While sitting down to watch the second episode of this season's grown-ish (congrats on the fourth season pick-up, y'all; that's dope!), the topic for today most definitely crossed my mind. As far as the episode went, long story short, after everyone returned from their summer vacation, one person, in particular, had a big surprise—Nomi is pregnant. If you're an avid watcher of the show, you know that little bit of news threw a lot of people off for, well, a few reasons. But what really stood out to me was the dynamic of Zoey and Nomi once the news was out of the bag.
In some ways, Zoey gives me old-school Carrie Bradshaw vibes—smart, fashionable, semi-private…also semi-neurotic, self-consumed and a little harsh when it comes to the delivery of her opinion that sometimes is "the truth" and sometimes is simply "her truth" (that last one, I used to be a lot like that; that's how I can detect it in others). Still, Zoey is pretty loyal and dependable, so that's what makes her friends tolerate the fact that she can be a little rough around the edges on the supportive front.
Anyway, when Zoey found out that Nomi had told Zoey's ex, Luca about being pregnant weeks before revealing the same news to Zoey—shocker of all shockers—Zoey made it be about her. Why didn't she find out first? When Nomi—along with the rest of Zoey's friends—shared that it was partly because Zoey can lean towards the judgmental side when it comes to receiving information, an honest dialogue occurred. While, on one hand, Zoey had to face the fact that sometimes she isn't always the softest place to land, Zoey also gave some relevant push back that sometimes, at least hard reality checks, are what those who claim to care about us need to receive. Otherwise, we'll be out here whilin' in these streets.
As I thought about how difficult it can be to find the balance between not being "judgy" and yes, being honest with others, I thought this would be a good a time as any to explore the question that seems to have ever-changing answers—should we really care what others think when it comes to what they think about us? My short answer is "yes". But there are a couple of points to follow that.
Why We Should Care About What Others Think
I've got a pretty strong personality; there's no getting around that. So, ever since like high school, on occasion, I've heard people say, "Shellie doesn't care about what anyone thinks." My response to that has never changed—"Yes, I do. It's just that my list is pretty short." To me, I think that it's pretty dangerous to be out here not giving a damn about what others see about me that I may not. However, what I've learned to do is care when it comes to those who actually care about me. Do I care about what trolls in cyberspace think? No. Do I care about what envious, opportunistic, sometimey or shady people think? Uh-uh. Do I care about what individuals who have plenty of time to critique but no time to actually invest in my life have to say? Not really. Because again, those types of folks show absolutely no evidence that they care about my ultimate health and well-being, my needs or my feelings. They're just…yappin'.
But the ones who have proven through their words and actions that they actually do love me and have my best interest at heart? Yeah, I care what they think. Praise God that I do too because I've avoided some real foolishness by paying attention to their "Shellie, what the hell?!" responses to certain things.
There are men that I've not gotten involved with because I cared what others think. There are firm boundaries that I've drawn with certain people in my world because I cared what others think. There are character flaws that I've been able to correct because I cared what others think. In many ways, caring what others think has saved my life (and definitely improved the quality of it).
Meanwhile, not caring what others think? I'll just put it this way—your current president doesn't give a damn what others think. Look at where that has gotten him and, in many ways, our country. Yeah, I'm not impressed, not in the least, by people who proudly (emphasis on "proud") proclaim that they couldn't care less what others think. To me, all that sounds like is a ton of arrogance which is usually nothing more than masked insecurity. No man is an island. All of us need folks around us who can provide an "outside in" perspective on our lives; folks who can oftentimes detect the blind spots that we would never notice without their presence. To not care what anyone thinks is a pretty reckless approach to matters. Rarely does it ever work in your favor to always be of that mindset. Now, that doesn't mean that others and their thoughts should trump, silence or compromise your own. Here's what I mean by that.
How We Should Care About What Others Think
While recently binge-watching the final season of Ballers recently, I jotted down something that Dwayne Johnson's character Spencer Strasmore said in, what I believe was the last episode—"You'll always care what your family and friends think. But, at the end of the day, you've only got yourself and the f—ks you choose to give. Everything else is someone else's problem." If you watched the entire series, you know that Spencer probably could've stood to listen to others a lot more often than he did. At the same time, though, I doubt that he would've shook up the NFL in the way that he did if he always followed how things were always done or if he surrendered to the status quo.
Yes, that's fiction but in real life, I can totally relate. When I was writing my first book, some of my closest family members refused to speak to me for months. When I made my exit out of official church membership, other church folks warned me of how "lost" I would end up. When I decided to tour with a ministry that gets people out of porn addiction, when I made the decision to become a marriage life coach (without ever being married), when I shared with others that I would devote a lot of my life towards telling a lot of my business in order to heal myself and help others, I can't tell you how many times people looked at me like I was crazy or tried to talk me out of it. These are the times when I didn't care what anyone thought because what I realized is that they were trying to project onto me what they would do in those situations. But they are not me and I am not them.
See, the key to learning how and when you should care about what others think about your life is to first determine what your life is all about. What is your purpose? What is your mission? What are your values? Shoot, what even is your personality, needs, desires, and perspective? Some of my friends, they don't "get" how I approach life because they are much more private than I am. So, whenever I speak openly about my past four abortions or my vast views on sex, they cringe; not because what I am doing is "wrong" but because it's something that they definitely wouldn't do.
And that's the thing we all have to be careful about—are we sharing our thoughts about someone else's world and approach to it with the intention of sparing them unnecessary hurt, harm, and/or drama, or are we simply trying to get them to say and do things based on what we would say…or do? The first is actually caring about them; the second is all about ego.
And that would be my advice when it comes to navigating how to care about what others think about you. First, make sure you are self-aware enough to be clear on who you are. Next, make sure you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the people you are about to listen to truly do care about you. Then, actually listen to what they have to say. I'll say this from personal experience—if it confirms something in your spirit or irks you to no end, those are the two things that you need to process the most. Being told what you need to hear doesn't always feel good and when you are "rubbed the wrong way" by someone you care about, oftentimes that means they've hit a nerve that you need to get to the root of before simply dismissing it. This brings me to my final point.
Can We Finally Start Using “Judgmental” Properly, Please?
Recently, I watched a segment of Claudia Jordan's talk show. On this particular episode actor Christian Keyes was on it. A part of what they discussed was how he reacted when a guy DM'ed him and he publicly responded. As they were breaking down the backlash that transpired as some people perceived him as being homophobic, I thought that two great points came out. One, what a lot of people may not know is, a part of what ticked Christian off was the guy propositioned Keyes and his son for a threesome (what in the world?!), so yes, Christian was pissed and rightfully so. Something like that wasn't about him being homophobic or judgmental; it's not something that he needed to apologize for. The come-on was totally inappropriate, plus he was protecting his child. Another point that I believe Claudia made is there is a difference between someone wanting equal rights and someone wanting superior ones. Right again. If you want to be treated fairly, if you want someone to respect your right to choose how you want to live your life, it's important that you extend those same courtesies to others. They don't have to agree with you all of the time. You don't have to agree with them all of the time either. To believe otherwise is a form of bullying, period.
Man, if I were in a beauty pageant right now and was asked what I'd like to see change in the world, I just might say "hyper-sensitivity". Just because we may be told something that we don't want to hear, just because someone might challenge us, just because harsh truths might be presented to us that make us uncomfortable or cause us to take some long looks at ourselves, that doesn't automatically mean that someone is being "judgmental" (which actually means things like "discretion" and "good sense", by the way). It doesn't mean that someone is hating on you or trying to run your life. Listen, if all that any of us can receive are accolades and applause, yet the moment someone says something that is contrary to that, we shut down or snap, we're all in trouble. Besides, all opinions are judgment calls. If I tell you that you're cute, I just judged you. Why didn't you tell me to stop being so "judgmental" then?
If a lot of us were honest with ourselves, us saying that we don't want to be "judged" actually means that we don't ever want to be corrected. In thinking that way, though, how do we ever grow? No one is saying that you have to receive any and everything that someone says to you. What I am encouraging you to do, however, is find balance.
The compliments that I receive feel good. The "Shellie, you might want to think about that" conversations, from the people who care about me, those are what aid in my continual evolution. It's not about someone being judgmental; it's about them being thoughtful.
Judgment is done in a spirit of apathy. Correction is done in a spirit of love.
So, when it comes to the age-old question of whether or not we should care what people think, again, my answer is "yes". Just make sure you know who you are, you're at peace with yourself (you tend to handle information best in a state of internal peace), and that the people thinking about and speaking into your life actually do care about you. When these three things are working together, "caring" can actually work in your favor. I'm speaking from personal experience when I say that. Yes, I deeply care what certain people in my life think. And praise the Lord for that.
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