I used to be that caring person, once. I mean someone who valued to a great extent the opinions, advices and ideas of others to shape its own life and goals. That was before. Not that long ago, but that’s history nevertheless.
Being that caring person, I used to spend a vast amount of my time listening to others and getting inspired by them. At that time, I was genuinely interested by what they were telling me; their ideas were bright, their minds were brilliant, they were showing waterfalls of self-confidence, and it looked like there was nothing in the world that could stop them from achieving the goals they set for themselves.
Then, slowly but surely, I started to realize that what I had long been mistaking for friendship, common interests and shared enthusiasm was at best flattery, and at worst a pathetic desire to shine in the eyes of someone these people considered inferior — me. At the same time, I also started to notice that this kind of people had assembled in a huge crowd, surrounding me in a gloomy embrace, sucking out my time and my energy for their own purposes. And that was bad, but I wasn’t yet conscious of the situation.
Anyway, I kept following that path, probably because I was desperately seeking approbation and recognition from those same people, because I considered them as essential references in my mental world. Maybe I was looking for something I couldn’t put a finger on. Maybe I was in need of some recognition and reputation, too. How fool I was. But one thing I knew already, despite my apparent “I made it” attitude, is that I wasn’t happy. Not even close.
The “switch” (if I may call it so) that opened my eyes occured a monday. Back then, I was working for a large multinational company, one with several thousand employees all over the globe. I had a glorious, impressive business title, I felt inflated of my self-importance, and I was carried by that fake conviction that I was, like my so-called friends, colleagues and co-workers, an exceptional person. Today, I know I’m such a person, but for a whole lot of different reasons.
So that famous monday, something happened. Nothing fancy or spectacular, just a simple conversation with someone. I can’t even remember what was discussed then, but what I remember crystal-clear is that after I went out of the conference room where the discussion had taken place, I came back to my desk and I sat on my chair with a fixed idea in my mind. In fact, it felt like nothing — litterally nothing — had ever been clearer in my head.
I had to get out of there. Kinda “run-for-your-life”. Which I did. Not that quick, but some weeks after, I was out.
What happened that monday is drop-dead simple: I realized that if I kept on living for the sake of how people perceived me, if I kept building my life based on what others would have imagined or envisioned for me, then I was screwed. To the bones. And despite the guilt of thinking so, the anxiety of continuously asking myself “I’m not that kind of selfish bastard, am I?”, all the pieces of the puzzle came into places. I had to stop giving fucks about what other thought of me.
I don’t even know what triggered the reaction. Maybe it was something the person I was meeting said, or did. I don’t remember. I don’t think it’s useful to remember. But soon after I left that company, I decided to start another life doing what I was meant to do. I decided to give up living for other people’s dreams and conform to what was expected from me, and start living for myself. Selfishly. Guess what? I was reborn!
Living for yourself if not selfish. Not giving fucks does not make you a fucking bastard. It does not mean you’re not capable of compassion, of understanding, of caring and feeling. It does not mean you have to stop listening to people’s ideas. It does not mean you have to cut all bridges with humanity and go live somewhere in a deep cave, rubbing a golden ring while hummering “My precious” with Marge Simpson’s voice. Living for yourself is an essential ingredient to happyness and balance.
We, humans, are social beings, and that will not change. Especially when you consider that we are at the beginning of a super-connected era that will reshape the way we live, grow and evolve as a species. But I am convinced that the complementarity of a multitude of personalities is what forges the richness of humanity. And you can’t build your life on solid grounds when what you are is not what you are, but what others expect you to be — often, for their own good.
So that’s what I did. When the time comes, when you feel that this path you’ve been asked — or forced — to follow against your own nature, is leading you to places you don’t want to go, just say stop. It’s much easier than you think, because at the end of the road, there’s the most important ever: yourself. Stopping giving fucks is by far the best decision I took in the 40-ish years I’ve spent on this planet. And so should you.