The other day, my friend Jemma called me all upset. Another mom had made a comment about her son's hair and about her parenting style being soooo relaxed. (I’m not a mum, but one thing I do know is that you NEVER comment on another mum’s method of child-rearing!) Jemma was reeling. And I was surprised it bothered her this much.
I said, “Why are you so upset about this?”
All she could answer was, “Tom doesn’t need a haircut! What does she know about anything? Nothing, that’s what!”
I knew this probably had nothing to do with Tom. Or his haircut. It was a little power play between two women who were both probably having an off afternoon.
These kinds of comments come at us all the time—from friends, siblings, colleagues. How do we adopt the mindset and behaviors of people who don’t care so much about what other people do, think, and say? Here are some habits that serve them (that we can nab too):
They focus on their own stuff.
It’s impossible to obsess over what people think about you when you simply don’t follow them on social media. You can’t overanalyze what you don’t know. So unfollow. Unsubscribe. Disengage. Focus on your own work, bank account, side hustle, family, or body. Your own stuff is all that matters and all that you can control.
They don’t take things personally.
Not taking anything personally is a magical life hack. In his best-selling book, The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz says, “Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally… Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.”
So if someone’s intentionally snappy or rude, it’s a pure reflection of how they’re feeling in that moment. Think about it: Are you ever mean to anyone when you’re feeling good? I doubt it. So give the offending person a pass. It’s massively empowering—and surprisingly simple! Other people’s behavior ain’t got nothin' to do with you.
They don’t analyze conversations to death.
Early this summer I was at lunch with three girlfriends, and they started analyzing a woman we all know by her Facebook statuses. I tried to change the subject twice before deciding to quietly sip my mimosa and let them go at it.
The conversation flowed from her Facebook updates to the various conversations they’ve had with her and the hidden meanings behind her words. Who. Cares? We are not the FBI! Decoding what other people say and do is not our job. It feels icky, and a bit obsessive. There’s plenty of other (interesting, juicy, pleasant) stuff to talk about!
They shake it off.
The more attention we give to anything, the more it expands, energetically speaking. So if something is upsetting, switch gears. Turn on the TV; call a positive, upbeat friend; or send an overdue thank-you card. Once you shake something off icky by focusing on something nicer, you’ll be glad you did.
They tune out.
My mum is 75 this year. She’s quite deaf and is too stubborn to wear a hearing aid. So when she sees me and my sisters, she’s totally immune to our squabbling and disagreements. Is there a secret benefit to this? Yes! But you don’t have to wait until you’re 75 to take advantage.
You can tune out now—anytime. For example, my friend Sara always finds an appropriate reason to excuse herself from a gossip fest, like saying, “I need to make a quick phone call.” And my former colleague Lauren always loves to make jokes to dissolve tension. A good one recently: “This is nothing compared to the fact I haven’t had sex in six months!”
These days, I rarely read comments on social media. I refuse to even open the door to the commentary of other people. Sharpen your selective hearing too, and decide not to go there.
It’s natural to want to be liked and to seek approval. But it’s not your job to care (or even know about!) what other people think of you. Let other people march to the beat of their own drum. Just make sure your drum is louder, and you march in a way that feels true to you.
Susie Moore is Greatist's life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for free weekly wellness tips on her website and check back every Tuesday for her latest No Regrets column!