Not giving a shit about how people think of me is hard. It may be the hardest thing I've ever had to do. And there have been times, many times, when - in striving to not give a shit - I have found myself asking the question; why would I want this? Why is it important not to care if I'm liked or (maybe more importantly) disliked? Why don't I just go back to desperately trying to please everyone I like so they like me back, and desperately trying to ignore or avoid everyone else I think might possibly hate me. Life was so much simpler then.
But then I remember, life wasn't simple was it? Life was often highly stressful, confusing and upsetting. In trying to control others' opinion of me, I was always fighting a losing battle. Because no-one can truly control what other people think of you, not even Alastair Campbell.
Controlling what other people think of me is a bit like trying to hold back an ocean of semi-liquid Jello™ labeled "A Lifetime of Accumulated Judgment Heavily Laced With All Their Own Baggage" with a small, not-very-shiny tea-strainer, labelled "Evidence That I Am Nice". In actual fact, the tea-strainer can even be really shiny, it won't matter. How people see me is so much more about them than it is about me it frankly makes my tea-strainer absurdly redundant, in exactly the same way that the invention of teabags did.
No-one - including me - wants to think this of course, because it sounds terrifyingly disempowering. "What do you mean I can't control if someone likes me or not?! Of course I can! I make people like me every single day, by being nice and kind and saying sweet stuff to them, and always caring about their feelings before mine. I've been making people like me my whole damned life! Name one person who doesn't like me!! Go ahead! Name one!"
So OK, I have a ton of people who like me, but how many of them are basing that 'like' on knowing someone that isn't entirely me? Someone who never gets mad at them, or says stuff which isn't entirely kind or polite? And if I stopped filtering that me, stopped carefully editing the parts of myself I imagine my friends will find distasteful or objectionable, stopped trying to 'Alastair Campbell my output to gain maximum audience approval ratings', and instead just concentrated on feeling what I feel and expressing those feelings honestly as they happen, how many of those people who like 'me' would decide...that they really don't? And conversely, how many others would see the new 'raw me' that I'm slowly revealing, and want to make a deeper, more honest connection with her?
And so I have my answer. I know why I have to stop giving so much of a shit whether I am liked or disliked. Because giving a shit - or more specifically, allowing myself to be ruled by a fear of being revealed as someone other than the image of me I've carefully constructed - prevents me from making a deep connection with people, a connection I have grown completely addicted to.
Training myself to give less of a shit is training myself to leave the image where it belongs; behind me in the past, instead of in front of me in the future.