Stop Caring About What Others Think

A few months ago I saw a bright pink plastic rabbit head ring on the finger of a woman I recently met. Obviously, full of life and living her life her way, she also sported the dark red hair of the unorthodox among our younger generations. The ring looked like something my five year old granddaughter, Sophie, would be wearing _ not someone in my age group. “I love your ring.” I said. “Thanks. I’m not dead.” She replied. I laughed and told her, “That’s what I tell people who think I’m a little out there these days. I’m old; I’m not dead!” In return, she said, “I’ll believe it when you dye your hair purple.” While I haven’t taken up her challenge and most probably won’t, I instantly admired this woman for her courage to be herself.

All of us are concerned with what other people think of us, even if we don’t consciously acknowledge that concern. How we act, what we say, how we dress are all tied up in the human desire to belong. Most of us want to be accepted and liked by others. Part of that want is our survival instinct. Long, long ago when our ancestors depended upon the tribe for safety and food, humans conformed to ensure the tribe continued to accept them.

Fast forward to our modern times and our modern retirement. After leaving our work tribe behind, comes an opportunity to be less concerned about what other people think of us. An article in Huff Post/50 about Dick Van Dyke turning 90, quoted the actor as saying, “As you get older you care less and less about what people think.”

When I was younger, I was concerned about how I dressed and what came out of my mouth, especially at work. I wore lots of grey, beige, black and navy suits _ conservative for the conservative industry in which I worked. I called myself a little brown bird trying to blend into the forest. I was concerned with conforming and fitting in. Van Dyke’s statement hit home with me as I realized how much I’ve changed since retiring. This bird is free and flying!

Retirement can be a time of self-actualization, of freedom to say and do what we want, a time of creativity. While we still need to act with a certain amount of decorum in order to glue our society together, the way we dress, the people with whom we socialize and what we do with our time is entirely up to us. We choose how we engage.

Someone once told me, “What other people think of me is none of my business.” This interesting little twist on perspective is freeing, no matter what your stage of life. Even though I often told people trying to force feed me their advice, “No one knows what’s best for Kathy like Kathy,” I also often worried about coming off as rude or arrogant. After all, and this holds especially true for women, we were taught as children to play nice and get along.  Being a ‘nice girl’, or boy, all the time can rob you of being yourself. Experience taught me to follow my personal drum beat to a certain extent, but survival in the corporate jungle was still my priority. Age and retirement has given me the gift of not caring who thinks what about my life.

It takes courage at any age to follow your heart and mind but the reward is living a fuller life, living your life, not someone else’s life. Life is entirely too short not to be true to yourself. Once I left the world of work, a shift in my outlook began. I didn’t stop caring about my appearance but I did stop caring about what someone else thought of it. I also speak my mind more freely and just shrug off any raised eyebrows.

In retirement I am more my authentic self than at any other time except, perhaps, childhood. Maybe that’s what retirement is _ a second childhood. I freed myself from the constraints of what others think of me. Instead of looking at what the outside world thinks of what I do and say, I’m looking inside myself. The only person you can ever please fully and unconditionally is yourself. You will never please all of the people all of the time. So, don’t even bother trying. If, like me, you spent time thinking about what others think of you, stop. This is your time. Take it without guilt. Fly, little bird, fly!

Just for fun!

Just for fun!

On second thought, maybe I will add just a little streak of purple to my hair.

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16 comments on “Stop Caring About What Others Think

    • Oh my goodness! I sound angry??? That wasn’t my intent. I’m actually having a good time – bought tortoise shell faux patten flats, orange living room chairs and some fluffy out there looking tops. Wrote this one four weeks ago – maybe I was in a different mood then?

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    • Both! As we age, it’s best to look inside ourselves, think of ourselves _ that’s how we put OUR dent in the universe. Sounds a little selfish but also very practical. Not being bothered by what others think is the path to a fulfilling life.

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  1. Absolutely true: “In retirement I am more my authentic self than at any other time except, perhaps, childhood.” I often find myself thinking about how the retired me is so much more authentic than the work me was. Oh yes. And shortly after I retired, I bought a little container of blue hair chalk that I put on every now and then. Just because.

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  2. Retirement is difficult in so many ways. Finding it hard to work out what makes me happy and meeting so many people who have time on their hands just to go for coffee. .becomes boring. I still find it hard to be honest if I don’t agree with people. Need to work at things I suppose.

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  3. Love this post. I’ve picked up my guitar, am into zentangles and experimenting with cooking! My creativity is also being expressed in the way I dress and look. Older, but more myself! I’ve respected dress codes and all the other codes of the workplace my entire life. Now is my time to shine!!

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  4. Great post! Although I’d like to think of myself as completely evolved beyond worrying too much about what others think, I’m not quite there yet. We have a couple of impossibly thin women in our neighborhood group (four couples, all around the same age), who are into buying and wearing expensive clothes. Even though I tell myself not to, I can’t stop the inner comparison dialog. Silly, I know… especially since I’m sure they are way more focused on the themselves than me.

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  5. Love your purple streak! I struggle a bit with finding the right balance between being myself/not caring what other people think and being kind to and accepting of others.

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  6. Kathy Love your latest post “stop caring what other people think”. I often have thoughts running around in my head about what people might think of me. I tell myself I don’t worry about it but I know I do.

    I recently retired and keep saying I am still going through the transition of being a working person to being a retired person. Part of that transition is finding where I belong in the retirement world. I wonder what groups I will fit in with now and if I even want to fit in with any group.

    Having to adhere to so many rules and regs during my thirty three years as a teacher it’s hard to figure out where I fit. I find myself still wondering what the people in one group or another will think of me. Especially if I’ll be trying something new. I tell myself it doesn’t matter anymore. And it really doesn’t.

    Just being out during the daytime and seeing what life is like outside of work puts you face to face with a whole new set of people. The other retired, nonworking, stay at home moms and dads, etc. Other groups to wonder about what they are thinking about me.

    As my new retirement becomes a way of life I do feel more and more what you conveyed in your blog. I am worrying less and less what people think. I’m not truly there yet. Your words were a push in the right direction though. I especially liked what you said about what people think about me is none of my business. That says it all!

    Now if I can just turn off that little voice inside my head.

    JoAnn

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  7. Absolutely love the line “In retirement I am more my authentic self than at any other time except, perhaps, childhood”. This is great food for thought and a fantastic mantra.

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  8. Love the hair and the general attitude it represents! At some point, don’t we owe it to ourselves to live our own joy, as long as we aren’t hurting anyone? I’ve been exploring, trying to figure out my own joy, since I retired from my job and moved across country almost two years ago. You might find it interesting to read about my journey in my blog, Terri LaBonte- Reinventing Myself in Retirement at http://www.terrilabonte.com. Terri😊

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    • Hi Terry, Yes, we do owe it to ourselves to live our own joy. We owe it to ourselves to live authentically. I took a look at your blog and like your thoughts and writing style. Very nice. Keep writing! K

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