I have often had said to me, somewhat wondrously, that I act like I don’t care what people think about me. This is false. Of course I care what people think. I would like my friends and family to think quite highly of me and I work to be a blessing and support to them. But I don’t exactly concern myself with what strangers think about me. I aim to be kind and gentle and thoughtful to strangers not to improve their perception of me but to improve my perception of myself. I have goals for myself as a person and just because I am interacting with a stranger does not mean my goals have to change.
One acute silver lining of growing up a visible minority is coming to terms with the concept that some strangers will dislike you simply for the look of you. It teaches you quite decisively not to take into serious account the opinion of people who do not know you. But also to ground yourself better in more accurate estimation. How often have we lost ourselves in attempting to please or measure up to a standard drawn by, in retrospect, an inconsequential background character in our lives?
It is a fault that is most frequently pinned on teenagers but the truth is most people of all ages and backgrounds are rooted in what other people think of them. My advice, if you would have it, would be to carefully curate the people whose opinion you take under consideration. In the same way that we turn to experts for their advice on their fields of expertise, turn to those who know you best. Growth only occurs after self critique but it can not happen with self-flagellation.
I am discovering that addressing “What can I do” is a more fruitful starting point than “what can’t I do”.