What Others Think About You

Why You Shouldn’t Care What Others Think About You

Derek Personal Stuff, Perspectives, Travel Tips & Advice 63 Comments

What Others Think About You
The day I started enjoying my travels the most was the day I stopped worrying about my hair. You see, an old girlfriend of mine used to tell me that I was much worse than her mother and grandmother combined, referring to the amount of time it would take me to get ready every time I was about to go outside. I could shower quickly and I could throw my clothes on in a flash, but for some reason, I would always get stuck in front of the mirror, carefully manipulating every single curl on my head, making sure each of those curls was in its proper place before I would dare head out into the public world.

Ridiculous, I know. Of course, I didn’t know that at the time, or maybe I did, but I still couldn’t help myself.

The bottom line is that I truly believed that people cared, that people would stare, that people would judge, that they would point and laugh at me if one of my curls was sticking out in an imperfect position. And that led to even more problems as I would walk around wondering if I was going to trip on a rock or if I had some schmutz on my face or if I would say something so dumb that everyone within a 1 km radius would laugh uncontrollably at my stupidity.

To say I was self-conscious is an understatement. I remember my brain spending much more time wondering what everyone around me was thinking when they walked past me than focusing on what I was experiencing during my travels. I knew what was happening but, again, I couldn’t change.

Breaking News – Nobody Cares!
Shocking, I know, but it actually turns out that nobody gives a damn. Nobody cares what I look like, nobody is paying me any attention, nobody is pointing or staring or laughing, and if they are pointing or staring or laughing, who cares? I probably do have some shaving cream or pancake batter (I love my pancakes!) on my face on occasion and I most certainly walk into walls from time to time as well. But hey, everyone has stuff on their face at some point, everyone trips in the middle of the street, everyone gets lost and does something silly, everyone has those moments that provide others with an opportunity to point and stare.

And if you’re afraid to have all of that happen to you, which is, basically, to be human, it’s going to be very difficult to travel among all of those strangers out there, navigating places you are not familiar with, putting yourself in so many situations where you might feel as if you will do something wrong or look absurd.

On the other hand, if you can shrug it all off and realize that what others think about you really isn’t important and that, in the end, nobody is even observing you as much as you might think (apart from that one guy I came across in Beirut), suddenly you’ll be able to enjoy your travels on a level that you simply can’t imagine otherwise.

A Mirror

What If There’s No Mirror?
I remember the day clearly. I was in Chiang Mai, Thailand and I had just checked into my budget guesthouse room after an overnight bus ride. Before long I had taken a shower and put on some clean clothes and because I was hungry, I wanted to go out and get some food at the local food market. Before I could go outside though, I naturally needed to spend some time in front of the mirror.

But wait, where was the mirror? There was no mirror in the bathroom, no mirror on the back of the room door or on the wall or in the closet. No mirror anywhere at all.

And just like that, due to something so simple as a lack of a mirror, my life changed. For some reason, on this very day, without any way to check on the status of all the curls on my head, no way to make sure that my face was free of schmutz, I just shrugged my shoulders and said, “Screw it, I’m going out anyway”.

Will you believe it when I tell you that nothing terrible happened that day? Nobody came up to me and said, “Your hair is a mess, you look ridiculous, how could you possibly walk around in public looking like that?” Nobody even noticed me or seemed to pay attention to me for more than half a second and even then, only when we practically bumped into each other in the crowded streets.

After walking for about thirty minutes, I eventually sat down at a food stall and ordered some khao pad sai kai jaew, fried rice with a fried egg on top. And soon enough, as I ate that meal, I felt the sensation of having been liberated.

I just didn’t care what I looked like. I didn’t care what others thought of me. I no longer cared if people did stare and laugh or if I did make silly mistakes and look foolish. That nagging feeling that I was constantly under inspection from all those I encountered was gone and I felt superb. My confidence grew immediately, and I found myself interacting with more people, observing so much more around me and just feeling so much better overall, yes, starting that very day.

It hasn’t let up since.

Do I still stop in front of the mirror every now and then? I most certainly do. There are a few curls that can be so unruly that I just like to pop them back into place on occasion but that’s about it. I’m ready to venture outside no matter what, excited to see where my travels will take me, excited that my ex-girlfriend’s mother and grandmother are back on top of the list, taking far longer than I to get their hair ready before heading out the door.

Actually, I can only assume that last statement to be true. Maybe they’ve changed as well. I haven’t talked to that girlfriend in years.

Do you worry what others think about you or become self-conscious when you travel around? If you haven’t started traveling yet, do you think this would be a concern?

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Comments 63

  1. Pingback: What Being a Travel Blogger Really Means (To Me). Lessons From My 4 Favorite Bloggers. - KEEP CALM AND TRAVEL

  2. Claudia

    I must be the most confident woman on earth. I actually even go out in my pajama at times, without having even brushed my hair at all. I just… don’t care! I would care, but then I am too lazy to worry about having to change just to go to the store, when I know I will be back before anybody can even notice that yes, those that I am wearing are pajama pants. I promise I do shower, brush my hair and dress up. I even put make up on every now and then. But if there is something I don’t mind when I travel, it is not having a mirror. I never got how some women look perfect even when they go to the gym or on a hike. Meh. I think I’d rather be seen at my worst to then sprout in all my beauty than the other way around!

  3. Virginia

    I felt pretty self conscious at the beginning of a three month solo trip last year.. “How will I start conversations with people and make friends?” (was always a pretty shy person) “Do I totally stick out being in this place by myself?” Lots of niggling questions, but it only really took one friendly person to come and say hello in a hostel common room, we went and saw some things together and had so much fun! Then the next day I saw someone else sitting alone in the common room, so I decided to go say hi (I was never confident enough to do this back home) and invite them out for the day, another great day, a great 3 months, wonderful friendships made and hands down most important and self revealing experience of my life! Everyone just wants someone to say hi to them, you have no idea the positive impact you can have on someone’s life by being there and being interested in them. One person showed me that and I haven’t doubted myself since!

  4. Saeed Ahmed

    Iam going through the time that I’m taking actions to stop caring about others. I have been using hair gel for the last 10 years and I don’t remember a day out of my house with a hair gel on my hair. My action to stop caring about others was to stop using a hair gel and going to work without it. I was surprised to see that no one has even mentioned about my hair style and it really felt good to be leberated from the presion of other people thinkings. My hair was the first step my next steps are r9 atop caring about what people think on my clothes, my opinion, my accent, my sence of humor, my origion and what I like and dislike. I realised the less I care the better I perform. I must get my life back.

  5. Dave K

    Good stuff! A piece of wisdom for everyone, not just travelers. I have finally gotten to the point in my life, where I really don’t care too much what others think about me and I agree, it’s liberating. Of course, one needs a certain degree of hygiene to avoid becoming a malodorous slob who nobody wants to associate with.

  6. Andrea Anastasiou

    I love how travel liberates me from a lot of this. I remember during my first trip to Thailand, I barely wore make-up (which was a big thing for me back then), never used my hair straighteners, and wore nothing else other than tank tops and shorts the whole time. No one gave a damn, and since then I find myself caring less and less about what others think!

  7. George Bezushko

    “You wouldn’t care so much about what people think about you if you realized how little they thought about you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt….(Great minds thinking alike?)

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