I’d been coloring my hair for years because I cared about what other people cared about, and I thought that they cared about my hair.
I’ve realized that people really don’t care, at least, not in the way that I thought. There are the exceptions – my oldest son informed me that he thought my grey hair made me look old; my older sister made a face at the grey hair framing my face; my hair stylist asked several times, “Are you sure?”
Maybe it’s my age, but I’ve stopped caring.
Not about everything. Just about the things I’m doing because I think they matter to other people. Like worrying about keeping an immaculate house. There's a deep pile of crafting supplies, boxes, and packing materials spread across my dining room table that my massage and in-person coaching clients see as they climb the stairs to my office. It’s a mess. But there’s nowhere else to compile all the supplies for my new coaching + crafts program and ... does it really matter?
I walk the dog in my pajamas, I wear clothes that feel comfortable but aren’t necessarily flattering, I say no way more often than I say yes.
This is what my life looks like: it’s messy, it’s scattered, and it’s vibrant, despite the grey hair.
I realized I was loading up my already weighty load of responsibilities and chores because I thought someone was always keeping score.
• People will think I'm a bad mom if I don't help out.
• I'll let people down if I put my mommy groups on hold.
• I’ll look unprofessional if I wear what I want.
What about you? Are you filling your life with more and more tasks because you think other people notice or even care about what you're doing (or not doing in some cases)?
Social scientists call this sense that everyone is watching your every move the “spotlight effect.” Each of us tends to be acutely aware of ourselves, especially after a bad haircut, facial breakout, or embarrassing stumble in a social situation; it's easy to believe everyone else is just as focused on your appearance or behavior and you are. In reality, as research has shown, people are too self-focused to see you with the same intensity as you view yourself.
It's time to stop caring about what you only care about because you think other people do.
• How you look, like whether or not you wear makeup.
• How tidy your house is.
• Whether or not you're going to have a little work done on your face or other area(s).
• If you use disposable or cloth diapers (for your baby).
You can find more peace and quiet and more time and energy in your daily life by getting over the spotlight effect. Here are a few steps:
1. Notice what you're doing that you just don’t care about. As all of my coaching clients will tell you, paying attention is my first recommended step to changing just about anything.
Are you dressing a certain way? Or not dressing a certain way – like not wearing a swimsuit because you’re worried that other people will care that you’ve put on weight and accumulated more jigglies on your belly, thighs, and butt?
Are you making your bed every morning because your mom told you years and years ago that you should always make your bed, even though you’re making your bed while your toddler is screaming about his shoes and breakfast isn’t ready and you have a gazillion-and-one other things that need to be done before walking out the door? Pay attention to where your time and energy are being frittered away while you behave in a certain way because of what (you think) other people would say.
2. Now, ask yourself the big question: Who cares? If you do, then great! Keep on caring about your covered-up jiggly parts and your well-made bed. But if you’re changing from your well-worn yoga pants and sweatshirt that you wore to bed last night into a nicer outfit for the kindergarten drop-off because you’re worried that the other moms will raise eyebrows and talk about how you’ve really let yourself go, that’s important info. Are you changing clothes because you care or because you're worried the other moms will care?
Notice all the things you do because you want to and it feels good and the other things you do because you think you have to and it feels roll-your-eyes-to-the-back-of-your-head hard. Then, give yourself a kind, but firm, talking to.
My lectures with myself often sound like this ... Sweetie (I always start my self-talk conversations with sweetie), I know you’re worried about what people will say about this outfit. It is a bit out of your comfort zone but do you feel good? Yes? Then, great! Remember, most people are good and kind. Most people are more worried about how other people are judging them. And the rest? Life’s way too short to spend even a minute on the haters, meanies, and shamers. Go wave your freak flag in that lovely get-up and have fun! Mwah!!
3. Start small with letting go of little things that don’t matter to you and see how it goes. What comes up when you ease up on caring about what other people might think? Let the knowledge that most people aren’t really paying attention empower you to do what feels good, what makes you happy, and what eases your stress.
4. Shine on with your badass self. If you find yourself asking “What the holy hell?” as the mama drama at the elementary school drop-off elicits flashbacks of the horrors of the high school hallways of long ago, stand tall in your jammie pants and slip-on sneakers.
You’re not the only one who has better things to care about than what the shamers say.
When you let your quirky, complicated, and adorable self come out to play, you draw your tribe to you. There are so many moms who feel self-conscious or even ashamed of their choices and they’re hoping that someone else will pave the way for doing what feels unpopular or wrong, like confidently choosing formula over breastfeeding (for whatever reason), going straight back to work or deciding to stay home with the kids, or any choices that might be judged by the clique-y moms.
The world only gets one you, sweetie. Shine on.
(Here’s a great video about mom shamers that's too good not to share: https://www.facebook.com/KristinaKuzmic/videos/1865413586855684/)
Let me know if you get stuck. I’m always happy to help.