My client plopped down on my couch with an exasperated look and announced, “I wish I just didn’t care!”
“About what?” I asked.
“About everything,” she said, “I wish I could just switch my brain off or be one of those people who doesn’t care what anyone thinks about them.”
How can a kind and gentle feeling like “caring” make us feel so shameful and frustrated?
Imagine what our lives would look like if we didn’t care? If we really liked someone and they suddenly stopped calling or returning our texts? Doesn’t matter because we don’t care! If we didn’t get the great job where we know we aced the interview? No big whoop because, hey, we don’t care. If the driver in front of us flips us off…it would feel like a friendly wave because we don’t care.
All the aspects of life that seem to bring us down, make us doubt ourselves, makes us feel small and unimportant would roll off our backs. We could finally feel calm and in control.
It can be fun to fantasize but unfortunately we have to get back to reality. I understand how hard it is to feel like you “care too much.” You can feel like the world’s personal punching bag sometimes and you just wish that you could put on an invisible cloak that will protect you from anyone hurting your feelings or making you feel like your feelings don’t matter.
For those of you who struggle with “caring too much,” all hope is not lost. You can shift your thinking around “caring” in a way that will allow you to remain true to yourself, and not doomed to a life of emotions that make you feel like you’re on a permanent roller coaster.
Here are 3 things to keep in mind the next time you want to shout, “I wish I didn’t care!”
Know that the ability to care means that you see and experience the world with depth and clarity
You’re not weak for caring. You’re not a “loser” for caring. There’s no shame in the caring game. You know who bosses want to hire? They want to hire people who care about how well they do their job. You know those people who rise to the top of their profession? They’re able to work day in and out to achieve their goals because they care about what they do. Embrace the person you are, not the person you “wish” you could be.
Start changing the meaning of “caring too much.” Instead of thinking, “ugh…I care too much,” reframe the thought to, “I care a lot about people and the world around me and that’s a great way to go through life.”
Define what’s worth caring about
There are some things and people that I truly care about. I care about my son, my husband, my family, my work, my friends and most importantly I care about myself. Everything else is up for debate. The goal is not to care about nothing, nor is the goal to care about everything. You have to define for yourself what’s worth caring about and ask yourself, what do I need to let go?
If you’re struggling to define what’s worth caring about, make a list of the things that you care about. Who are the people in your life that mean something to you? What do you value and what do you believe in? If someone or something didn’t make your list, then you know that person, idea or situation doesn’t deserve your time or energy.
If your neighbor didn’t make the list then the next time he gives you that “I think your dog is pooping on my lawn” look, take a moment and remember that his opinion of you isn’t a priority.
Try not to internalize and personalize too much
If you struggle with this problem, you believe that you’re the sole cause of someone treating you with a lack of respect or disregarding your feelings. The harsh reality is: we, as people, are incredibly self-absorbed.
We spend most of our days walking around thinking about ourselves, what we’re doing that day, what we’re going to eat for lunch, how mad we are about that fight we got into with our partner. We’re not thinking about you. It’s usually when someone else’s emotions affect us that we snap out of this little bubble we’re in.
The next time you’re in line waiting to get coffee and the barista seems annoyed, instead of assuming that it’s something you did, ask yourself, “What else could be true?” What else could be bothering this person? Maybe they recently got bad news or their manager yelled at them right before you got in line. By asking yourself this question, two things will occur. The first is you’re no longer feeling hurt by the barista’s bad mood and second, you’re now able to have compassion for this person and your now positive mood may be able to help the barista get out of their bad mood.
Some days just getting through life can feel like walking through a minefield. Dodging every person’s emotions and issues and all you’re trying to do is get to the bus stop. Crawling back into bed and not engaging with the world is not an option. Consider your depth of feeling to be your power- the power of caring. By embracing the fact that you care, you are able to experience life more deeply and powerfully.