…And Not Care What Other People Think (Mostly)
Or, how to use the crappy things that have happened in your life to really be yourself, and thereby be happy.
A Helpful Story (or Two) On Being Told ‘No’
A few days ago, in Facebook, I posted something that prompted a friend to write, “How do you say things and not care what other people will think?”
It was meant as a compliment, and I took it that way.
But it also got me thinking, how did I learn to do that?
It was not inherent in me, this rebellious streak. It’s something I developed over time.
And this is how I think it happened.
1. I Never Got Asked on a Date In High School
This is true.
I was never asked on a date in high school.
But that doesn’t mean I didn’t go out.
I did. A lot.
And had a handful of boyfriends.
But I never was asked, I did the asking.
Every date I have ever gone on was because I asked the guy.
Because I figured, “the worst he can say is ‘no’ and I’m totally fine if he says that. It’s his choice, I get it.”
Some of them said ‘no,’ some of them said ‘yes,’ and some of them said, ‘yes!!!’ (which was always nice).
What this taught me about doing whatever the f-ck I want is that if I’m okay with the worst that can happen, I can be brave and do it.
If I post this thing on Facebook, with an emotional title or phrase, and the worst that can happen is someone unfriends me, I can handle that. And so, I go forth and do whatever the fuck I want.
The flip side of this is, of course, what if you don’t like the potential outcomes, or can’t deal with them?
Well, then you can’t do whatever the fcuk you want.
Or rather, ‘whatever the fuck you want’ changes.
You move from wanting to do this one thing, to not wanting to do it, based on potential outcomes. That’s fine. That’s mature. Go find something else to do.
2. Haters Gonna Hate / Those Who Love You as Your True Self are the Keepers
When I was in high school (apparently I learned a lot there), I was in a church youth group. And one night, I started dancing wildly to Fishbone’s “Skankin’ To The Beat.”
Which is not exactly a church song.
Nevertheless, my dear friend, Melissa was digging it. She was laughing and dancing and having an awesome time with me. We went crazy and it was fantastic. Both of us felt totally alive.
Then she started the music again and invited the entire youth group to come watch us. We had fun again, but only a few others from the group joined in or clapped with us. Lots laughed or were bored.
What I learned was that some people- probably a small percentage of the whole of my group – were going to LOVE what I did when I was fully myself.
And a slightly larger group would be appreciative, or find it funny, or entertaining.
Another part of the group would not understand, or be bored, or be frightened.
All of these reactions are fine.
I don’t begrudge anyone their personal preferences (unless they hurt others).
The deepest lesson I got was that when I’m fully myself – not giving a fuck about what other people think – the people who are there WITH me are my tribe.
They love me.
And they love me being fully me.
As well, the rest of the people – and their opinions – I’m not going to worry about them.
Their opinions are important (and maybe I want to be sensitive to them in other situations, because I value tolerance) but I’m not going to give their opinions so much weight that it holds me back in the full expression of who I am.
If you’ve ever lost a friend, because of being who you truly were, you know this truth already.
When someone stops being your friend after you’ve done, said, or expressed something that was from your best, deepest, most true self – it hurts. Especially if you were close.
But you also know, if that person cannot accept the full expression of who you are, they are not really your friend.
And what good is it to have them around, harshing on your mellow?
If you have ever had a relationship end because of who you really were, you have the skills to do whatever the fuck you want.
(This image is artwork by Kal Barteski- found on Google. You can find her work here.)
3. Self Love + Self Forgiveness
Not a high school story again. Yay!
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that being prepared for the worst and knowing who’s opinion does matter are important in doing what you want and living how you want to live.
And so is self love and self forgiveness.
It was one of the hardest, toughest, most painful lessons for me to learn to love myself. It took a lot of curiosity (‘how do I love myself, anyway?’)
and practice (‘well, I could like my wide grin, for a start’)
and therapy (‘I’m not crazy for feeling unloved as a child?’).
But I learned that self love does whatever the fuck it wants. Because self love activates the deepest sense of knowing who you are and what you’re about – and standing strong in that knowledge.
And when you are strong in knowing who you are and what you’re about, it doesn’t matter what the haters say. It also kind of doesn’t matter what the lovers say – it matters what I say.
And what I want.
And what I think.
And what I know about life.
And what I want for this world.
Sometimes, though, you make a mistake.
And that’s where self forgiveness comes in.
Sometimes you do pick the wrong thing to say, or do, or express.
It upsets someone you don’t want to upset.
It gets you in hot water with the wrong people or organization.
And you have to apologize and fix it (if it’s fixable).
But you also have to forgive yourself for making a mistake.
And the mistake was not in doing whatever the fuck you want, the mistake was in mis-understanding the consequences of your actions (or not imagining potential consequences well enough).
And you have to forgive yourself for that.
You’re not perfect.
You’re a learning human being (at least, I hope you learn from this!).
And it’s okay to make mistakes in the course of learning to be who you are.
There have been plenty of times when I put something out on Facebook, or said something in a room full of fancy people, or danced a little too wildly at the wedding and it got me consequences I wasn’t anticipating.
For instance, hucking a Hershey’s kiss at a former boss, during a group skit about the editing process, was probably not a great idea. But I forgave myself and went on with life. (And the boss did not harsh on my mellow, thankfully.)
How To Do Whatever The Fuck You Want
1. Prepare yourself, as much as you can, for people not liking you doing whatever the fuck you want. If you can deal with the worst outcome, you’re good to go.
2. Who you are is who you are. And who you are is amazing (we need you!). If some people don’t like that, it’s fine. Plenty of people will support the true you.
3. Love yourself enough to be who you really are and do whatever the fuck you want. And forgive yourself when doing whatever the fuck you want backfires. You’ll live through it. And you’ll learn.
When you’re 19, doing whatever the fuck you want has consequences, but maybe they’re not as worrisome for your future. When you’re 39, the consequences can be bigger, but with some imagination and self-awareness, you can still do whatever the fuck you want- and make life truly yours.