I try to be a nice person. I think, mostly, that I am. It’s the way I was raised, the way society taught me to be, the way I want to be.
And yet it makes me a little too concerned with what other people think, and what other people feel.
A lot of confidence and creativity is about shutting out what other people think in order to figure out what you think, what you like, even when someone else wouldn’t like it at all. And that’s true for most things in life—in order to live the life you want, especially if it’s not a very conventional life, you’re going to have to stand up against other people’s opinions. Sometimes you have to argue with them, defy them, upset them, disappoint them.
You have to learn how to not care what people think.
But it’s not always that easy. Especially when you still want to be a nice person. Showing no care for other people can turn you into a selfish, cruel, hurtful monster. But showing too much care for others can leave you short-changed, dishonest, and unhappy.
What I’ve come up with as a solution, or at least a philosophy, is what I call “benevolent indifference.” Basically, I think of it like this: I don’t care what other people think, but I’m not malicious or cruel. When they’re judging me for being myself or for doing things that don’t hurt others, I don’t care. But if I’m doing something less than benevolent, then I should care what they think.
Now, cultivating this philosophy and performing it are two different things. I still find myself wracked with guilt when I do or say something that doesn’t necessarily hurt anyone, but may not be what they want to hear. I’m trying to be braver and more honest about what I want, as long as it’s not malicious, even when it may go against other people’s wishes.
Putting others first is noble and selfless, but the thing about being selfless is that it can leave you without a self.
And I guess I’m just not that nice.
The key is striking a balance between being lovingly concerned for your family and friends, yet being able to be true to yourself through your work. Be prepared to accept constructive criticism, be daring, and feel the rewards of surviving an obstacle. You can do it!