What Does It Matter to Me?

By: Jen Shoop

There is a viral set of “life tips” going around Instagram, and the one that really made me think was: “Ask yourself ‘what does it matter to me?’ next time you find yourself judging someone for their clothing or hobbies. The more you train yourself to not care about the personal preferences of other people, the more relaxed and nice you become as a person.”

I love this reflex/practice: “What does it matter to me?”

Truly, I could be better at giving people space and letting them do their own thing. No skin off my back! Good for you, not for me! In what way does this impact me? Etc!

There is a related prompt that digs a tiny bit deeper that I’ve also found useful: when I find myself cringing, coiling back, or otherwise reacting strongly to something someone else is doing, I spend a minute ferreting out the root. Sometimes, I am startled to find envy or hurt — in which case, I know I need to draw inward, count my own blessings, and live where my shoes are — but sometimes, there’s an underlying clash of values, and this insight is illuminating in that it provides a clear prompt to reflect on whether or not you want to live your life according to the value in question.

Let me provide a hypothetical. This did not happen IRL, but represents a conglomeration of different incidents that have happened to me:

A friend receives a Paperless Post to an intimate cocktail party in your home. You can see she opened the invitation but does not respond. You run into her at the salon, and she says, “The invite was so cute! I hope we can come, but not sure yet whether we will be around!” Two days before the cocktail party, she texts to say, “It turns out my college roommate is in town and wants to do a night out! Thanks for including me, next time!” You feel upset by this. You take a minute to sort through the frustration. You find a good measure of hurt and wounded pride, feeling that her actions suggest she was waiting to see if something better would come along, or perhaps didn’t see your invitation as compelling in the first place. There is also a clash of values, in that you are a planner, and because you hadn’t heard from her, you had rounded up to include her in your menu planning, cocktail program, etc., which incurred extra cost/time on your end. You know that you are a conscientious, rule-abiding person, and that you could never “not get back to” someone who’s extended an invite, as this feels like part of a very basic social understanding. You are also unable to fathom leaving weekend plans until the very last minute.

So, what’s going on here? Is this a situation where you can stop and say, “What does it matter to me?” After all, she’s the one missing out on the cocktail party, and you are going to have a great time no matter what. It’s not your job to police her responsiveness and social etiquette. She probably meant nothing by it and didn’t realize the strain her lack of response put on you. What’s more, when you hang out, you enjoy her company. You believe her to be a fun and well-intentioned person. So, what does it matter to you?

You realize, though, that you might be circling in on a mismatch of values. You prioritize promptness, follow-through, transparency, and she prioritizes connecting with the people that matter to her most and keeping an open mind (and social diary!) for what life might throw her way. She is fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants and you live by the calendar.

This would (and has!) led me to two different paths of action. On the one hand, I can honor my own values and avoid situations where I know they will clash with hers. By this I mean: I can choose not to include her in plans that require planning/procuring of goods/invitations on my end. I can instead text her at the last minute to see if she might want to grab a glass of rose. Or I can choose to not be the one instigating get-togethers with her, and run into her at gatherings hosted by other people who might mind her behavior less.

On the other hand, I can reflect on whether I want to prioritize planning and rule-following above other values. Like, why did I exert so much energy over her wishy-washiness? It wasn’t too hard to round up a bit in the planning of the menu. I could have put that worry into something more productive, or at least positive, in tone. Do I want this to define me? When I imagine myself, do I want “rule follower” and “structured, calendared” to be among the top descriptors? If not, I need to work on getting myself to a place where I can accommodate the behaviors of others who are not this way.

What do you think? Have you run into similar situations where you’ve toggled between “what does it matter to me?” and “But this is a clash of values!”? How do you resolve?


+Another path out of these quandaries: remembering that some of us are walking around with broken hearts, pretending like we aren’t.

+Are you an expert in yourself?

+Do you find that your closest friends share common traits?

+On taking your own joy seriously!

Shopping Break.

+Hunza G released a variation on their beloved bathing suit in STRIPES! Apparently they haven’t released striped versions in years!

+Lululemon Align tank, on sale in all colors!

+Xirena released their popular Draper pants in a classic white color!

+Addison Bay is launching an enormous Warehouse Sale today at 10 A.M. (you can get early access at 9 A.M. as a text subscriber). I can’t wait to see what’s included, as I’ve been eyeing this cute little dress and LOVE a half-zip.

+Hair ties with a little something extra. So cute! I still remain obsessed with the skinny Slip ones — use while washing hair / applying makeup / etc. — and they’re on sale here!

+Cannot stop thinking about this SEA dress, in blue or white. The smocking is spectacular.

+This booster seat is much cuter than the chunky plastic thing we had for my children. We loved to feed them out of this, though, whether on the floor or on the counter.

+These Ancient Greek sandals are in my cart — 60% off! Their sale section is worth a gander.

+While on the summer footwear train of thought: saw these sandals on a serious chic pea in Chevy Chase the other day and did a triple take.

+Loving this collarless denim jacket.

+I love reusable mini bamboo cloths like these for removing eye makeup.

+This is still pricey, but it’s 40% off and absolutely spectacular for a black tie affair.

+Cute lavender blockprint daydress from Cleobella.

+Love this ruffle seersucker trim button-down.

+If you like the look of my Boll and Branch waffle bed blanket but not the price, check out this Amazon find.

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13 thoughts on “What Does It Matter to Me?

  1. I’ve discovered your musings a little late in the game and I have now turned them into weekly conversations with my husband. This is penciled in for tonight’s post-toddler bedtime routine! I appreciate your deeply reflective posts.

    1. Oh gosh – thank you so much for letting me know! I am so glad we’ve found one another, and so thrilled you’ve been finding meaning or at least a prompt in some of my writings.

      Thank you so much for letting me know.


  2. Such great food for thought in this post, and in the comments as well.
    As I’ve gotten older I’ve found myself not getting as bothered by some things as I used to be. One of the questions I tend to ask myself is “why does this bother me?” which is along similar lines as your “what does this matter to me?” And upon reflection, often it really doesn’t bother me. I suppose with age too, I realize that my mental and emotional energy is limited, so why spend any energy to something that really doesn’t affect me anyway?
    The other questions that help me calibrate my response to a situation is “is this thing/issue more important than my relationship with this person?” while also weighing that against “does this cross the (hopefully) healthy boundaries I set for myself?” The balance is sometimes more tricky, but I find that this has worked for me.

  3. I am your hypothetical friend who didn’t commit to an event as promptly as you’d like and so I know she can explain herself and I’d agree – it’s just a difference in values. But I especially love the pause to consider “what does this matter to me?” I find myself similarly frustrated/annoyed/recoiling about other peoples choices that have nothing to do with me, and I often wonder why. A few years ago I read this phrase “does this require my opinion?” and I think it’s just different verbiage for the same advice. Why am I so bothered? Do I need to voice this? Usually the answer is no, I just need to calm down and worry about myself. But humans are weird. We’re so focused on ourselves, until we’re too focused on others and usually not for the right reason.

    thank you for sparking thought this morning! I love to read your musings.

    1. Hi Jen! Love that phrasing, too — thank you so much for sharing. There is another phrase I’ve seen floating around lately: “Not my circus, not my monkeys,” though I always think that phrasing feels a bit more…jaded? Or something? But the point stands: why am I inserting myself into a situation that has nothing to do with me?

      Thanks for chiming in.


  4. In the hypothetical example, I’m thinking a day of buffer could be built into the date to RSVP by. Then, what I would actually do is reach out to those who hadn’t RSVP-ed the day after to ask if they can make it and to let me know before end of day OR plan for a few extra people if there would be too many people to follow up with. However, what I would actually want to do is assume they aren’t coming if they didn’t RSVP on time and set a boundary (kindly) if they request attending last minute or just show up. In my experience, people are surprisingly receptive to boundaries and abide by them. Of course, there will be one off cases where things will come up and a guest won’t be able to attend last minute, but such is life!

    In general, many things can be true at once… people have different personalities/preferences/priorities/perceptions of social etiquette AND you can like people while being annoyed at a certain situation/behavior AND it’s okay to want to be treated in a way that makes you feel best, hence boundaries.

    1. Agree so deeply with the “many things can be true at once,” and that all of your reactions to a situation are valid, even though they may not hang neatly together. A good reminder to permit myself to just feel it all.


  5. Omg as soon as you started laying out that scenario my blood pressure instantly started going up, so I’m right there with you!!

  6. Two friends of mine never RSVP-ed or showed up to important life event parties I attended. One simply stopped being my friend after I said something and how it hurt me. The other and I are ride or die friends now and our bond has strengthened. I’m happy I said something one way or another (because those events were so important for to me). Someone once asked me “does that relationship still serve you” – it’s not always one sided like that but ultimately it’s we have to ask our selves how much effort we want to give towards a relationship / person who might not give back the same way. And that’s ok.

    1. Hi Teal! These are such interesting off-shoots, and I admire the fact that you communicated your hurt to your friends. Too often I have just “let things lie” to avoid conflict, and that can lead to resentment. Thank you for the food for thought on how to handle a situation where the answer to “what does it matter to me?” is “it matters a lot!!”


  7. Definitely a clash of values, but as you say, it is up to us whether we let it go, try not to take offense to it (because most likely it is not about “you”). I find now, in my early 40s, I am un-learning all the things that have been engrained in me since childhood. It was very common to just do, not speak up, and accept all sorts of treatment. Yet, now I find this situation, although an example” to play in decisions on friendships, work, etc of my own. Values are difficult, because what is important to you may not be to others, vice versa. I am too tired to “school” people on these things, nor do I feel it is my place or responsibility to offer advice when unprompted, so I think I slowly choose myself, what makes me feel good, who makes me feel good, who understands me. Open communication is the key, yet in some friendships that are less intimate, that is a difficult task to navigate! So , I completely agree with you, and I think it is ok to make choices based on how you are feeling!! Feelings change! Whatever we decide today we are not stuck with for future occurrences!! Lovely post, thought provoking!

    1. These are such candid, rich insights, and I especially related to your comments around evaluating the intimacy of a friendship in order to determine whether or not you take the time communicate hurt feelings / values clash / etc. Sometimes it really is not my place, or just isn’t a good use of my energy. I also love the idea that you can change. What matters today might not tomorrow, etc.

      Thank you!

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