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Maybe you shouldn't care so much
the paradox of being seen
“When you see someone driving a nice car, you rarely think ‘Wow, the guy driving that car is so cool.’ Instead, you think ‘If I had that car, people would think I’m cool.’” — The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel
Before the pandemic, during my commute to work each day, I would daydream about buying a Tesla. I already drove a hybrid, but I had always wanted a fully electric car. Living in the Bay Area, I saw Teslas all the time. Like, a lot of them.
I would scheme with myself, thinking I could buy a used one so, while still super expensive, it wouldn’t cost as much upfront. And with how much I drove at the time, it would actually save me money on fuel costs. But mostly, I just thought they looked cool—with the added benefit of signaling to others that I’m an environmentally conscious person doing the right thing.
Thinking back, I can’t picture a single person who was driving any of those countless Teslas. Not one. So why would I think anybody else would see me or care about who I am if I was driving one?
Everyone on the road is thinking about themselves—about how they’re late for work, or the argument they had at home before they left the house, or whatever podcast they’re listening to, or what you’re thinking about them. I only matter to them if I’m in their way, delaying them from getting to their destination.
Maybe you shouldn’t care so much about what other people think about you. Because they’re rarely thinking about you.
Not caring so much has had a profound impact on my life. It’s not like I don’t care at all, though. I’m not a psychopath. But a healthy disregard for what other people think about me has freed me up to care about other things more deeply.
A few ideas for how you can care less:
Simplify your wardrobe.
I’m not talking about the extreme, Zuckerberg-esque version where you have a closet full of 15 identical t-shirts and jeans so you can save your precious brain cells for tackling bigger things like tweaking your algorithm to eke out a few more million dollars in ad revenue each day.
I have maybe four or five outfits I wear regularly. When it’s warm, I have one pair of shorts I wear basically every day. I’ve owned one of my sweatshirts for close to a decade now. And you know what? Nobody has ever said a word about any of it.
If you stop spending so much energy on picking out the perfect outfit or keeping up with the latest fashion trends, you can focus on more important stuff. Like maybe being more present with your family. The people closest to you won’t love you less because you wear the same blouse twice a week—they just want to spend time with you. And as we already discussed, nobody else cares.
Quit being a perfectionist.
This is easier said than done, I know. It will take reps, but I promise it’s possible.
Perfectionism is 100% worrying about what other people will think. I hear from other writers all the time that perfectionism in their writing is something they struggle with a lot. See? That last sentence is written terribly, but you know what I mean. And because I’m not a perfectionist anymore, I’m not gonna change it. Yikes, I even just wrote “gonna.” Go ahead and unsubscribe right now.
The truth is, most everything—especially online—is ephemeral now. I mean, sometimes I can’t even remember what I published last week. If you can suppress the urge to check your work “just one more time” and hit the damn send button already, then do that over and over again, you’ll find that you’ll slowly get better.
Then maybe people will start to notice you, which is what you wanted all along.
Embrace your weirdness.
Most people have an innate desire to fit in. It’s generally uncomfortable for you to feel like an “other” amongst your fellow humans. Yet you also want to be seen by them. It’s a paradox.
People are attracted to those who are different. To those who aren’t afraid to put their weird selves out into the world. To those who have the courage to express themselves and tell their stories.
Part of the reason that many of you—besides maybe my mom—subscribed to my newsletter is because I’m different than other writers, or at least I’m authentically and uniquely me. And you stay subscribed because each week I’m going to write whatever I want and that leaves you guessing a little bit. This approach won’t generate exponential growth, but I’m building an audience of people who actually care about my story.
In short, I feel seen.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t care at all. This isn’t me giving you permission to be an asshole or whatever. But if you don’t care so much, you’ll find what really matters to you. Then maybe you’ll see yourself a little more clearly.
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