Not Caring What Others Think

I was telling a friend recently about how I was considering becoming a rapper. The gist of the idea is that I believe that I could make an excellent rap album if I dediated an entire year to it. To me the logic was inescapable: I have a lot of time, some base rap skills, and the ability to come up with plans and focus. It seems literally impossible to me that I could not make a good rap album in one year.

He kept trying to push me away from it, which I found surprising. He’s an extremely supportive friend who thinks outside the box and does many much more “out there” things than that. Finally I asked why he was pushing against it.

He said that because I look like a normal nerdy white guy, I may not get the best reception. Maybe I’d be booed off stage if I tried to perform.

I waited for the rest of the objection, but that was it. Getting booed? Who cares?

This made me think a lot about the hypothetical situation. I could see why it would be a totally normal and reasonable response to be embarrassed or care that people booed me, but I couldn’t connect with that emotion at all. I tried to put myself in that situation, and the only thing I could feel was amusement. I think it would be totally hilarious if I went on stage and got booed off. What a funny and unique experience!

At first I thought that this might have come from pickup. There I had to subject myself to potential (and, more often than not, actual) rejection many times per night. Maybe I had built up a thick skin through that.

I realized, though, that rejection in that setting never bothered me. I was often scared of approaching and felt uncomfortable putting myself out there, but rejection never affected me. If anything it made me less scared to approach the next time because I realized that it wasn’t so bad.

Thinking more about it, I believe my immunity to the sting of rejection stems from my insistence on doing everything my own way.

My goal in making a rap album would just be to make an album that I think is good. There’s a lot of rap out there that other people think is good and I think is terrible. If I made one of those albums, I would not be happy. I accept that we all have different opinions on things and I don’t believe that it’s possible to please everyone.

If we accept the premise that we can’t please everyone, we also have to accept that we can’t care about the opinion of everyone. Part and parcel with doing anything is that some people will like it and some people won’t.

I care most about what I think. If I put out work that I feel is very good, I’m happy even if no one else likes it. That’s not to say that I won’t consider their opinions and make changes, only that I’m not going to really feel bad if they don’t like it.

Next I care what my close friends and family think. They know me the best, so their opinions are generally the most valid. If a random stranger tells me I’m messing up my life, I won’t think twice about it. If a family member says that, I’m all ears.

Some of my friends and family like rap, so I would listen to their opinions. If I thought it was good and they all thought it was really terrible, maybe I would even feel a little bad. Probably I would just be confused and motivated to improve.

Next I care about readers. I don’t say that to pander. As any reader knows, I put out whatever I want on this blog, and it’s always a pretty authentic view of how I see things. If someone has stuck around and has learned about me and thinks I’m messing up, I’d listen.

But strangers? I couldn’t care less. It’s not because I think less of them, it’s because I have no possible way of knowing if their opinion is valid. I won’t please everyone, and from my point of view it’s impossible to know if a stranger is someone who should be pleased or not, so I give zero weight to their opinion.

So if I make a rap album and perform it and every single person boos? Well, maybe they’re the same crowd that would be going nuts for some rap artist that I think is really bad. Or maybe I’m the only person who will like my rap album, but I’m the only one that has to live with it anyway, so that’s fine.

When you find yourself caring about how someone else perceives you, ask yourself why. Is it because it’s someone whose opinion you value? Or is it a knee jerk reaction because we think rejection is bad? If it’s the latter, try to meditate on whether that’s a reaction you need to have in the future.

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Photo is me riding a dinosaur

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