The essence of the problem comes down to survival and trust. The easiest solution to this problem is to survive on your own as you would only have to trust yourself. However, the natural dependence on others since our birth argues that one is better off surviving with the support of others than alone. Thus, the ultimate solution is a non-zero-sum game in which there is a balance of surviving and trusting others. When one chooses to survive through a codependence on others, the problem of caring about what others think then presents itself. When we care too much about what others think it can negatively affect our survival and trust. The solution is to find a way to allow for the consideration of what others think without losing sight of the self in the process. Finding the answer ultimately increases one’s ability to survive and builds greater trust with others. The rest of this post is about what I have found in solving this problem.
Not caring about what others think requires a deep understanding of the self. We would think as an adult that we would naturally develop an understanding of the self but many of us don’t. In a large part, I think it is because we have never spent time alone. Many people go through their whole lives never spending more than a week alone, let alone enough time to establish a life independent from other people. I don’t know a single person that has removed all attachments from other people. (I guess when I think about it a little more that makes sense.) The person that doesn’t care about what others think is also the person that doesn’t need a relationship with anyone. This solves the issue of not having to rely on others to survive, but this should raise a red flag about being better able to survive since we are better off depending on others. Should you give up your relationships with family or closest loved ones? Do you even want to? If not caring about what others think was easy everyone would be doing it. Finding your true self and identity is hard. It requires risking relationships by putting yourself first before everyone else. Some would disagree with this value of placing yourself before others. I would argue that I am a better human to everyone around me when I put myself first. I also establish better and more trusting relationships. Others consider the risk of being willing to go it alone too high. Are you okay with potentially losing close relationships and risking being on your own while trying to establish new friendships? Not caring about what others think is hard work and it’s risky. It requires developing a strong core of independence and at times risking survival by giving up net-negative relationships. It may not be worthwhile for someone at certain points in their life. For some people, it may never be worth the risk. It’s worth it to me because it unlocks the full potential of the self, and allows for me to develop better relationships with people in the future.
When I picture self-discovery I am inclined to imagine two concentric lines surrounding a central point. The outside circle is the influence of the environment and other living things around me. The inner circle is the place where I define myself from all of the things in the outside circle. Within these circles, there is just my existence and I consider myself as a single point. This point starts in the center of both the circles but throughout time it can travel anywhere in the circles. I think people spend most of their time in the outer circle exploring what the world has to offer. A little time is spent inside the inner circle thinking about different aspects of life that make up one’s identity. In all of this exploration, almost everyone gets lost. Most people never go back to the center point. It can be a scary place because there is nothing else there. It is just you. It isn’t a place about what you did yesterday or a place of what you plan on doing in the future. There isn’t anyone to talk to there. It is just you. Most people aren’t happy there. They want to do better and improve their lives. In a way, people start to think that the point of their life is somewhere other than to exist. They develop a passion for something, or a relationship with another person and they place their point of existence there. There is nothing wrong with this and it is the beauty of humanity to go on new adventures. Many people find happiness on these adventures. I worry though, that we never return from our adventures. We spend so long out there that we no longer know how to get home. Instead, we just keep running and chasing what we think matters trying to find purpose or happiness. I am not suggesting that purpose or happiness is found at the center of existence. If you want purpose or happiness it is indeed out there on adventures. Happiness and meaning were never the points of life! The point of life is simply to live. There is nothing more to it than that. When you know that in your heart and truly understand what it means to live you can start to not care about what others think. You become the captain of your life and instead of being steered in all directions by currents, and storms you choose the destinations and how you get there because there isn’t a current or storm strong enough to move you. That is when one knows who they are, and that is when someone can stop caring about what others think. It’s when someone is finally okay to just exist.
It has taken me awhile to start letting things go. Sometimes it is still hard for me. I worry about keeping my job and staying close to my family. I wonder how I am able to let go of religion and all the other things we deem necessary for an enjoyable life. I worry about not being happy or finding a purpose. After graduating college, In my discovery of self and in finding the point of life, I decided to be homeless. I no longer wanted to have a place to live and I was just done with society. Not having a home has allowed me to be alone and just be okay with existing. It’s not for everyone but it works for me. If I put my roots down I feel stuck. I feel like I have to be somewhere, and most of all I feel too dependent on society. I still hold a job and that holds me down quite a bit. I would give it up but overall it is a net positive on my freedom. It allows me to survive with an ease that I could not achieve on my own. Eventually, I want to get a job as a writer that can travel without being held down to a specific place because of a job. Then I want to have enough invested that I don’t even have to write if I don’t want to write. I hope to be able to travel anywhere in the world and write about whatever I want. I am totally okay if that doesn’t happen though. In the end, I just want to live. Maybe along the way, I will find relationships with other people but when I do I will no longer care what others think and I will be able to survive regardless. Those relationships will be powerful.