We all care what people think of us to a certain extent.
I remember being a teenager and caring so much it seemed like the world would end if people judged me or discovered my secrets.
Life as an adult is seriously less dramatic. At least most of the time.
You simply cannot live a natural, simple, frugal life if you’re caught up in what people think of you.
People spend huge amounts of money and go into debt on impressing people.
Josh and I intentionally opted out of that a long time ago.
Growing up, my family shopped at thrift stores for all our clothes. I was ashamed and embarrassed. I dreaded the question “Where’d you get that?” even if it was tied to a compliment about something I wore. We also didn’t have cable, so I’d act like I knew what my peers were talking about when they referred to shows on Disney Channel and Nickelodeon.
It was exhausting and stressful.
It was people-pleasing.
It was assuming my “friends” were shallow enough to abandon me if they found out the truth.
Would they have? Probably not!
Nowadays I’m transparent about the fact that I thrift shop, don’t buy things I don’t need, and don’t have cable or Netflix. I’m not swinging the pendulum the other way and bragging about these things, but I’m no longer ashamed of them.
Appearances are deceptive
In our modern society you really can’t tell anything about people from the outside. Someone may drive a new car and wear designer clothing but be buried in student loans or credit card debt. Someone may have a lovely home but no hope of ever paying it off. Someone may drive a clunker, but retire at age 33. Someone may pinch pennies but donate millions to charity behind the scenes.
Appearances are very deceiving. It’s important for us to not judge either way.
Don’t focus on what doesn’t matter
If someone judges me because we rarely eat out, we had a homebirth, we avoid sugar, and we keep our home chilly in the winter, that’s okay. I can’t stop that; it’s not within my control. I’m convinced this lifestyle is for us and that’s good enough. I’d rather not spend my time worrying about things I can’t change.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People talks about this. We all have circles in our lives: the outer circle is everything that could worry us, and the inner circle is what we can actually control. Why waste our time and energy on the outer circle? Why not be more concerned with the inner circle, where we have the most impact?
We have absolutely no control over what people think or say, but we do have the power to choose how it affects us. This is maturity. This is knowing what is and what isn’t our concern.
This doesn’t give us permission to go around needlessly offending people. But it does allow us to live out our core values unashamed, realizing that others may have different values driving them.
Define your center
I do care what my husband thinks. I do care what God thinks. They are part of what centers me.
If your center is caring what everyone thinks, consider making your own mission statement to realign yourself with more important things.
I encourage everybody to make their own mission statement, either personally or as a family. Start with a verse or principle that means a lot to you. Dig deep. What’s important to you? What do you want people to remember you for at your funeral? (Another idea from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. If you can’t already tell, it’s an excellent book that has impacted how I do things.)
Have a conversation with your spouse if you’re married. What are your goals and dreams? How do you feel called to live and serve? What kind of family, employee, friend, or citizen do you want to be?
Find a couple of words that stand out. Ours isn’t a mission statement as much as it is a diagram:
You can’t be everything to everybody. Use your mission statement to remind yourself what matters when you must make choices and prioritize.
Let go of fear
When I decided to have a natural birth at home instead of a medicated hospital birth, I researched – I talked to those who had done homebirths, talked to the midwives, and made what I felt was the best decision for me.
Since Josh and I had prayed about it together and were on the same page, I didn’t worry about what anyone else would think of the decision. It wasn’t going to change my mind.
Of course I knew there was always a slight chance something could go wrong and we’d end up at the hospital anyway. But even then everything would be okay. I wasn’t going to let fear of judgement hold me back. There were better things for me to worry about.
“She should have known better.” “What was she thinking going to a midwife rather than a doctor?”
Unfortunately fear of “mommy judgement” plays into a lot of decisions if we let it. My goal is that everyone, natural or not, can make informed decisions about their families without fear.
Part of maturity is making decisions based on values, principles and informed research, not based on fear or popular opinion.
The older I get, the less I personally care what people think. There’s freedom in that. I don’t have to dress a certain way. I don’t have to wear lots of makeup. I don’t have to try to maintain an unattainable level of perfection. I’m not required to debate or defend my every decision. All because I’m not afraid of people’s judgement. You’re not required to either!
Judgement can go both ways. It’s important that those on the frugal / natural end of the spectrum don’t judge those who are on a different path.
I don’t know your story and reasons, so it’s definitely not my place to judge you if you’re bottle-feeding or elected for a C-section. I’m excited about breastfeeding and natural birth, but I realize it’s not appealing or even possible for everyone. No judgement here! I think you’re awesome either way. You don’t need to apologize for doing things the way you do them.
Honestly sometimes I’m my own worst critic. I have to remind myself to extend grace to myself as well as others. It’s easy to get caught up in my own “high standards” and not allow myself any wiggle room. My goal is to be accountable, but give myself grace when necessary.
Enjoy the journey
I write about our lifestyle because I love it and I think the tips are beneficial to others on the same journey. However, it’s not my way or the highway. Not everyone will embrace the same journey. Not everyone will want to give away half their clothes, purge their baby toys, and bike to work in the snow.
I wish you joy and contentment on whatever journey you’re on.
For us, this simple life we’ve chosen is incredibly enriching. I can’t help but want to share it.
We’re far from perfect.
We’ll never fully “arrive.”
But the journey is awesome.
I invite you to join if you’d like.
Whatever your lifestyle, whatever your goals, whatever your center, my hope is that you can live it out without fear.