“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” – Jerry Seinfeld
I have realized how much I cared about other people’s opinions. My entire sense of self worth was dependent on how other people saw me. The more I cared about people’s opinion, the more their opinion was affecting me. Their opinions eventually became my reality. I have made people’s expectations my priority. I ignored my own desires and I never expressed my true ideas and emotions.
I used to take everything personally. Someone could say something to me, and it bothered me all day. As James Frey said: “Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.” Yes, I that’s exactly what I was, a prisoner. My shyness and my fear of rejection has ruined so many good opportunities. Across the room I saw what could be the person of my dreams, but I didn’t approach because of what a room full of strangers might think if I’m rejected. By caring what these strangers think, I was allowing people I’ll never see again to control my behavior. I could give you millions of other examples similar to this one.
It wasn’t until just recently when I realized what a horrible people pleaser I am. I lived a life of constriction. And to live a life of constriction is to only live a half life. I’ve decided that I don’t want to live this way anymore. I no longer want other people to control my life.
I have realized that when I stop trying to impress others, I can express my true self more fully and connect with people, more genuinely, openly, intimately. The less time and energy I spend on image management, on making my life presentable to others, the more time I can spend on things that really matter.
I came to the conclusion that caring about what other people think about us is completely illogical.
So how can you stop worrying about what people think of you? I’ve made a list of reason that could help you:
1. People will believe what they want to believe
Human beings generally have set prejudices (however ridiculous) about certain things that are hard to change, no matter how much of an effort you make. It is impossible to know exactly what people are thinking, let alone why they’re thinking it.
Although you may be able to influence people’s thoughts with your words or actions, you can only do so up to a certain point. You can never have total control over anyone’s thoughts, no matter how hard you try. So why would you even waste your time bothering to do so? With 7 billion people on the planet, we have 7 billion different sets of preferences. Good luck trying to match up with all of them!
2. People don’t care nearly as much as you think they do
No matter how much people may gossip about you, judge you, or criticize you, we are all pretty self-centered, whether we admit it or not.
It may not necessarily be in a bad or selfish way, but we do tend to give a great deal of importance to ourselves. So the probability is that while you’re busy worrying about what they think of you, they are too busy worrying about themselves to give you any real importance at all.
3. You don’t need anyone’s approval
Being liked, being admired and being praised feels incredible. Gaining someone’s approval through something you’ve done or said is a really great feeling. But since you cannot control anyone’s thoughts, it will eventually drive you insane.
Well, you know what? You don’t need approval as much as you think you do. While being liked feels amazing, what feels even better is being able to accept the fact that some people are going to dislike you no matter what, and being absolutely okay with it because you couldn’t care less.
If people like you better, admire you more and praise you a whole lot due to something you’ve done for yourself, take it as a bonus. Just don’t be a slave to people’s approval. Approval is addictive, and you might very well end up losing yourself in the process of constantly searching for it.
4. What Difference Does it Make to You?
What does it really mean to your life?
If you decide to wear something unusual and you are met with (what you interpret as) a disapproving look from someone else, how does that really affect your life?
Try to think about your answer in tangible terms. Sure, you might be embarrassed momentarily, but five years from now, or even five days from now, how much will their opinions really matter to you?
5. Stop making assumptions
You are not a mind reader. You may think you know what other people think, but unless you ask them directly (and assuming you would get an honest answer), you will never truly know.
6. Life Is Complicated
People have many things going on their lives. They have unfulfilled desires to dream about, worries to worry about, families and to care for, jobs to do and careers to advance, bills to pay, chores to be done, pets to walk, plans to be made, hobbies to indulge, TV and movies to watch, music to listen to, sports to follow, religions to follow and so on.
If people sleep eight hours a day and work another eight, that leaves only another eight hours to devote to those other things.
How much of those eight hours do you think another person would devote to thinking about you and your perceived short-comings?
7. Everybody’s Doing It
Remember that everyone has negative thoughts about other people and themselves from time to time. So when you are worried about someone in particular, remember that they too worry about what someone else thinks of them (maybe even you). They, too, have thought negatively of by someone in their life. And you, too, think negative thoughts about other people from time to time.
8. The people who mind don’t matter and the people who matter don’t mind
There is something about people who dislike you that makes you want to make them like you even more. There is something about people who disapprove of you that makes you want their approval even more badly. Maybe it’s the challenge, maybe you just want to prove them wrong – whatever it is, it’s an endless cycle. Once you impress one person, you’re going to want another person’s approval, and once you get that person’s approval you’re going to want to make some other person like you and so on.
Why bother with them when there are people who like you, and will continue to like you just the way you are? Sometimes we are so focused on people who don’t matter that we end up neglecting the people who do. These are people who are going to support you, care about you and be there for you no matter what. These are people who make you feel good, people you’re comfortable around and don’t need to impress. Figure out who these people are and focus on them instead.
Now, by all means, not caring doesn’t mean becoming an incredibly rude, insensitive and incredibly egoistic person who does whatever they please, because they couldn’t care less about anything or anyone. The idea isn’t to stop caring completely – it’s to stop caring enough to be able to make your own decisions based on your priorities, your values and your ambitions and not other people’s opinions.
Be authentic. Have the courage to allow people to see the real you. Be willing to be judged, and even encourage it. It’s good for self-knowledge and for developing thick skin. As you become and express your best self, others will think great things about you, and the few that don’t won’t matter anyway. If all this is too extreme for you, start by taking small steps. Rather than not caring at all what others think of you, start by just caring less. Be open to what they think and feel, and consider their opinions, but decide for yourself how to act. Care what the important people in your life think, but only those whose opinions you value. Strangers should not get a vote in how you live your life.