How do you stop caring what other people think of you?
We all want to be accepted by society, but sometimes we care too much about people’s opinions of us, to the point that it makes us miserable and affects our decisions.
We spend so much energy trying to please people. We get anxiety before and during social interactions. We lay awake at night reliving embarrassing moments. We have whole conversations in our heads of what so-and-so must be thinking of us after an interaction when in reality they aren’t thinking of us at all. We don’t do things we want to do because we’re afraid someone will judge us.
You may find that you give far too much value to the opinions of people who don’t matter, who don’t respect you. When they misjudge you, make up stories about you, or reject you, it influences how you feel about yourself.
It feels awful, so we’re going to talk about how to stop worrying about others and focus on yourself and your happiness.
You know you care too much what other people think if you’ve experienced the following:
- You tell people what they want to hear instead of what you really think because you’re afraid it might upset or offend them.
- You don’t try new things because you’re afraid you’ll fail and people will judge you.
- You do things you don’t want to do just because everyone else is doing it, and you feel regret or shame after.
- You struggle to tell people what you think or need because you might be rejected.
That’s just to name a few!
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Why Are We So Desperate to be Accepted by Society?
Our biology is hardwired to seek community acceptance.
Part of this goes back to our caveman days. Being in groups meant safety and avoiding starvation. If you were rejected from the group you’d be left in the wilderness alone to either starve to death or be eaten by the local predators.
Meaningful relationships also means greater happiness. Just having one close relationship can make all the difference between feeling lonely or feeling happy, it means at least one person accepts you and sometimes that’s enough.
We worry about what other people think because we want, and on a level need, those close relationships. One study found that very happy people have close social relationships, so it’s good to have friendships with people but it’s not so great when we care so much that it actually hurts us.
You might also have had an upbringing where nothing you ever did was quite enough, and so you’re still trying to please people like your parents.
Of course it’s good to care a little. It keeps us from leaving the house naked and being jerks to people. But when it affects you in the following ways it’s time to make some changes.
As you read through the rest of this article, pinpoint what areas you recognize in your own life and then see how you can flip your mindset around into one that puts you first, and your fear of judgement last.
Some Ways Caring Too Much is Hurting You
1. You Try to Be Something You’re Not
You can’t be authentic when you’re living to please other people at the expense of feeling like yourself.
You try and try to fit into a mold that isn’t meant for you, but you’re never happy and you can’t seem to rest easy in your own skin.
Maybe you try to change yourself for your romantic partner. Or you force yourself to act one way when you’re around your friends but are totally different when you’re alone and feel unsatisfied with your relationships.
However this manifests for you, not being yourself leads to unhappiness.
2. You Don’t Pursue Your Dreams
Do you pursue other people’s dreams instead of your own?
Maybe you just fear what people would say if you failed so much that you never even try to go for what lights you up.
Or you had an idea for a business you wanted to start but your romantic partner tells you now isn’t the right time. Or you put all your energy into supporting their dreams and have nothing left to pursue yours.
Perhaps you have a dream of moving to another country but your friends tell you you’re crazy so you don’t do it.
Maybe you pursued the career that your parents planned instead of another career that excited you.
Fear of judgement is always the wrong reason not to do something.
3. It Hurts Your Body Image
When I was a teenager being super model skinny was the ideal body type. It led to a lot of young girls, and some boys too, to developing eating disorders because it promoted the idea that to fit in and be attractive you had to fit into a size 0.
Now days it’s trendy to have big lips and hips, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong if your body is naturally that way but it’s leading so many women to augmenting their bodies to an alarming degree.
Instead of unhealthy starvation diets, now women are flocking to plastic surgery and injections. Neither are healthy options. That isn’t to say all plastic surgery is bad, but doing it to make people like you or to fit in with a trend is the wrong reason for it.
Women especially need to realize that any judgement on the shape of your body by society is bull sh*t and not to take it seriously.
4. You Get Swept Up In Consumerism
Did you ever beg your parents to buy you a certain toy or outfit because the popular people at school had those things?
I can’t say I didn’t feel more confident in my Baby Spice inspired white platform sneakers, but my desire for them came from a need to impress my friends.
The need to fit in starts at a young age, and that often comes with having the latest trendy item. Corporations are constantly banking on this urge by changing trends every season, and the rise of influencers has expanded their reach even more. Every time we scroll through social media we see something that will supposedly make our lives better, but really it’s just another thing to clutter our homes and empty our bank accounts.
In a yoga class the instructor once kindly reminded us not to look around ‘yoga shopping’. I guess I wasn’t the only one comparing outfits.
It’s fine to have nice things and dress in a way that accentuates you and makes you feel good, but if you put all your self-worth on what you own then you care too much about other people’s perception of you.
5. It Gives Us Anxiety
The root of social anxiety is caring too much about what other people think about you and fearing their judgement and rejection if you do or say the wrong thing.
In college I had to take a communications class to graduate, which meant I had to give a few speeches in the class. The night before the first speech while I was going over my speech I broke down sobbing for 10 minutes because I was so terrified. I seriously considered dropping the class and not graduating.
Why was I so afraid? Because I feared judgement from the professor and my fellow classmates. On a conscious level I didn’t care about making friends in the class, but I didn’t want to be judged as stupid or rejected either.
Thankfully my better sense kicked in and I stayed in the class. When I gave the speech I was nervous, I rushed through it, and my mouth was dry, but guess what? No one from that class remembered my speech after we left the room. No one cared enough to judge me or form an opinion on me based on that speech.
Aside from helping me pass the class, my speeches didn’t matter and my anxiety wasn’t logical but I still felt it because of this need to be accepted by my peers.
How to Stop Caring What Other People Think of You
1. Define Your Values and Priorities
When you know what you stand for, who you want to be, and what’s really important to you then it becomes much easier to not be swayed by what other people are doing or thinking.
Make a list of things that are really important to you. Then you can compare your actions to your priorities and see where they are out of alignment.
Defining your priorities gives you guide rails to keep you from driving off the cliff. If you know what you’re all about then you’re not going to get distracted by if someone thinks you’re living your life the wrong way.
2. Redefine Success
Does success mean other people approve of and praise you, or does it mean that you did the best you could no matter the result?
Does it mean you met someone else’s standard, or your own? Should success mean you did it perfectly, or that as long as you tried and learned something the end result is secondary?
When you have your own definition of success you’re not worried about if you met someone else’s. Then you can just try things and pursue your goals in your own way at your own pace.
3. Get Comfortable Disappointing People
Something I heard and liked in Brie Larson’s podcast Learning Lots episode 2 with Glennon Doyle (I loved her book Untamed) is that you should try to disappoint people everyday so that you never disappoint yourself.
When you are worried about disappointing people you are appointing them power over you.
It’s normal to want to please our parents, partner, boss, and friends, but it shouldn’t come with the cost of not doing the things that make us happy.
Now it shouldn’t need to be said, but just in case, this doesn’t mean breaking promises, rolling into work 3 hours late, flaking out on your group project, or otherwise failing to fulfill a commitment you made that will impact other people.
Not caring what people think of you means making your own rules about who you want to be instead of living by someone else’s rules. It means doing the unexpected. It means not just following the path someone else set for you and instead creating your own, even if you have to wade through some mud and scrape your knees. It means risking judgement and rejection, and trusting your own intuition even when other people don’t understand it.
Ask yourself, “what would I do if I didn’t care about being judged? How would I live my life?”
And then do it.
4. Cultivate Self-Love and Own Your Worth
The best armor you can have against the compulsion to worry about what other people think of what you’re doing is to develop unconditional self-love.
With self-love comes self-compassion, and that means when you mess up or you fail at something you don’t beat yourself up and worry about what other people will think of you. Instead you realize that you’re a human being and we all make mistakes.
Self-love helps you to know that your self-worth doesn’t depend on what other people think, but that it’s built in and you don’t have to be or do anything to get it. When you embarrass yourself you can laugh it off and move on instead of assuming everyone is judging you for it because you know and a mistake doesn’t mean anything about you as a person.
5. Realize People Probably Aren’t Actually Thinking About You
Here’s the thing, we get so caught up in fantasies about what so-and-so is thinking about us, but the truth is people are so wrapped up in their own lives that they aren’t thinking about you at all.
When you catch yourself in these spirals ask if that person really even cares enough to spend as much time thinking about you as you think about them thinking about you.
In reality this assumption that people are thinking about us all the time is a projection of our insecurities. We’re obsessed with flaws so we think other people are too.
And yeah maybe someone in your life likes to pick at your flaws like your mom or the mean girl in your social circle, but just remember that they’re also projecting their insecurities and it’s not about you at all. They’re thinking of you because there is something inside themselves they don’t want to look at.
I love the quote, “what other people think of me is none of my business,” and I would add, “but they probably aren’t thinking of me anyways.”
6. Recognize When Someone is Projecting
Often times when other people have issues with us or criticize us, it’s not really about us at all.
Something that we all do is project our insecurities onto the people around us. If we feel like a failure, we look for ways other people are failing to make ourselves feel better. If we don’t like how we look, we find flaws in other people’s appearance.
It’s just like how people who cheat assume their partners are also cheating. It makes them feel better about their own behavior if they project their shame onto their partner and make them guilty too.
If someone is throwing wild accusations at you, making up stories, or not being truthful, it’s because there is something internal that they are avoiding. They don’t want to face whatever is causing them shame, so they find ways to justify their feelings or actions by making you the bad guy.
When you realize someone is projecting onto you, don’t take it personally. It can hurt if it’s someone close who should know better, but it’s not about you.
It’s natural for our minds go back to the moment and replay it over and over again, looking for a solution or wishing we had said something different. It’s frustrating, to say the least. It’s not easy to let it go, but it can be the only way to find peace.
When your brain is in that spiral, redirect your thoughts to something that feels better. It can be like telling a stubborn toddler not to touch a hot stove, so you have to be persistent until your mind gets the hint. Here are more tips on how to stop overthinking.
Don’t waste anymore energy on them, it’s not worth it. It doesn’t fix them or change the situation. Let it be their problem and walk away.
I hope you’ve gained some insight into how you’re letting other people’ opinions affect you too much, and how to free yourself so you can do what YOU want to do instead of what you think other people want you to do. If you find that particular people trigger you learn how to set boundaries so you can gain some emotional space from those who make you feel judged.
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