“Care less about what people think.” That seems to be the general empowerment message of the modern social age. Goes right along with working to earn peoples’ respect, another motto I hear thrown around media like it’s free candy. Problem is, unless you’re Santa Claus you don’t have the luxury of being isolated and impervious to the thoughts (and consequent actions) of other people; and have you ever tried to earn everybody’s respect? It’s impossible, plain and simple. The truth is that we should strive for the exact opposite of both. At the end of the day, the only respect you need to earn is from whoever is staring at you from the mirror. And during the day, when you actually do have others to answer to, you need to learn to care a great deal about what they think of you. Whether or not they like or respect you, you need to care that they trust you, that they’ll never think of you as someone who breaks under pressure. Sure, it takes more work than simply not caring: it’s the day-in-day-out, somehow-find-the-strength-to-keep-picking-yourself-up kind of work, but you should already know that’s the kind of work it takes for anything worthwhile. The only thing that makes this different is that it’s a battle you’re fighting on two fronts.
On the homefront the only way to win is to somehow find some insane balance between breaking yourself down and building yourself up. And when you’re in enemy territory, you’ll usually be fighting against an enemy who doesn’t even know they’re the enemy, certainly doesn’t know they’re at war, and whom you aren’t actually suppose to defeat, just overcome. It’s extremely exhausting to be frank, but every day that you fight the good fight you’ll be able to reap the reward of a single, unapologetically selfish moment each night as you look that person in the mirror straight in the eye and there— briefly but unconditionally— be happy with what you see.