Worry About Yourself

Earlier this week, my girlfriend passed her phone to me giggling at this clip of a little girl telling what we presume is her dad to “worry about yourself.” It’s adorable, and seemingly insignificant, but this kid is onto something.

As humans, we like to compare and contrast. How do these two things size up to one another? Are they equal? Are they different? Which one should I ignore? Which one should I choose? On a person-to-person level, we tend to compare ourselves to others. “Am I living up to the standards of this person? If I act like they do, will I be more like them?” Anyone who has attempted such a path will tell you “no.”

And it’s true. The more you try to be like someone else, the more you realize it’s futile. Want to be a body builder? You have to spend hours every single day working out and training—not just eating the protein bars they hawk in advertisements. Most of us just want to skip to being ripped, not putting in the hours it takes to get there. Unless we’re really, truly, dedicated to something in our hearts, it’s likely that sooner or later our efforts will fizzle.

On Friday, I moved out of the desk space I’ve been keeping in the city. I realized a few weeks back that I didn’t need it. On deeper reflection, I realized I only really kept it because I thought I should. Having an office space sounds successful. You see other people who are roughly where you want to be keeping an office so you think “hey, me too.”

Having somewhere to go was great, but really, all I wanted was people around. Not necessarily to talk with; just present. I noticed this recently when I rode my bike over to the coffee shop around the corner. The social interaction of ordering a drink and nodding at the waitress that recognized me from previous visits was enough. I walked to the back of the shop and tucked into a corner. At the office, too, my usual pattern was to go hide off somewhere. Once reality sunk in around what I was really after, I realized spending money on an office was silly.

This all prompted a bigger thought: what do you like? What do you want to do? How do you want to do it? What other people think and how they behave not considered. I find I’m at my best when I’m in an environment that I prefer, not necessarily one that other people might. That little girl saying “worry about yourself” is apt advice. You should worry about yourself. When you do—at least, in my experience—you’re happier. You get more work done and you don’t have that feeling of a weight sitting on your chest, challenging each breath.

For me, that means working from home most of the time. When my social interaction tank feels low, go grab a cup of coffee or lunch somewhere. Or, on days where time allows, go meet with a friend for a few hours. Social stigmas need not apply. Do what you want, when you want, how you want. In essence: worry about yourself. This applies to our work, too, not just our lifestyle.

Because we have so much access to the work of others (often tauted as “inspiration”), we find our output drifting towards the mean. Everything starts looking and sounding exactly the same. At first this is great: we feel safe producing work that we know has proven to be successful, or at least, adored.

To really be unique—to get those results that we see other people achieving—we have to worry about ourselves. We have to listen to our inner voices. Our opinion. It’s difficult to interpret that from a finished product, but that’s exactly what those other people did: worried about themselves.