I originally titled this blog People Don’t Care About You but then thought it might give the wrong impression. Allow me to clarify with some brief elaboration.
People don’t care about you… and there is a wild sense of freedom that goes with that.
A couple months ago, I was on my way to meet a friend – late and flustered. Those of you who know me personally know that I have a knack for being early. If I’m early, I’m okay. If I’m on time, I think I’m late. And heaven forbid, if I am late, I feel like the entire world has collapsed around me. Dramatic? Only maybe.
So anyway, I was running. Because I was late. And I was still in my dress clothes from work – black slacks and a nice blouse topped with a worn grey backpack that flopped into my back with each step. I was holding onto the straps in a fruitless attempt to keep my bag from breaking my spine, which of course then meant that my arms hung close to my body in a very unnatural way for someone who was sprinting down Broadway. Not to mention my tangled hair apparently couldn’t decide whether it preferred to get stuck in my Chapstick or my glasses, so it compromised and chose both.
Regardless, I politely dodged the crowds of evening strollers and dog walkers and looked both ways on the one way streets as I crossed.
Then it hit me: I look ridiculous. I laughed for a moment – then remembered I was late – and kept running.
Then it hit me part II: Nobody cares that I look ridiculous.
Thank you New York City for finally drilling that message into my head. There I was, on one of the first nice nights of the year, sprinting like a mad woman down Broadway and no one noticed. Nobody thought anything of the frazzled girl with an outfit that said Take me seriously; I’m a professional and a backpack that said Take me back to summer camp; I’m in serious need of a game of Front Ship/Back Ship.
Were I not an incredibly time conscious individual, maybe I would have been a little more self-conscious of my crazed appearance instead of focusing on how late I was (Sidebar: I was 2 minutes late and the friend I was meeting was later than I was).
But New York City made me forget about all that. On a much grander scale, I’ve realized what our mothers (nobody will notice that zit), our roommates (I promise, that shirt doesn’t look that wrinkled), and our brothers (You look fine, let’s go) have been telling us all along.
When it comes to minute details of personal physical appearance – or even outward public activity, very rarely will people bat an eye. I was running down Broadway, a few months ago, as I’m sure hundreds, if not thousands, of people did at some point today, feeling a little frenzied and wondering what all the people I passed thought of me.
And then I realized the answer was nothing. They didn’t wonder what I was late for or care about where I was going. They didn’t think twice about someone in dress clothes and a thumping backpack. They didn’t care about what I was doing and quite frankly, they probably didn’t care about me. They probably never thought twice about me after I flew past and probably haven’t thought about me at all since.
And though that might seem slightly sad and disconnecting, I see it as the truest form of freedom. The second you realize that people aren’t looking at you with intentions to judge, the sooner you realize how completely and wildly flawed you can be.
You can run down the street laughing at yourself and not worry about the woman next to you thinking you look a mess. After all, she’s got just as much stuff on her mind and not enough time to worry about a stranger who runs in dress shoes.
Point is: we need to learn to stop worrying about the way people see us. After all it’s very rarely that they do.
And before you roll your eyes with the “it’s just cause you’re in a big city” response, tell me what color shirt that boy that sat behind you in class wore today. Tell me how the girl in line at your favorite lunch place had her hair done. Tell me one flaw you noticed in your boss’s outfit, appearance, or mannerisms today.
You probably can’t.
We spend so much time worrying about how others perceive us that we fail to realize that they spend so little time doing the perceiving.
Let it go.
Run down the street like a maniac on a calm evening and notice nobody noticing. Dance like a fool at your friend’s wedding and know that everyone else is more concerned with their own dancing to realize that you never actually learned the Cha Cha Slide. And live with a kind of reckless abandon that comes when you freely realize how easy and amazing it is to simply be yourself, tangled hair and all.