Why do people say they don’t care what others think about them?

It’s one thing to develop resilience to criticism, it’s another thing entirely to truly not care… If we didn’t care at all, we wouldn’t have any relationships. When people say these things, it’s typically false resilience – a defense mechanism against the need to belong.

But what if we were vulnerable enough to pay attention to what others need and want? Not to bend to their whims, but to meet them where they are and use our own vulnerability to build emotional trust and connection?

What if we could use an understanding of others to more deeply connect with our authentic selves?

The trouble here is that “not caring what others think” can be a mask for the shame we feel, the negative beliefs we have about ourselves that get in the way of creative work and authenticity. If we actually confront (even internally) the way others see us, we also have to acknowledge how we feel about ourselves.

And that’s exactly what I want to address today: the beliefs we have about ourselves.

First it’s essential to understand that beliefs are just beliefs. Both positive and negative, they’re just ideas we hold that aren’t necessarily true (or wholly true). We can observe them, acknowledge them, and assess them, but that doesn’t make them unshakable rules for who we are or how we exist in the universe.

These are mental constructs, and the capacity to be an observer, an impartial outsider, allows us to see the full spectrum of our humanity. By making space for these thoughts, observing them without judgment, we also make space for moving beyond the beliefs that limit our creative potential. We don’t have to cast the beliefs aside or throw them away, but instead see them for what they are – assumptions about one “should be” that get in the way of actually becoming.

What if our goals of self-improvement are so focused on the self that they get in the way of movement and creation?

How we think about ourselves doesn’t actually have anything to do with the process of creating or getting better. We don’t need to take a psychological approach to learning or creating – instead we need action, connection, and trust in the process.

If, for example, I want to learn to scuba dive, my negative or limiting beliefs about myself aren’t relevant to learning. I can still have the beliefs, but the reality of the process will still function to teach me the skills of scuba diving. With an honest observation of where I currently am and where I want to be, I can set the course of my intentions and actions toward what to practice, what to learn, and what not to learn. Regardless of my beliefs about myself, whether I think I already know how to scuba dive or think I can’t learn, the process of learning with openness and honesty will yield the same results.

So why not let go of the beliefs?

This is true in any domain. The less attention you put on your beliefs, and the more attention you put on current reality, the better of a creator you’ll become. If you don’t take your concept of identity out of the process, how can you learn? If you’re weighing outcomes and experiences against preconceived ideas about who you should be and what should happen, you aren’t letting reality guide you.

There is emotional tension inherent in the creative process, and building tolerance for that tension is about moving away from both limiting beliefs and the expectation of rewards – or even specific outcomes. There’s always the possibility that things won’t go our way or turn out as planned, but premeditated expectations are what creates disappointment… And limiting beliefs prevent us from leaning into failure as an opportunity for growth. Both aspects are a denial of reality.

Predicting an outcome, whether reward or failure, is an expectation rooted in the past – not an active, honest observation of the here and now. Intentions, however, are not expectations. Intentions are setting your compass in the direction you want to go, taking exploratory steps forward, and letting each step be a guide for the next.

So, we must let go of preconceptions. We’re not predicting the future, we’re creating one.

Observe your beliefs and emotions, but don’t let them become your identity. This isn’t about becoming an automaton separate from feeling, but instead about remaining open to current reality without comparing it to a notion of how we should be or feel.

Through the process of creating, we build the capacity for emotional tension, for holding uncertainty without bending to the discomfort of unpredictability. You can lower the tension by aiming lower, at something more familiar and certain, but this is simply a recipe for mediocrity and denies your innate potential to create something magnificent.

When you create from a place of honest intention, without preformed ideas about rewards or specific outcomes, taking in new information as it comes and responding according to the reality of the here and now, you cultivate ideas into the universe.

In doing so, you close the gap between your current state and your desired state, not with thoughts and beliefs, but with honest, intentional steps forward.

What beliefs are holding you back? What expectations are hindering your growth?