Why Do We Care What Others Think of Us?

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Just a few days age I shared with you my story of a guy who thought that I was rich. Now the opposite thing happened, showing just how easily opinions can vary from person to person and how wrong a first impression can be.

So here is what happened:

A woman that I barely know stopped me the other day to congratulate me for my son. She said that she saw us with him the day before and that he was adorable. BUT (because there’s always a but in Romania when people are too nice to you) maybe we should ask somebody that we know for a baby stroller. Maybe they will donate it to us, or maybe they will just give it away. Because, yes, she knows that nowadays baby strollers are so expensive and not everybody can afford one.

As soon as she said that, I started to feel my blood boiling. Calmly, I tried to tell her that we do have a baby stroller – and I added “an expensive one” and that we wouldn’t need to borrow one from friends. I was furious. I was mad, and the woman still didn’t believe me. She wished me a good day and said that I should think about it – surely somebody must have a stroller for us.

Before explaining why this happened, let me tell you that I finally came to my senses and realized that I was so wrong. Back when that guy thought that I was rich, I was not angry, just surprised. Maybe I even liked it a little bit, to be honest. But now, that the tides had changed, I was so furious. I was so upset that a lady I barely know thinks that we can’t afford a stroller. Why should I care? Why should I want people think that I am doing better in life that I actually am, or why should I care if they think that I have no money? How does this change the world into a better place? It DOES NOT.

And it was a good thing that I decided to do that because just this morning my mother went to the doctor’s office – a family friend – and came back furious. I have a slight hypertension problems and I am taking some pills for a while now. Since I pay health insurance, I have a discount on those pills, but I need the doctor to give me the prescription every three months. Now, for some reason, the doctor decided to think that we have no money and I don’t pay the health insurance anymore because, as she said, she knows I “stay at home all day doing nothing”. She also knows that my wife’s not working (since she recently gave birth). Therefore, we don’t have money and she couldn’t take my mother’s word, despite them being friends, and required me to bring her proof that I am up to date with my health insurance payments. Which in Romania means wasting at least one hour of my precious time to get the papers and about 30 minutes to take them to her office. But has to be done because I won’t get the prescription otherwise.

Now why would everybody think that we’re struggling?

Well, first off, my wife and I, together with our six months old son, live with my mom. My mother is retired and her pension is relatively low (but nobody knows exactly how much it is, but pensions are usually extremely low in Romania so it’s easier to guess that it’s low). We recently had to close our family’s business, a small coffee shop, which was no longer bringing in as much as it used to but most importantly because Baby Romanian was born and it was my wife who took care of the business. Thirdly, I work from home. I don’t have a classic 9 to 5 job, I don’t leave my house and people find it extremely difficult to believe that I am actually working my ass off every day AND making money.

And finally, to shed light on the baby stroller thing, for almost a month now, we no longer walk Baby Romanian in the stroller because it’s really cold outside, and instead my wife holds him in a baby carrier. Not only that he enjoys it more and falls asleep as soon as we get out, but it’s also easier to handle and keeps the baby warm from the body to body temperature. Plus, my wife read somewhere that it’s better from a bonding point of view to carry the baby like this. We never thought that this would make people talk and judge and go as far as saying that we don’t afford a baby stroller, but apparently they do (my mother actually said that a few other of her friends asked why don’t we have a baby stroller and make the baby’s life miserable carrying him like that).

In the end, it seems that we are tempted to care about what others think of us, but we should do our best not to. It also appears that at least in my case, if they think that we do worse than we are, it’s more enraging. I didn’t really care that somebody thought I was rich, but I was so furious when a different person though I was poor. Pretty strange how things work(ed). It was a lesson well learned, though: I should not care. I should not care. I should not care.

What about you? Do you care what others think of you?

12 COMMENTS

  1. I am sorry you had to deal with that. I try not too care what others think but I admit it is hard. I think we all care to some degree. Humans are social creatures and that is evident in our actions. The trick is to not let it consumer you.

    • It was funny, in the end, to find out that my wife cared a lot more than I thought about this. I’m on a quest to be happy no matter what so I managed to get past this quickly. Still, it’s indeed difficult sometimes.

      • Sorry if I cross any limits here. I recently discovered this blog is way more personal than you were telling me.

        On the problem at hand: It didn’t bother me that she thought we were poor, but the fact that her limited thinking thought a stroler was best for a baby, keeping a baby away from your warmth, heart beats, and putting so many clothes on him so he won’t feel cold, that he can barely move, is somehow better???

  2. I accept the fact that I do actually care what people think of me. I’m a social creature and status matters. I think that’s why we are not mad when people assume the best of us (even if it’s not true) but are offended if people assume the worst. I’d have reacted the same way.

    Breaking it down further, as a man there are certain roles that I enjoy taking on: provider is a key one. I want people to assume I’m pulling my weight financially, so if someone looks at me and thinks I’m not working or earning very little, yeah, I’ll be offended.

    This isn’t an optimal way to live, but I prefer to be honest about my own mental makeup. I’m human, you know?

  3. I can’t help it…I do care what others think, but I should really try to stop caring as much. Oddly, I don’t like people thinking I’m rich! There’s usually some more expectations involved with that. It annoys me when people give unsolicited advice regarding my child.

    • Yeah, we get a ton of unsolicited advice regarding the child and we learned that the best way to deal with it is to say “Thanks, we’ll take that into account”. Otherwise endless debates can arise :))

  4. “make the baby’s life miserable carrying him like that.” That seriously cracks me up, C!! I know lots of babies who are carried frequently by their parents (mine were as well) and they are the happiest, most secure kids I know. The more decisions you make to bring your family closer, the more criticism you can expect. I’m not sure why this is, probably b/c it’s different. People think you’re weird for closing the shop so your wife can focus on the baby, but isn’t that the best thing for him? A “friend” said to me one time that she would “never waste my career by staying home with the kids”. I’m sorry, you can choose what you wish, but staying home and being with my kids has been the furthest thing from a “waste” I’ve ever done, and I wouldn’t trade it for all of the money in the world. Not saying that a working mom is a bad thing, to each his own, you know? But it is certainly not a waste for people to want to give time and attention to their children, in any form. You guys are doing awesome, C. Keep up the great work.

    • Indeed Laurie, I guess that whenever you’re doing something that a minority is doing, you’re considered strange. Also, there will always be people who will make choices different than yours and they will criticize yours. There are unfortunately few people to understand that it’s to each his own, like you do and like I hope I do 🙂

      Thanks for the encouragement!

    • I like your thinking, Laurie! SAH moms or dads rullz! It’s not the fact that it’s easier than having a job, cuz it’s not, it’s the fact that I don’t want to miss anything from my kid’s life, and let a stranger see his first steps or drawing or hear his first words. That is our reward!

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