Sometimes I worry that people are judging me for being so worried about people judging me. It’s a common affliction, especially for someone in my generation. We’ve essentially subjected ourselves willingly — even eagerly — to constant surveillance and scrutiny (but I’d better stop talking like that or people will think I’m a Luddite). And if you can’t admit to the embarrassment of caring what other people think, maybe you occupy the opposite end of the spectrum and care more about not caring what people think than just about anything else. Everything about you is aggressively indifferent. Especially your indifference.
It seems so adolescent, doesn’t it? Talking about caring what other people think. Did I draft this post in the bedazzled pages of my Lisa Frank “Be Yourself” notebook? Caring what people think is so middle school, it’s true, but not caring about what people think is still very high school — something we’re too old for. Because we wouldn’t want people to think we’re immature. The surest sign of maturity is either the acceptance or the denial (either approach looks the same under the mask of impregnable disinterest) of the fact that your outward appearance matters to you mainly because it matters to other people.
But it’s a little silly to encourage what amounts to the assertion that man is not a social creature. Because we are. We search out symbols, affiliations and branding for ourselves because we have an insatiable urge to communicate. The strides that we’ve made in terms of individuality and self-love sometimes seem to be careening toward the extreme of utterly rejecting the influence of other people or, God forbid, of “society.” Your outward appearance doesn’t have to matter to you just because it matters to other people, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to matter to you at all, or that you should be afraid to like something just because everyone else likes it, or that you should feel like you aren’t “deep” or “mature” enough because you’ve been loyal to the same boy band since you were ten and never got into The Beatles. Why not reverse the social pressure to express yourself instead of subverting or perverting it? Let your appearance and personality matter to others because they matter to you. Not the other way around.
Because I think that’s what we’ve really been trying to get at. Our social nature doesn’t have to impose upon us the pressure to conform to a set of normative prerequisites for mobility in some arbitrary social hierarchy. We’ve evolved enough to create human language, a unique system of communication decorated with all of these beautiful adjectives that we can bestow on ourselves and other people. The intricate nature of our society and our history allows for connotation and implication, for layers of unspoken meaning in what we say as well as what we do. The natural result of this happy accident is that we shelter a burning curiosity about ourselves and about each other and about our collective consciousness and identity. We want to see how others choose to express themselves, not so that we can judge them or relegate them to an inferior category or rationalize our own perceived shortcomings, but in order to better relate to them and allow us all to learn about each other and find something to love in ourselves, maybe through the help of those who can see it better than we can.
Bottom line, we should care what other people think. Because we should live in a world where people are thinking positive, curious thoughts about their fellow humans. We should invite the minds of others into our own psychosocial space and pursue greater intimacy with the whole human race.
It’s just nice to think about. I know it’s not realistic.
Please don’t think I’m naive or arrogant enough to take myself seriously.