The very optimum of independence, as often declared and advised by the shallow rich and/or famous: “Don’t care what other people think.” In our society ‘being rich’ is often confused with ‘being successful’, and being successful must mean that you are also intelligent. So, we tend to take people that have a lot of money more seriously (just look at the biography section in any bookstore), even though there is actually no reason in doing so. And there’s not much harm in that. Just be sure not to sculpt your life after the ideas of some schmuck that just got lucky and doesn’t even realise it. Like your parents.
What do parents of teenage kids tell their offspring when they’re getting teased at school about their clothes, their hair or their complete personality? Exactly: Don’t care about what other people think, you’re special.” Those parents mean well, but they are only half right. For the other half, I’d go with the opinion of the teenager: it matters what other people think. It’s in our nature. We may want to believe that we have evolved so far from our prehistoric roots that we can be independent enough not to care about how other perceive us, but this is just a lie we keep telling to others and ourselves. The people that genuinely have no interest in the way he or she is perceived by others are in urgent need of some counselling.
Caring about what others think of you is healthy. Deeply embedded in your genes is the urge to want to be regarded favorably by your peers. How this is to be achieved (by wearing designer clothing, covering yourself in elephant piss, or pushing thorns through your tongue, or whatever) is the cultural part. Not only does this need help you function in society, it also helps you to…erm… ‘mate’, and thus, reproduce.
So, if you’re that teased kid in high school and you desperately want to believe that your parents and those celebrities on tv and those businessmen in the books are right about ‘you shouldn’t care about what other people think.’ What can you do? First of all, it would help if people would stop telling you that it’s your own fault that you feel bad (since you’re the dumb one that actually cares about what other people think.) Stop feeling bad about feeling bad. Anyone would.
The second step is more difficult; ‘caring about what others think’, is something different than ‘becoming the same as other people’. Others feel you don’t fit in with them and they tease you for it. Even though the teasing bit may be wrong, they may be right about ‘you not fitting in’ part. Not necessarily a bad thing. As the French say: ‘vive la difference’. You should stop seeking approval from the ones that are not your peers and find out which people you feel comfortable with. The only way species can survive in the long run is by diversification. Our species have done quite well the last couple of thousands years. One of the reasons for that is the fact that we care about how others feel about us.