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Is it necessary to care about what society thinks?

Phrases like “How not to worry about what others think” and “Start doing what your heart desires” have long been making headlines. People are looking for ways to shed the weight of the pressures society exerts. However, realistically, is it necessary to care about what others think of us?

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Gulf News

Cultural infiltration

We are taught: What will others think?

In my opinion, I sometimes care about what my family and relatives think about me due to the age difference and the difference between our experience, so I have to act according to what pleases them, simply out of respect and the dynamics of our relationship.

In my culture and community, elders always taught us as children to think about what others would think about you. I think it’s a cultural thing. But this is so deeply instilled in children that they grow up believing it and live their lives accordingly. Also, it turns into a cycle – from one generation to the next.

I deeply believe that people who are always focused on what people say about them can have their personality and characters built on that and that’s not always a good thing. It can make you become a people pleaser. Sometimes, people refrain from mentioning their true opinions on things because of society. It stops their real personalities to show.

However when speaking about society as a whole, I really don’t care about what people say. I mean, I don’t let it affect me in the long run, and I definitely don’t act according to what someone would perceive me as. I live life by knowing that someone will always have something to say no matter what I do and you can’t please everyone.

From Ms Raya Khalid

Resident based in Dubai

Doesn’t matter

Disregard what society has to say about you

Honestly, I don’t think we should care about what people think all the time because I’ve experienced a lot of negativity just by listening or giving any attention to those who comment about anything I do. When I mean what people say about me, it includes about my physical attributes and my actions. I have ultimately decided to not give any attention to it, just to fit more accurately to people’s opinions. As a man growing up in this society I’ve learnt one important thing and one motto that I always follow, which is: “If they’re not on my boat then I should keep on sailing.” I believe so because not everyone really knows your real story or what you’ve been going through for years. People are just chapters in the book of life that don’t need to be the root of unnecessary stress and anxiety. Sometimes they have negative things to say just to hinder your progress and focus. I think you should respect everyone’s opinions but the only comments you need to seriously consider are of your family and loves ones.

On the other hand, we can’t really deny the fact that it might be human nature to care about what people say about you and I’m not saying it is easy to ignore, but to emphasise my point even more, I think it’s better if we work to change this characteristic because listening to them will surely take you nowhere.

From Mr Ahmad Ayman

Information Systems student based in Sharjah

Promotes harmony

It’s vital for the functionality of society

As a sociologist, I’m keenly interested in the question of whether it is necessary to care about what others think. Sociologists study how people are often influenced by their family, peers, and leaders. Many of us follow what others expect of us because we like approval and want to avoid ridicule. Sometimes we just take for granted that what others do must be the “normal” way to do things. This can be unhealthy when it keeps us from innovating or from questioning injustices and making positive changes that require us to challenge others. But there are also good aspects of our, possibly genetically programmed, tendency to care for others and care about what they think of us.

It encourages us to be kind rather than selfish, and to care for the whole community, including those less fortunate than ourselves. Communities in which most people do this are healthier and happier. So I think societies work best with a balance of individualism and collective commitment.

From Dr Paula England

Professor of sociology based in Abu Dhabi

Be careful

People’s opinions can be both, helpful and unnecessary

I think it’s important to listen to what others have to say, as long as you have the awareness and emotional intelligence to process what they’re saying to you, in a way that serves your best interest. Everyone has different values, priorities, cultural backgrounds, educational level and personalities, which effect how they think. If you would like to listen to what others have to say, be very selective and choose only those individuals whose opinions you respect because they are wise, experienced, balanced and mature. These people may include mentors, coaches, inspirational figures and someone in your family or social circle. Remember that even though family and friends may have your best interests at heart, they don’t always offer the best advice. If you sense this, be willing to look elsewhere for guidance.

Ultimately, I believe that you are your own best counsel because nobody knows you better than you know yourself. The key is to make time for self-reflection and to engage in a continual process of self-discovery and learning. When you’re armed with a strong sense of who you are and what you stand for, it will be much easier to know who to listen to and who to ignore. We also need to be humble enough to accept what we don’t know and to seek out others’ help to fill out those gaps in our knowledge.

So my answer is yes, we should care about what others think as long as it enhances what we already know to be true.

From Ms Sushma Shenoy

Entrepreneur and lifestyle blogger based in Dubai

Poll results:

Gulf News asked: Is it necessary to care about what others think?

• Yes, to be a functional member of society - 11%

• No, my life decisions are personal - 20%

• It depends on the situation - 69%

Have your say:

To be a functional and practical member of society, is it important to care for what others think?

Is what society dictates of our actions unnecessary stress and our decisions are personal?

Is it human nature to care for what other’s think of us?

Is it a cultural aspect to place a certain amount of importance to what society thinks of us?

To share your views on this topic or join future debates, write to us at readers@gulfnews.com

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