Why You SHOULD Care What Others Think

I like to be a bit of a contrarian, and challenge conventional wisdom.

And one of the ideas that annoys me the most is the notion that you shouldn’t care what others think.

If you’ve spent any time of the internet, perusing self-development or personal growth websites, you’ve probably come across this idea multiple times.

I personally see it over and over and over again.

And I see lots of people readily agreeing with the idea.

A quick Google search turns up articles with titles such as the following:

  • 10 Clear Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Care What Others Think
  • Why You Need to Stop Caring What Others Think
  • How Not to Care What Other People Think: 5 Steps

I think it’s well past time to fight back against this awful notion.

So today I lay down the gauntlet!

And give you…

what will your legacy be

5 Reasons Why You SHOULD Care What Others Think

1. People who don’t care what others think are generally awful human beings

There’s a type of person who NEVER cares what others think.

Ever.

  • They don’t care what others think.
  • They don’t care about other people’s feelings.
  • They don’t care how they treat other people.
  • Etc., etc., etc.

Do you know what we call those types of people?

Sociopaths.

Is that what you aspire to be?

A sociopath.

I certainly hope not.

And yet that’s all these websites urging you not to care what others think want you to become.

2. Caring what others think can make you a better person

Guess what? I care what my wife thinks of me. I care what my parents think of me. I care what my sisters think of me. I care what my friends think of me. And most importantly, I care what my nieces and nephews think of me. I love my nieces and nephews dearly and I want these precious little children to think well of me. And it would tear me apart inside if I did anything that made them think less of me. Their opinion of me matters a lot to me. And that makes me a strive to be a better person.
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3. You’re not the center of the universe (and neither am I!)

The idea that you shouldn’t care what others think is rooted in the dangerous notion that your wants and needs are more important than those of other people. And I’m here to tell you that they’re not! Yes, you matter! You matter a lot! But so do I. And so do all the other people in the world. Would you really want to live in a world in which no one cared what others thought? I know I wouldn’t. I want to live in a world where we DO care what others think because we recognize that others matter just as much as us.

4. You miss the chance for valuable feedback

As Lori Deschene from Tiny Buddha says in this excellent article:
If we decide to stop caring in all instances that might push and challenge us, we risk closing ourselves off to insights, relationships, and ideas that could change our lives for the better—and potentially do the same for others.
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5. We should treat others how we want to be treated

Think about this.

Imagine that you express your opinion to someone.

And they respond by telling you “I don’t care what you think”.

How would you feel?

Loved?

Cared for?

Valued?

Accepted?

Probably not.

In fact, you’d probably feel pretty lousy.

So if that’s how you’d feel, why would you want to do that to someone else?

If we’re going to be honest here, the whole “you shouldn’t care what others think” idea is an excuse.

An excuse to treat others poorly and not take responsibility for your words or actions.

You Don’t Need to Care What Others Think All The Time

Caring what others think doesn’t mean that you need to care what every person thinks of you in every single situation.

You need to pick and choose.

For example, I do my best to dress nicely but honestly I don’t care that much.

It’s just not that important to me.

I learned long ago that I have limited fashion sense and that’s unlikely to change.

So I really don’t care what others think of how I dress myself.

I do my best and let it go.

On the other hand, I do care how my words affect other people and I try my best not to say things that might hurt someone else’s feelings.

And when I do, I have no problem saying I’m sorry.

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You also need to decide how much weight you give to what others think.

Caring what others think doesn’t mean that they have the final say in your life.

It simply means that we take what others think into account as we navigate through life.

But the final decisions for how to live our lives still rest with us.

What you DON’T want to do is let what others think of you fundamentally change who you are or severely limit your life in any way.

In the end, it’s not about whether you do or do not care what others think.

It’s about whose opinion matters to you and in what situations.

And how much weight you give to what other people think.


So there you have it…

5 reasons why you should care what others think.

Please comment below and let me know what YOU think.

Agree or disagree?

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This Post Has 29 Comments

  1. Bravo, Ed! The popular wisdom out there is often pretty simple-minded, and I am glad you are contrarian enough to take it to task – especially since there is the real possibility that people might follow simple-minded advice in a simple-minded way.

    The truth is always far more complicated than most internet advice-givers say: the “right” behaviour depends on the circumstances, on it’s degree or extremity, and other qualifiers. In fact, social scientists enjoy the qualifiers more than they enjoy “the rules.” I see the trend towards preferring simple, black and white positions (like Donald Trump does) as evidence for the dumbing down of our culture. Complex thinking takes effort, and it is certainly not promoted nowadays in the media, church or classroom.

    May I repost on my own blog site?

    1. Very well put Adele! I tend to read a lot of Buddhism which promotes “the middle way”. So while I promoted the idea of caring what others think, I wanted to also balance it with the fact that we don’t always need to care about what others think. We often get stuck in either/or thinking when often the “truth” is both/and.

    2. Brilliantly put Ed. An important counter opinion and discussion in a sea of voices agreeing otherwise. The Hawaiian language has a word that encapsulates the concept of taking full responsibility for ones actions ‘kuleana’ – I believe this ancient Hawaiian principle is aligned with your 5 reasons to care what others think; doing so requiring our full presence and full accountability. I love that you also hit on the valuable idea that we ought to reflect on when and why to care what others think as a point of self inquiry and growth, reclaiming our personal power rather than the popular belief that caring what others think is a form of giving away our power. Transforming our relationship to reflection and healthy atachments can infact be very empowering!

      Thanks for sharing your insights. The more controversial, the more interesting…..aloha ?

      1. Thanks Kait, I appreciate your kind words! Personally, I wouldn’t want to live in a world in which people were completely dismissive of others’ thoughts, opinion, and feelings. What an ugly world that would be!

  2. Totally agree with you, loved this article. I too have been amazed at some of the things that I have read lately about not caring about what others think. I guess you could care too much and that could be a hinderance, I believe in respecting others and treating others with kindness. How do we get accepted for a job if we just rock up dressed how ever we like? Respect is earned and it goes along way to being successful in this life.

    1. Thanks Annette! Appreciate your positive comment!

  3. Same here. Well put about our neices,nephews etc. As humans we are setting examples to the younger generation I am a 40 year old women. I truly feel that I have been blessed in my life and always put myself in some one elses shoes before I speak. I always think how my actions can affect those around me. That action we chose when we did not care what others thought certainly can affect where we are 10 years later. And yes still try to be true to the real you inside while respecting others around you! Thanks for the not so selfish advice that this younger generation could use.

    1. Thanks for your supportive comment Katie!!!

  4. I personally believe the basis of the advise given is dont care about what people think but rather care about what you think?Because that allows you to honour the values which you have and leave by thus leaving a purposeful life.One should care more about what they think of themselves as we all have an internal compass that acts a a compass that guards our actions,this is the compass that should tell us how well we are doing relative to our purpose not someone elses purpose.Once you lose your ability to follow your own internal guide on values,you will be lost for generations and contributing nothing of your blueprint to the world.

    1. Thanks for your comment! You make some excellent point! I do see, however, lots of people using “don’t care what other people think” as an excuse for treating other people poorly. So I think there needs to be a balance. You are absolutely right about paying attention to your own inner guidance. But that inner guidance needs to be grounded in a foundation of wanting to treat others well.

  5. I always respond “I care what others think of me” and my friends are totally against. I care because whatever I say or do, will make an impact on my children or husbands life in the future. I am a good person, I wake up and push myself to be a better person than I was before (I am not perfect) I have rules like: dont talk trash about others who are not present, don’t talk about other people’s children, if you have nothing constructive to say about someone better keep my mouth quiet, etc. But I never knew how to express these words on “Why I care what others think of me” and I thank this article because now I know how to respond .

    1. Thank you Nadia! I’m glad that you found my article helpful!

  6. I think the author of this article is conflating not caring what other people think of you with not caring about other people. I, for one, do care about the way I treat people. I, do not, however, care about people’s hypercritical opinions of me. Our culture sets up too many expectations. As they say, “Be yourself”. It’s far better to be truly you than to live trying to please someone else, and that includes friends and relatives. As long as your actions don’t cause harm to anyone, there’s no real reason you should care about what people think.

    1. Thanks for your comment. However, I wonder if you read the full article? To quote:

      “Caring what others think doesn’t mean that they have the final say in your life.

      It simply means that we take what others think into account as we navigate through life.

      But the final decisions for how to live our lives still rest with us.

      What you DON’T want to do is let what others think of you fundamentally change who you are or severely limit your life in any way.

      In the end, it’s not about whether you do or do not care what others think.

      It’s about whose opinion matters to you and in what situations.

      And how much weight you give to what other people think.”

  7. I’m glad to finally see an article that argues in favor of what other people think. All that “don’t care what other people think” seems so wrong to me. There is always the common sense argument that “we should care what other people think because what other people think of us influences their behaviour towards us”. Even presidents and succesful people care what other people think.

    To care what other people think = To feel concern or interest for what other people think.

    But I think you confuse caring what other people think with treating other people well. You don’t have to care what other people think to treat others well. You can completly not care what other people think and not be an asshole if one of your values is being kind to people.

    I think caring what other people think is about yourself, the way other people see you. Simply put: it’s worth caring because what other people think of us has consequences. The goal is to be liked, we all have a core need to be liked by other people. But how you go about it influences your answer to whether you should care or not care what other people think. You can either try to mold yourself to make yourself likeable but I think that will only give you misery, it’s on the negative side of caring what other people think. Or you can combine being authentic with caring what other people think to a certain extent and depending on which people, this is a more balanced approach and I think it’s the right one.

    By being authentic you feel good about yourself because you speak your mind within reason, besides, by expressing yourself you can attract the right people in your life as we gravitate towards those with similar values. By caring what other people think you can make sure you treat them right and meet their expections when necessary. The operative word is when necessary. You need to make a good impression to your recruiter to be hired, to your boss to be promoted, to your family if you also care about them. But you don’t need to meet everyone’s expectations just because.

    It would be great if everyone would like you, but if someone doesn’t like you and you’ve done your party by being decent and polite the best you can do is move on. Be the way you would like to be, whoever likes you great, whoever doesn’t like you also great. At the end of the day you should think for yourself whether in a certain situation it’s worth caring or not caring what a specific person thinks and about what.

    1. Thanks for your comment, all great points. And I’m not sure if the goal should be for everyone to like us. Even the Dalai Lama speaks of enemies. Honestly, if you’re not pissing off some people, then you should probably completely re-examine your life.

      1. You’re right, the goal shouldn’t be for everyone to like us. We have a need to be liked, but only by certain specific people. More exactly the people we like, we want them to like us back. The rest of the people, we don’t care all that much, we’ll settle with neutrality.

        1. Concerning your point that even the Dalai Lama speaks of enemies and if you’re not pissing off some people, then you should probably completely re-examine your life. The goal is to be liked, we all have a core need to be liked by other people, more specifically by the people we like, we want them to like us back. But we don’t have to be liked at all costs. If someone mistreats or disrespects you, it would be stupid for you to still want to be liked by them. If someone doesn’t like your hat or opinion it’s their problem, although if someone doesn’t like that you’re an asshole it’s your fault. You should have good character but also your own standards on being treated properly as well. Elliott Hulse said that it’s your fault when people disrespect you. We all have a core need to be liked by other people, but we don’t need to be liked by everyone or at all costs. A group of people that like us and care about us, we know we can trust and be open with, is usually more than enough.

          1. Just to clarify, many of the great people in the world had enemies. MLK, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, etc. They had enemies because they weren’t willing to follow along with the crowd, they stood up and did what they felt was right. People who don’t have enemies are usually those who follow along with the crowd and are afraid to take courageous stands. Also, we have no control over whether or not people like us. We can and should treat people well but we have no control over whether they like us or how they treat us in return.

            No idea who Elliott Hulse is but he’s completely wrong that it’s your fault if someone disrespects you. Just look at the current President of the US. He disrespects people all the time. Is it really the fault of all of those people that he acts that way???

          2. Good point that many of the great people in the world had enemies because they stood up and did what they felt was right. And I think this is an important point that should have been included in the original article. Doing things outside the crowd requies giving more weight to your own opinions than those of other people. Apart from having a socially appropriate behavior you can be however you want to be. You don’t have to be what other people want you to be. Keep going in the direction you want to go, you can’t escape the idea that other people will judge you but you can keep doing what you’re doing in spite of it. If you allow yourself you will become the slave to all the opinions of other people, good or bad, do what you want to do.
            Elliott Hulse did not mean that you are the main reason why someone disrespects you, of course the asshole is the person who disrespects you, what he means is that you are at fault when you are disrespected because you don’t take a stand and do anything about it. Like telling them to stop or reacting to stop them in some way. You allow yourself to be disrespected because you accept it.

          3. I think I figured out something big, I’m no psychologist but let me know if it makes sense.
            The question “should I care or not care what other people think?” is really about how to make yourself likeable. The people who consider themselves likeable enough don’t wonder “should I care or not care what other people think?” because they care what others think and that’s okay because other people will like them. Of course there’s the occasional troll or hater but they know that generally people will like them.
            It’s the people that don’t consider themselves likeable enough that actually ponder “should I care or not care what other people think?” because caring what others think would mean caring what those people who don’t like you think, so they shouldn’t care what others think in order to feel better about themselves, or so they think.
            I think we all need to be liked by other people, not by everyone but we need to generally be liked by people, it’s in our DNA. And how do you make yourself likeable? with simple but often overlooked techniques, overlooked exactly out of fear of what other people think:
            – Most people care to have good people around them, you can be liked for being a good person.
            – You get respect by being nice, a decent person, don’t be selfish.
            – Be yourself, relaxed, authetnic, honest, but try to make a good impression by taking care of your looks.
            – Be honest with what you like and what you don’t like, and what interests you have.
            – Don’t be fake, be natural, don’t try to brag or seem different to impress people.
            – You can take the initative but don’t impose, just ask.
            – What if you won’t be liked? accept it and move on, it’s their choice, nobody is obligated to anything.
            – Don’t be a jerk, don’t upset people, if you make jokes that could upset people, first of all try to avoid it and second in case you did say you were kidding or apologise and say that you won’t do it again.
            – Isn’t it weakness to apologise? no, if you do something wrong apologise.
            – What if your kindness goes over their head and people start seeing you as a fool? Decent people and the people who care about you she won’t see you as a fool.
            Sounds trivial, but I think fear that their kindness will go over other people’s head and they will start being taken advantage of is what stops people from doing these things in the first place. Some people will try to take advantage of it, it’s up to them to figure out when and stand up for themselves or at least cut those people from their lives or ignore them, but most people will respond kindness with kindness.

          4. – You are right about a lot of things in your article. You should care what other people think because if you care what other people think of you, you wouldn’t want to do anything that would make them think less of you, if their opinions matter to you it makes you strive to be a better person. There are a lot of “not caring what other people think” articles on the internet, not because of the low self-esteem issues but because of narcissism. You’re not the center of the universe, you matter, but so do other people. What other people think matters just as much as what you think. People who don’t care what other people think, feel or how they treat other people are generally bad people. If you follow all those websites that are urging you not to care what others think that’s what you will become.
            – However, there is a seed of truth in the “don’t care what other people think” advice that is not mentioned in this article. Obviously, to not care what other people think is a terrible way to live your life, but to care too much what other people think can enable you to become a people pleaser. You did mention at the end of the article that caring what others think doesn’t mean you care what every single person thinks of you in every single situation. That you need to pick and choose. There needs to be a balance, care what other people think but don’t be desperate. Caring what other people think is about trying to be liked. Trying too hard to make yourself liked will only backfire. You need to have some dignity if you want to be respected as well. Most people don’t respect doormats, they may respect them for other qualities but not for being doormats. A doormat is someone who allows people to treat them badly or walk all over them because they care so much what others think to be liked, that they’ll do anything you tell them. Try to be liked, be a good person, talk to people, take initiative, do favors, ask people about their interests, seek to find common subjects, but don’t be desperate. You don’t need to mold your behaviour after everyone. It’s supposed to be win – win situations, if you feel like you’re losing you’re not doing something right.
            – People pleaser is a synonym for doormat, these people think that their feelings don’t matter and everyone else’s feelings matter more, that conflict is dangerous and you need to avoid it at any cost, that you should always be nice. They end up doing things like: neglecting to take care of their own basic needs because they are too busy taking care of other people, agreeing to do things for others even when they don’t want to, suppressing their personality and opinions for fear of hurting other people’s feelings while other people are allowed to be and say whatever they want, only saying what they think others want to hear. Being desperate is just as unhealthy as not caring what others think. We all want to be liked, but you don’t need to be liked at all costs, trying to be liked at all costs will only backfire. I’m not saying you should never adjust your personality to make yourself more likeable or make other people feel good, I’m saying don’t overdo it to the point where you put other people’s feelings above your own, you don’t need to people please to be liked, in fact people pleasing will make you less likely to be liked.
            – Helping people on the other hand have a healthy self-interest. We are thought at a young age that being selfish is bad, but being selfish doesn’t mean you care about yourself, being selfish means you only care about yourself, it’s not selfish to care about your own well-being. It’s normal to want things, to have dreams and aspirations for yourself as opposed to doing what your parents want, there is nothing wrong with wanting for you to be healthy and happy.

  8. Ed, great message. It works from my Christian perspective.
    Just a note, I believe the reason there are so many “not caring what other people think” articles on the internet is because of the low self-esteem issues in society today . The challenge is, while that thinking is trying to solve the problem and help raise esteem it’s taken to an extreme. I agree there are many instances where we should care what other people think especially those that are close to us. It seems that a major focal point should be making sure that the people that are close to us are people we trust, respect and care about and vice versa. So that we care CAN about what THEY think and not so much of the negative unrealistic social norms in society that we try, unsuccessfully to live up to. Because some are so concerned about what others think about them that they have no thoughts of their own. That seems to be such a driving force in society today, so much so that people are committing suicide at an alarming rate based off of what others think about them. There should be a balance and you presented it well.

    1. “Just a note, I believe the reason there are so many “not caring what other people think” articles on the internet is because of the low self-esteem issues in society today”.

      I actually think it’s because a lot of those articles are coming from younger people who are still growing out of their narcissism.

      And yes, I agree that it’s all about balance. Going to the extremes in either way is what leads to problems.

      Thanks for your comment!

  9. There is wisdom in this article on caring what other people think. There is wisdom in the articles of not caring what other people think. Nobody has the whole story.

    Individuals who are motivated most powerfully by a need to be popular are always the least effective or successful. With statement like that you probably think I argue that you shouldn’t care what others think. But actually, you should care.

    Be authentic = be yourself = don’t perform. You don’t need to perform. You don’t need to force yourself to make a good impression to other people. Everybody just wants to have a good time, like you do. Nobody is looking for you to be the most exciting, interesting, funny, attractive, cool person in the world, except you yourself.

    Stay authentic and true to yourself under pressure. If you don’t like drinking then don’t drink in spite of your friends telling you to drink, be grounded in what you believe in. Make your own decisions. This turns into people having more respect for you. You don’t get respect by people pleasing, you get respect by being true to yourself, not attempting to impress other people to make them like you and showing that you can say “no” to things you don’t want even if you risk facing conflict.

    Let me be clear that being authentic doesn’t mean lacking social awareness or being pushy. Don’t go to a party where people drink and start preaching why alcohol is bad. Don’t be stupid with this, it depends on the context. I’m going to act differently if I’m in a classroom than if I’m around friends. But I’m not going to go against my authentic self in either situation.

    The opinion of other people, not everyone’s opinion, but the opinion of close people (family, friends, people who care about you) and to have a good reputation matters. Generally, care what people who also care what you think, exception your boss or cliens in the professiona area.

    If you look at McClelland’s theory of motivation, individuals who are motivated most powerfully by a need to be popular are always the least effective or successful. People pleasing is an unpleasant and ineffective strategy, and trying to please everyone makes you appear weak and as if you have no boundaries or values. That means you cannot, logically, be trusted, which is going to make people react negatively to you. Far better to be authentic. Not everyone will like you and that’s okay.

    1. Generally, care what people who also care what you think think and people you have a reasonable interest in, such as your boss or clients in the professional area.*

      Some people will disapprove of you, of course. No matter who you are, whether you are people pleasing or being authentic as in not performing, some people will disapprove. They are in the business of looking down on everyone. They judge everybody unfavorably because of their own emotional needs. They will consider some people not well-enough educated or from the wrong background, or too something or other or not classy enough for them. They are not worth paying attention to. Words hurt but if you let every bad words hurt you it means everyone can control you.

      It’s possible to grow accustomed to this fact: some people will like and approve of you and some won’t. Accept that you will be judged. Some people have a vested interest in thinking you are deficient no matter what you do. But others will take one look at you and approve. They will admire you for things you take for granted. Try to find these people.

      1. Stay authentic and true to yourself but don’t be a jerk and as I said don’t lack social awareness.

    2. Care what people who also care what you think think and people you have a reasonable interest in, such as your boss or clients in the professional area.*

      Some people will disapprove of you, of course. No matter who you are, some people will disapprove. They are in the business of looking down on everyone. They judge everybody unfavorably because of their own emotional needs. They will consider some people not well-enough educated, Or from the wrong background, or too something or other–not classy enough for them. They are not worth paying attention to.

      It’s possible to grow accustomed to this fact: some people will like and approve of you, and some won’t. Some people have a vested interest in thinking you are deficient no matter what you do. But others will take one look at you and approve. They will admire you for things you take for granted. Try to find these people.

      Be true to yourself but be lively, don’t be a jerk or lack social awareness.

  10. This ended up more complicated than it was supposed to be.
    TL;DR – Care what others think and build up a social image but more importantly be yourself.
    This is why there’s wisdom in both arguments, caring and not caring. Obivously we should care what others think, anyone saying they “don’t are what others think” are either lying to themselves, lying to others or fools, don’t be oblivious.
    But at the same time, more importantly be yourself. Don’t worry you’re not gonna go overboard, it’s going to be too hard for you to become totally cold and heartless. Some people may be very strict, but that’s not representative of the majority of the population, most people don’t react that badly to a bit of disagreement, contradiction, arguments, unwelcome infromation or refusal given with a grain of politeness. You can be a pleasant person without being a people pleaser. Allow yourself to be authentic, people are naturally authentic, do not condition yourself too much because you think the real you won’t be liked. You can be liekd for who you are and even earn the respect of other people. We respect people that respect their ideas and values even if we disagree with them. Be yourself so you can be judged for who you are and only then adjust your behaviour if you have to. If you keep being fake to please everyone you will never know what the real you is like to the world so you will never have the confirmation so that then you can adjust yourself. So care what others think and build up a social image but more importantly be yourself.

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