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Should You Really Not Care About What Other People Think?

If you live by the motto, "I don't care what people think", maybe this will cause you to rethink that.

Inspiration

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.

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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

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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

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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?

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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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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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