The Subtle Difference Between Not Caring What People Think and Being a Good Person

Smiling stylish man representing not caring what people think
You can do both

Everyone says you aren’t supposed to care what people think. But most of us still do.

We get caught up in the teenager mentality of climbing social ladders, making good impressions, and being overly concerned with status. To ease the anxiety, people will tell us to stop caring what others think.

But many take this advice the wrong way. They think, “If I didn’t care what people thought of me, wouldn’t I be an asshole? Wouldn’t everyone hate me?”

Would not caring what other people thought of you make you selfish? No, it wouldn’t. Here’s why:

Not Caring What People Think

If you imagine a person who doesn’t care what anyone thinks of them, what do you picture? How do they act?

Here are some typical answers:

  • Arrogant
  • Pushy
  • Would talk over you
  • Wouldn’t care what you had to say
  • Would use you for their own gain

Someone who didn’t care what you thought about them could very well have these qualities. But is the other extreme any different?

Caring What People Think

Now imagine a person who cared what others thought about them to the maximum degree. Other people’s opinions defined how they thought and acted. What would they be like?

  • Needy
  • Anxious
  • Timid in voice and action
  • Wouldn’t care what you had to say
  • Would use you for their own gain

When you care deeply about what others think, you need something from the people around you: Approval. When you live for approval, you’ll do whatever it takes to get it.

Being a Weak Person Does Not Make You a Good Person

An insecure person will treat their social interactions like a game of winning and maintaining approval.

They don’t care about other people’s lives or hobbies or problems. They just need people to like them. As a result, everything an insecure person does becomes a song and dance to be pleasing, presentable, and “good.”

Naturally, this turns people off. Needing someone else’s approval is the opposite is self-respect, and it’s easy for others to pick up when you lack self-respect.

If you can’t say no, state your honest opinion, or act in any way that is authentic to you, others will assume that it’s ok to push you around. Why would they not? It’s not like you’re going to do anything about it.

An insecure person can’t healthily express their needs because they feel it will upset others. So, they try to get their needs met through creepy and dishonest means.

For example, they will hide their feelings from someone they are romantically interested in while being excessively nice to them. At its worst, they will feel like their niceness makes them entitled to that person's love.

An insecure person believes they are good for always being so agreeable, but they don’t realize how profoundly selfish they are with their subtle manipulations and hidden social contracts.

The Subtle Difference

The problem here is self-worth, and where a person derives their worth.

An insecure person craves approval because their damaged self-esteem prevents them from giving it to themselves. They’ve placed their well of self-worth inside others, and they need to drink from that well to survive.

A secure person can successfully derive their self-worth from their actions, their conduct, and their character. They live with a sense of honesty about who they are, what they’re capable of, and what they deserve.

Not caring what others think means that other people don’t get the final say in your self-worth.

How to Not Care and Be a Good Person

A person who is secure in themselves has something to give. They go into social interactions from a place of curiosity. They aren’t looking for your approval. They are looking for who you are. They are looking to share themselves and connect.

Compliments and validation still feel good to them, but they don’t need approval to survive. They understand that other people are valid and worthy of respect because they know themselves to be valid and worthy of respect.

A supremely confident person “doesn’t care what people think” in the most empowering possible way. It does not mean they:

  • Dress poorly — They dress according to what makes them feel good.
  • Will ignore others’ opinions — They can be willing to discuss anything.
  • Will ignore others’ needs — They care just as deeply as anyone else, and in a more meaningful way than an insecure person can.
  • Can’t take criticism — They will give constructive criticism honest consideration.

Authenticity is where the strongest connections are born, and it’s what secure individuals strive for. An insecure person can never be fully authentic because they’ve made it their job to be a social chameleon. It’s the only thing that feels safe.

Becoming Authentic

It’s natural to care what other people think, so creating a mindset of not caring takes time. It’s a matter of cultivating your self-esteem.

You can’t reach Kanye levels of self-esteem overnight, but you can work toward authenticity while still being a good person. According to Nathaniel Branden:

“Self-esteem is the disposition to experience oneself as being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and of being worthy of happiness.”

That’s all it is. High self-esteem does not equal selfishness. Selfishness comes from a place of lack; from having to lie and coerce other people into thinking what you want them to think about you.

An authentic person has a realistic grasp of themselves, and they don’t need other people to tell them they are worthy.

So no, you shouldn’t care what people think. But you should care how people feel. That’s the difference.