Growing up as the “daw-tah” of a Danish immigrant mother and American father, I learned that certain things that were acceptable in one culture were heretical in another.
The most salient lesson I recall learning in my elementary school in Mendham, New Jersey was that, in America, you never repeat the same outfit on two consecutive days. Ever.
It's not that there was a task force assigned to Hilltop Elementary to identify and shame outfit repeaters; it was just a silent rule we all agreed to.
My mom, however, didn't.
My mother had very European hygiene. Although she only showered once or twice per week, she never smelled bad (she covered up any lingering odor with some luxurious Chanel or Boucheron). She found American cleaning rituals to be excessive (and even prissy). As a chronic outfit repeater, she didn’t care if I did the same (as long as I didn’t have any stains on my clothes).
In kindergarten, I was unabashed in my outfit-repeating ways. But, as I wised up in first grade, I noticed that no one else was doing it. Ever.
I was losing my nerve.
If no one else was doing it, why was I?
If everyone else was wearing bright clothes freshly sanctified by Tide, why wasn't I?
Why was I the odd one out?
One morning, I didn’t have anything clean to wear, so I selected the blue dress I had worn the day before. I suddenly felt self-conscious. My mom, as though she had sniffed bourbon on my breath, asked me what was going on.
“I’m wearing the same outfit as yesterday,” I noted, “what if the other kids notice?”
And then my mom said something indelible: “Charlotta, nobody cares about you...”
The moment froze. I was only eight, but I could feel the existential malaise overtake my young brain. I was nothing, she was saying, I was useless. My mind began spinning into butter when---
“...because they’re too concerned about themselves," she continued, "They're not just paying attention."
The moment unfroze.
All meaning in my life that had just vanished for a split-second was restored. She didn't mean what I initially thought she had said; she just meant that not everyone's world revolved around me.
And she was right.
Nobody noticed that day that I had repeated the same outfit as the day before! Nobody cared!
This doesn't mean that I went skip-dancing into the future wearing one outfit for the rest of my first grade career (hey, I still succumb to peer pressure), but it gave me perspective. Most people are too consumed with their own worlds to notice the little irregularities going on in others' lives.
And isn't that incredibly liberating?
What if, instead of worrying about posting something on social media, you thought to yourself, "Nobody cares about this" and added the reframe "in the best possible way!"?
What if, in pursuing a passion project, you stopped fretting about what other people would think, you said to yourself "Nobody cares about this - in the best possible way!"
What if, in designing a new life, you abandoned all fear and judgment from others and just declared "Nobody cares about this - in the best possible way!"
What would happen?