For a lot of my early adult life, I was terrified of what people thought of me.
Honestly, I don’t even know where the fear came from, it was somehow built into me from childhood. I wanted so desperately to be cool, to be recognized, to be liked. More than anything, I wanted to be accepted.
But, the problem with always worrying about what other people think is that it keeps you in a holding pattern. As a teenager and young adult, I had all these ambitions for my life that wouldn’t go away.
The world I grew up in didn’t really match these ambitions. Everyone I knew had a job, a house, two cars, was settled down, married with kids and lived very similar lives.
I’m not saying this to infer that I am somehow special, or a maverick, it’s just that my desires didn’t seem to be the desires of everyone I grew up with.
For much of my teenage years into my early twenties, I was trapped between these two desires: being accepted and fitting in, and doing the things I really wanted to do.
As you probably know, whenever you have a desire to do something, but also a fear that is stopping you, most of the time the fear will win.
Instead of doing anything about my dreams to be a speaker and a writer, I just fantasized about it. I watched videos of others doing it. I read books about how to do it. But I never did it.
Then one day a question popped into my head: if I start to follow my ambitions, who are the specific people who might criticize me?
For me, the list of people was short. Three people to be exact.
Then another question came to mind: if those three people didn’t approve of my choices, what would actually happen?
The answer surprised me: nothing would happen.
They might talk behind my back, they may roll their eyes or make jokes at my expense, but in terms of real-world tangible changes, there would be none.
For me, this was a turning point.
My desire to be accepted was still creating fear, but despite this, I still wanted to venture forth. So I did. I joined Toastmasters to learn to speak, and I started a blog to share my ideas. These weren’t earth-shattering or groundbreaking moments, but they were a start.
Then I took the final step, I announced to the world that I wanted to be a speaker. I asked people to consider me for events. And I started speaking.
This was when I realized a profound truth: nobody cares.
All those people who I was terrified would laugh at me, would question me, or tell me to stop; not one of them said a thing. Not one of them even noticed that I was doing it because they actually didn’t care.
They were so focused on being accepted by their peer group that they didn’t notice that I wasn’t fitting in anymore.
I share this because it’s a valuable lesson for me. When you take a leap to do something in your life, nobody will notice. Nobody will actually care.
After enough time passes, the world will start to see you differently. They will perceive you as a person who pursues ambitions. They might not do it themselves, but they will accept that it’s what you do.
You will have the acceptance you always wanted, but it will just be acceptance of the new person you want to be.
There is immense power in knowing that nobody cares. It gives you the freedom to pursue what matters and to do it in full view of those people whose opinions you fear.
Nobody cares; so be who you want to be.