Deaf Ears: Do You Care What People Think?

December 1, 2014

“…If I answer, ‘No, I don’t care what people think,’ I risk seeming arrogant. But if I answer, ‘Yes, I care too much about what people think,’ I risk seeming spineless.”
– Elissa Schappell 
(author of Blueprints for Building Better Girls)
In truth, I’ve never been one for caring much of what others thought of me. In middle school and high school this served me well since peer pressure was a monster that scared others far more than it did me; when I felt pushed to try things that I was uncomfortable with, I wasn’t fearful of saying no – I wasn’t concerned with what others would say. But saying that I didn’t care – or don’t care – what people think at all wouldn’t be true either. To some degree, of course I care. Sometimes we should care. The trick is finding the balance. 
This morning, after speaking to a friend who, at some point in her life, was in the same “trailing spouse” position as me (What a silly word for what we do. Trailing? How about courageously free.) I remembered how unsure I felt when I got here with my intention to focus on my writing career. I was excited to start down this writer’s road that up until now I had only dreamt about. I was anxious as to whether or not I’d be any good. I was nervous I would fail. And while some people were very supportive, the naysayers, for some reason, are always far louder
Do you get paid?

You’ve gotta make money, babe. (Don’t get me started on the “babe” part.)
It must be nice to not have to get up in the morning (because sleeping in was part of my daily agenda of taking care of kids and writing).
and my favorite…
Because, really, what do you do all day?
I knew what I wanted out of my life and had read enough O Magazine articles and Paulo Coelho novels to know that it takes true courage to veer from life’s crossroad of should and must and turn deaf ears to criticism if you want to discover your true path, yet here I was listening to others, who were unknowingly, squashing my dream with their expectations of reality and their ideas of what I needed to be doing with my life. 
And then one day, I had this thought: What if they are the scared ones? What if, they wish they had the courage to do what I’m doing? What if they were placing their crap on me because they don’t want to turn the mirror around? Aha! What if what people think about me is really a way to protect themselves from what they think about themselves? What if, like in high school, the ones pressuring are the most insecure? 
(Major Aha!) What a great question! And what a simple answer: ain’t nobody got time for that. 
I don’t have time to listen to the many who don’t believe in my reality because I have two very important people whose thoughts are my concern. Now, with two children at home who I hope will grow to follow their hearts and never forget what they wanted from life when they were kids – now, more than ever – I don’t have time for naysayers. I need deaf ears for what people think of my choices; deaf ears for everyone besides those two very small people whose strong hearts and relentless dreaming I want to help cultivate so that when they have dreams that don’t have a direct path they can remember that their mom didn’t take a straight path either; she chose a path dictated by her passion instead of a price tag. They’ll learn that this path isn’t an easy ride but that if they want it, it’s worth it. They’ll see that in order to follow it, they’ll have to make hard decisions and forge ahead and silence the critics and that if they’re lucky they’ll find a partner who is open to dreaming widely and freely and who is willing to travel whatever roads necessary to accompany them on their path.

I want to be able to say to them that I have to go to work today because I love it. Because I want to. Because God created in me something that makes me feel alive in a way that nothing else ever has. That the only boss I listen to is the one telling me that creating and writing is existing and that even if I don’t have a paycheck – yet – someday I will. I want them to know that faith is as important on their journey as talent and that listening to others can serve useful, constructive even, but can also easily serve as a deterrent because different paths run in different directions. 

So for me, what others think boils down to this: I’ve got a road to travel and companions to travel with. The rest is background noise.
In April’s issue of O Magazine was a feature titled 20 Questions Every Woman Should Ask Themselves. I’ve decided to ask myself these questions and give a sincere try in answering them. This is question 2 of 20: Do I care too much about what other people think?


Photo Credits:
Orin Zebest – Megaphone
Quinn Dombrowski – Dreams Posting

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