how to care less

How to Care Less (Without Being a Heartless Bitch)

Have you ever visited a friend or relative and, during the course of the evening, they made a comment about you that just stung?

When I was 9, I attended a family reunion. I sat across the table from my uncle.

Everyone was sitting around the table, eating and chatting.

nose

Out of the blue, my uncle looked at me and said quite loudly, “Holy crap! Look at that nose!  It’s like a damn ski ramp! Goes down and slopes up…”.

Everyone looked while he laughed heartily.

He finished by taking his finger and motioning a skier sliding down a slope, hitting a bump on the end, and flying into the air.

Soon he was on to his next pithy observation.

But you know what?

I was horrified!

Never in my life had I ever entertained the notion that there was something wrong with my nose!

I thought, “OMG! I’m flawed!”. “How many people notice my horrible nose and secretly laugh at me?”. (Hey, I was 9!).

For years after that 1-minute diatribe, I was mortified by my nose. Whenever I went out, I got into the habit of holding my hand in front of my face so that people wouldn’t see my “grotesque” nose.

I still vividly remember that one-sided conversation today – just as if it had happened yesterday. Except that was forty years ago!!!

Of course, now it makes me laugh, and I couldn’t care less what someone thinks about my nose.

But for way too long, I was overly concerned about what other people thought, or more importantly, what they might think if I did this or didn’t wear that, or said this or acted like that.

How much of your own limited time do you spend caring about what others think, want, need, or expect?

Does your mood turn sour when someone disapproves or criticizes you?

Do you do things you don’t want to do because you don’t want to “hurt their feelings” or “make them mad”?

Do you spend hours, days, weeks, or even years reliving and lamenting the things people have said or done to you?

Great News!

You can learn how to care less about what others think.

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We Face a Basic Need

Of course, when you were a kid, you needed to care what people around you thought.

They were the ones with the food, shelter, security – and the paddle!

When you get away from your parents to start your own life, everything’s new and unknown.

Once again, you feel like you need to win the approval of your college classmates, the new friends you’ve made, and your work colleagues and supervisors.  So, it continues…

On Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, security, the need to be accepted, and the need to be part of a group are very basic needs – right above the physiological ones like sustenance and sleep.

maslow's hierarchy of needs

Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

We erroneously believe that, in order to be accepted and avoid living a long, lonely life, we have to always cater to the needs, opinions, and desires of those “other people”.

We learn to care too much.

Plenty of people spend their entire lives making life choices based on the acts and opinions of others. They’re obsessed with what others may or may not think about them, so they’re tossed here and there like a wayward boat on a stormy sea.

If you’ve spent too much time caring too much, just remember this:

You’re wiser now.

There’s no real need to worry about what others think.

Think about it. Are these statements true for you?

  • You can provide for your own basic needs now. You don’t need to worry about pleasing someone else to get what you need. When you need something, you’re resourceful enough to find a way to get it.
  • It can be wonderful to be apart of a family or feel connected with friends, but if that isn’t part of your life right now, it isn’t going to kill you. It’ll probably just make you stronger.
  • If you can’t be natural, open, and honest around the people in your life without worrying if they’ll judge you or take drastic action, then it’s time to find and connect with new people. People who value you for who you are just the way you are. And with over 7 billion people alive on this planet right now, you can definitely find at least a few.

Make a Conscious Choice

We are meant to care.

We are meant to have emotions.

Without those parts of ourselves, what kind of life would we have? One not worth living, that’s for sure.

Your time, energy, and attention are limited, though.

The average lifespan is around 78 years. If you’re lucky enough to make it that far, that means you get a mere 60 years of adulthood to experience everything you want to experience.

And, if you subtract 8 hours of sleep every night, it equates to 40 years in which to experience everything.

It seems like a lot when you’re young, but older folks can attest to just how quickly that time flies by. It’s not much time.

Your job is to craft a life full of experiences and grand emotions. From those, you learn and grow wiser. And hopefully, you’ll share your unique experiences and knowledge so the whole of humanity is better simply because you were here, and you were you.

Therefore, it’s all about choice.

Who do you love so much that you want to care what they think? You don’t need to care what they think, but you choose to care anyway?

What about all the others?

Let their opinions, preferences, and expectations slide off you like water off a duck’s back.

When you’ve been in the habit of caring too much for so long, just remember that changing that habit might take time and effort.

Every day, throughout the day, you should remind yourself, “Does this even matter to me? Is this worth spending my precious time and attention on?”.

If so – great! Just remember that you’re caring because of a conscious choice.

If not, let it go! Move on and focus your attention elsewhere.

Here are 5 of the most effective methods I’ve used to go from only caring about everyone and everything else to not giving a sh** about what anyone else thinks or does. 

If you want to know how to care less, try one or two, or use all 5. See which ones work best for you.

1. GiveYourself What You Need

If you feel like you need someone else to provide you with food, shelter, security, love, a sense of self-worth, or any other psychological or physical yearning, you need to remind yourself that this is absolutely not true.

You came into this world alone, and you will leave it alone.

You are utterly capable!

You can find a way to provide for your own needs because you are creative, strong, and smart.

Yes, I’m talking about you specifically.

Don’t think you can?

Send me a note and tell me your story. I’m fairly certain I can offer you some options you may not have thought of. Reach out and ask. I’m kind of an expert in this area 😊.

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2. DistanceYourself

I’m sure you’ve heard the adage, “He couldn’t see the forest for the trees”, right?

When you’re too close to a person or a situation, you don’t think clearly because you’re too emotionally involved.

The remedy is to step back and see a broader picture.

If the situation involves a battle within your own thoughts, you can distance yourself by addressing yourself in the third person.

Instead of saying, “Oh my gosh, I need to ___ but I’m stuck because ____”, simply replace the “I’s” with your first name.

Now, you say, “Georgia, you need to ____ but you feel you’re stuck because _____”. Studies show that by referring to yourself in the third person, you get some emotional distance. That distance allows you to think and act more logically. It improves your ability to problem-solve.

If the problem is outside your head, though, you can step back and look at it from a broader picture or time frame.

For example, say your teenage daughter has gotten into some serious trouble at school for the 5th time, and you’re at your wit’s end. Normally, you’d get all upset and fly off the handle, which only does more harm than good, anyway.

Train yourself to step back and see a bigger picture.

You could think about how there are billions of teenagers on this tiny planet spinning in the middle of a limitless universe, and many of them have done careless or “bad” things. Imagine that you’re up in space looking down at all these billions of teens…..try to spot the one that’s your teenager. 

But look around and see all the other chaos going on, too.  See that mass genocide happening over there? All the destruction happening there?  Oh wait – there’s that bratty teenager who keeps rebelling….but, wait! Look over there! That raging war is killing thousands of men, women, and children daily! 

distance yourself change perspective

The point is to step back mentally, either in time or in space, and put it in perspective.

Here’s a quick example of a time-perspective adjustment:

People have been living (and “misbehaving”) for millions of years! Imagine you’re a supreme being up in space looking at the entire timeline of humanity.

You see the countless people who have been here and gone, as well as those who will be here in the future. The timespan is enormous, and you see them all.

You see how, despite the most formidable challenges and situations, humans have always overcome and survived. Not only have they survived, they have continued to evolve and become more than they were.

These 6 months where your teenager has been out of control?  HA! That’s nothing!

How long did you spend rebelling when you were younger? 

Expand your timeframe and visualize a longer time span. Add some temporal distance.

Practice adding spatial or temporal distance to any situation, every single day, if you need to.

When you’re not so extremely close and emotionally wrapped up in a situation or person, you can quickly damper those emotions and care less.

3. LoveYourself

If you ask anyone, “Do you love yourself?”, most people would probably answer with a “yeah, pretty much”.

The greatest thing you can do for yourself and for others is to spend time every single day growing your self-knowledge and self-love.

It may seem stupid and counterintuitive.  I mean, who hasn’t met someone so conceited and “into themselves” that no one can stand to be around them, right?

I’m not talking about that. That’s a whole different ballgame.

The more you know and love yourself, the more capable you will be to love and empathize with others.

Also, the more you love yourself, the more you will be unwilling to allow your precious time, energy, attention, and feelings to be dictated by the whims of others.

Think about it in its simplest form:

How is it even possible to love another when you, yourself, are filled with hate, disdain, criticism, judgement, and loathing? 

You cannot give what you do not possess.

The extension of that truth is that, the more you love yourself, the less you’re willing to settle for anything or anyone that doesn’t bring happiness, joy, and contentment into your life.

You realize that fretting over whether this person thinks well of you or whether that person disapproves of you is ridiculous and counterproductive. It’s a total waste of your time and energy, and you deserve better.

be different and care less

So, because you love and value yourself, you automatically choose not to engage in that pettiness anymore. It doesn’t even interest you.

Once you’ve reached a point where you are filled with the warmth of self-love and self-worth, you naturally gravitate toward people and situations that resonate with the love and acceptance you feel inside.

The judgers, the haters, the troublemakers, the drama queens – you simply don’t feel the desire to associate with them anymore.  You have evolved.

So, the question becomes, “How can I love myself more?”.

That’s a book (or maybe 20) by itself, but it starts with pure acceptance.

Accept every part of you – the good and the bad. Because all of it is grand and beautiful.

  • Forgive yourself.
  • Be patient with yourself.
  • Say kind words to yourself in your thoughts.
  • Let go of guilt.
  • Do some research and come up with a list of 50 ways you can increase your self-care and self-love. Keep it nearby.

And then, make sure you practice at least one every single day.

You’re worth the effort, and the payoffs are enormous.

Can’t come up with anything to put on your list of ways to love yourself more? Here’s a video from YouTube to get you started:

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4. Ask Yourself 3 Questions
Throughout Your Day

There are times when life gets hectic. Different people are asking you for things, you’ve got pressing situations that need your attention, etc.

Open a blank document on your phone or computer and make a short list of your 3 top priorities. For example, those 3 priorities might be “Exercise/Health”, “Spending time with my Kids”, and “Increasing my Income”.

As you go through every day and people are judging, criticizing, demanding this or that, or making comments that leave you angry, depressed, or just plain frazzled, pull up (or just remember, if you’re good at that!) your 3 priorities.

Ask yourself:

  • Does this have anything to do with my 3 main priorities?
  • Is this person or situation inordinately distracting me from spending my time and energy on my 3 top priorities?
  • Does this even matter?

When you take a minute or two to assess people and situations in this way, you give yourself the chance to consciously choose to walk away from all those things that don’t bring joy into your life or keep you on your chosen path.

It’s human nature to cling to what was. 

We often spend so much time ruminating about something that happened yesterday, or maybe even things that happened many years ago.

If it’s a happy memory, reliving those happy moments adds to your joy.

But when you’re spending time today chastising yourself or others for something that’s already done and over with, you are wasting this moment!

One of my favorite quotes is from Dale Carnegie,

“Each day is a new life to the wise man”

Forgive yourself.

Forgive others.

All that bad stuff that happened? Let it go.

Oh, you were a scared little doormat yesterday? That doesn’t mean you have to be one today.

You hurt someone last week? Apologize and leave it in the past where it belongs. Today, be better.

Every day you get to be someone completely different.

Today is a brand-new day, and you are a brand-new you.

Use the wisdom you’ve gained and make today different and amazing.

All you have to do is make a choice.

It happens in a single moment.

Let it all go.

Being compassionate is a wonderful trait.

It makes you an incredible person.

Caring too much about things and people that don’t matter, though, detracts from your life and the lives of everyone around you.

The only one who gets to decide how wonderful your life is you.

If you choose many of your actions, thoughts, and words simply because you’re concerned with what others think, say, or feel, make the decision to stop it right now.

Just decide. Right now.

When the next minute comes, make the same decision again.

Decide again and again until it becomes automatic.

Choose happiness.

Reclaim responsibility for your thoughts, actions, and outcomes.

Define your values and priorities, and then make them your priority!

Decide again and again, every moment of every day, to distance yourself from the people and things that don’t matter. Let them float on by without giving them your time and attention.

If you conscientiously stay true to yourself and use the 5 tips above, when those 40 years of your waking moments run out, you’ll have nothing but incredible memories, grand experiences, and a wonderful legacy to leave behind.

We’ve covered just one aspect of how to care less in this article. Mainly, we’ve talked about how to care less about what others think.

How to care less applies to different situations, though:

  • How to care less about what people think (this article)
  • How to not get so worked up when someone or something makes you angry
  • How to not be so emotional or burst into tears when you feel intensely
  • How to stay calm and in control when danger and fear arrive.
  • How to not appear desperate or needy (and why that matters).

Feel free to check out those articles, as well.

Before You Go, Repeat After Me:

(no really! Shout it out loud!):

I am incredibly smart, bold, creative, capable, and unique.

I have the right to make my own decisions and live my life the way I want.

If you accept me, that’s great. If you chastise me, step aside.

I don’t need to tolerate anything or anyone I don’t want to.

If you’re in my life, it’s because I choose to have you around. It’s not because I need you.

I was not meant to sit on the sidelines, follow the herd, or live my life your way.

Get out of my way, because here I come!

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How to Care Less (Without Being a Heartless Bitch)

by Michele time to read: 18 min
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