get the better of us.

The motivated businessman who seeks to climb the corporate ladder is held in check by his boss who frowns (hopefully!) at his deceptive tactics. The husband is held in check when his children express disappointment in the way he treats his wife. Do they feel good? Probably not. But it will hopefully alter their self-perception in a way that would necessitate and trigger positive change.

So if you are frustrated that your boyfriend, roommate or boss gets into your head--it's important to know that it's ok to care about what other people think. The only thing to worry about is--how do you react?


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