A four letter word…

ER quoteGrowing up I was often told, “You care too much about what other people think.”

Variations on this theme included: So what if they’re talking about you. Who cares what they think? They’re an idiot; why would you even care about them? You’re your own person; why do you care about what they are doing?

I had always associated the word “care” with stress, because in all of these instances, caring meant feeling bad. It meant being overly worried about someone’s opinion of me, or feeling for someone who didn’t feel for me, or thinking that someone was somehow better than me.

At the back of my mind I always wondered what kind of person I would be if I didn’t care. However that thought process always got shooed away very quickly as I believed that not caring would be a limiting choice.

I suddenly realised that the trick isn’t to stop caring. Instead it is to recognise how and why we care. Sometimes we care with love; sometimes we care with fear. Sometimes we care with self-respect; sometimes we care with self-contempt. Sometimes we care with a sense of possibility; sometimes we care with fears of inferiority.

The important thing is that not to let caring about people or circumstances detract from our ability to care for ourselves.

A friend of mine told me recently that she’s decided that she is going to stop giving a hoot (aka caring) about what people expect of her. She was going to stop stressing about how well she met other people’s expectations. She essentially decided to stop worrying about things outside of her control, and focus instead on all the things that were within her power.  That is what I believe it means to truly care for yourself.

We should all do well to remember what Mrs Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

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