Have you ever changed your mind, backed out of something or even given up on a dream … because you were afraid of what someone else might think of you?
I’m betting that you’re a kind, thoughtful person. You want to make the people around you happy, and – naturally enough – you want them to think well of you.
There’s nothing wrong with that: it’s part of emotional intelligence, and it’s a good thing.
But it can go too far.
If you’re constantly worried about what friends, family, colleagues or even strangers in the street might think, then you’re using up a huge amount of energy worrying (and you’re probably holding yourself back from your real goals).
This is a tough habit to get out of – but the below steps should help.
Step #1: Ask Yourself What Matters to You
I sometimes worry what people will think of my clothes, or my hair. The thing is, though, physical appearance really isn’t that important to me. Sure, I like to look presentable – but I’ve got virtually zero interest in fashion, and I don’t generally wear makeup.
It’s okay to have different values from the people around you. Maybe you hate cooking, even though your mom thinks you should be preparing a meal from scratch every night. Maybe you can’t stand the gym, even though your best friend works out every day.
Be clear and honest with yourself about what really matters to you. Sure, other people might judge you for not meeting up to their standards – but if you’re true to your own goals and values, then you know you’ve got your priorities right.
Step #2: Remember That They’re Not All Watching You
When I was a teen, I was bullied at school – and even now I find myself worrying that other people are looking at me, maybe even laughing behind my back.
The truth is, though, I’m not the centre of the world – and neither are you! Most of the people around you are far too busy going about their own lives to think much about you.
Maybe you think you said something really dumb at that party, or maybe you’re convinced that the zit on your nose is so obvious, or that everyone’s talking about that mistake you made last week … the truth is, they probably haven’t even noticed whatever it is that you’re worrying about.
Step #3: Recognize That Their Opinion Can’t Hurt You
So – you’re clear about what really matters and you know that you’re not the centre of attention. Still, there’ll be cases where people make a judgment about you. Maybe it’s at work, or when you’re with friends, or just when you’re out and about.
In most situations, people’s opinions can’t hurt you. Sure, that mouthy kid down the road might yell something rude about your haircut, but there’s no way his opinion can affect your life (unless you let it).
There are a few cases where opinions will make a difference – for instance, your boss’s opinion of you – but are you worrying about the people who matter in your life, or the ones who really don’t?
You could spend your whole life trying to make strangers and casual acquaintances think good things about you (maybe by spending hours doing your hair every single time you set foot outside your house, or by paying for an expensive car that you can’t really afford). The people who really matter, though, your family and friends, are going to love you for who you are.
Step #4: Accept That You Can’t Control What People Think
If you’re a bit of a control-freak like me, this is a tough one – but you can’t control people’s thoughts. You’ve got no idea what might go through their head, or why.
Different people respond in very different ways. Maybe your friend is really impressed when he sees someone wearing a flashy watch – but you think that person shouldn’t splash money around. Other people will think all sorts of things about you, and their thoughts will say more about them than they do about you.
Other people’s thoughts – good, bad or indifferent – are their own. Enjoy your own life to the full; you can’t please everyone all of the time, and there’s no need to try to. Next time you’re worrying about what someone might think of you, ask yourself can their thoughts really affect me? … and get on with whatever you want to do.
Photo Credit: Kitty Genius