I’ve been thinking lately about the old trope, “I don’t care what anybody thinks.” You see it usually when somebody’s making a series of poor decisions, like “I may be fat, but I like wearing skintight leopard prints, I don’t care what you think,” or “I don’t care what people say, I’m definitely getting a tattoo of a leprechaun on my face.” Sometimes you’ll hear it as a compliment. “Oh, you know Grandma’s a little racist, but she’s just being real, she doesn’t care what anybody thinks.”
My question is: isn’t “not caring what other people think” the primary description of a sociopath? I wikipedia’d up “sociopath” and found information on what the World Health Organization describes as “dissocial personality disorder“, the first indicator of which is:
Callous unconcern for the feelings of others
If six-year-old children acted this way, they’d be given a mental health evaluation. But in healthy adults, it’s something to be admired? Why?
I’ve also heard the saying, “What people say about me when I’m not there is none of my business.” It’s true you don’t have a whole lot of control over what others say. But you do have some control, by which I mean you can control the behavior that may lead to people talking about you positively or negatively. If you routinely lie to your friends, fail to meet expectations at work, and are just generally a douchenozzle, of course people are going to say bad things about you. And when the things that one person says about you affect the way you are treated by the listener, it has suddenly become your problem. If a prospective employer calls your former boss for a reference, their conversation about you is very much your business whether you’re there or not. If a former friend of yours pulls your new girlfriend aside and says, “Look, you should be aware that Roger’s a nice guy, but he’s cheated on every girl he’s ever dated,” that is your business as well. If your boss and your friend are telling the truth, it’s pretty stupid to blame them for talking about you.
Obviously you can’t please everybody. There are going to be people out there who poop on everybody and everything, and listening to them is silly. But it seems to me that when people say “I don’t care what people think,” they mean “If you disagree with me, you’re wrong.” If you say “I’m thinking about dropping out of medical school to become a professional rugby player,” and most of the people you know respond “That’s stupid, you’re only 5-foot-2 and have the athletic ability of a tree sloth,” it’s not because they’re all haters. It’s because you said something dumb.
How about we all agree to start listening to each other’s reasoned arguments, and stop saying “What you say doesn’t matter” just because it doesn’t conform to our narrow beliefs? Or not. I mean, I don’t really care what you think.