stop worrying

How to Stop Worrying What Other People Think

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.

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Photo Credit: Kitty Genius

  • http://www.jonathanvaudreuil.com/ Jonathan Vaudreuil

    My wife and I were talking about this last night in the context of a passage I read in the book “Mindful.” The author oversaw a study where people were asked whether or not they wanted to change themselves, listing a trait in either a positive light or a negative light. Everyone wanted to change the negative sounding traits but not the positive sounding ones.

    Many people who are worried about what others think are actually the most considerate people on the planet, such as my wife. She does not want to stop caring about others just to worry less. On the other hand, some people find me to be blunt or offensive – others, honest and effective.

    Either way, people who want to reduce their worrying can definitely learn a few things from your advice!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001538990157 Alexa Sprengle

      haha I am found blunt and offensive or honest and effective.. depending on if the person I am talking to is a dumbass….

  • Sarah

    What a great topic! This is something that I have always struggled with and still do everyday. Such a great article that is set out well with clear steps to consider – I will keep these 4 steps in mind the next time I get carried away with thinking that everyone is judging me (when they most likely have better things to do). Thanks for the rain check :)

  • http://www.Mazzastick.com Justin | Mazzastick

    When I notice that I am having thoughts in regards to what other people might think of me, I just remind myself that I may be self-centered in that moment.

    I generally don’t worry about what people think of me unless that person has some type of direct influence in my life.

    There a balance between being self-governed and also considering other people’s thoughts/feelings.

  • NaaM

    many time i feel worried about what them think about me…oooo make me loss power a lot. now i try to don’t care cos not make me get good feel from that:)

  • zeke_axlerod

    Yes this is a tough one, very hard to let it go at times. I work as a Counselor and have a Preceptor whom I feel is way off base. I feel I have looked at myself pretty closely yet constantly receive negative feed back from this guy. While he is not my boss, he does have a lot of influence. I feel he is completely out of line for someone working at the PHD level, him not me. Makes for a very stressful working environment.

  • Keith

    wow after reading this it really changed my perception on myself and what others say about me… I am beginning to love me for me..

  • http://www.mackgon.com Souvik Dutta Choudhury

    Ya of course we have no control on what others say or think of. Sometimes we get to hear comments and suggestions which are radically different from each other. In that case we are in a dilemma which one to follow.
    So to get out of such situations we should always try to be clear to our conscience, even more than to reach the demands and aspirations of others.

  • http://www.literalmom.com Missy

    I’ve read that you progress through stages in your development that directly relate to this. In your teens and 20s, you think everyone’s spending all of their time thinking about you and you really care, in your 30s you realize that maybe that’s not quite the case but you still care, in your 40s, you realize that no one’s thinking about you and you don’t care. I think I’m butchering the ages, but the idea is there – as you “age” (or gain wisdom, as I like to say), you discover that other’s lives really aren’t about you. Your life is about you. Live it the way you want to, not the way you think other people want you to.

  • http://www.fredtracy.com Fred Tracy

    It’s funny because I come from the opposite perspective on this.

    I usually don’t care at all what someone else might think of me when I’m doing what I want.

    It’s not all gravy over here, though. I have to work extra hard to watch myself so that I don’t sound like a jerk. I’ve been told I sound rude when I’m just saying stuff! So it’s definitely a trade-off.

    I think there’s a balance to be had, and it’s nice to see where other folks are coming from. Great article. :)

  • Khaled

    Tip #4 is the best.Since I had realized this FACT few years ago , It is working very well for me.

  • http://www.thedatingspecialist.com Nick

    Lovely article! What helped me let go was realizing that people don’t truly know who you are. They don’t know what’s going on in your head, your thoughts, your feelings, etc. So if they’re assuming something about you, it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily true.

    Also, people’s thoughts are a reflection of themselves. Negative people tend to judge others harshly while positive people look at others in a good light. All a matter of perspective.

  • Linda Marie

    I think for me, its not so much what people think in terms of my life and everything but more when they criticizes something or the way I do something that bothers me. If some one said “I dont that color in your big bedroom it makes it look to small” I can take that but if someone says,” Why did you pick that color? Its awful.” Then I usually feel bothered by the the comment. I guess its people who make little jabs at you as frens that is more annoying then just being honest. There is a huge difference.

  • Rachel Haas

    I read this article and almost burst into tears. I have felt so bad about myself for the past couple years that it has gotten to the point where I will change my outfits several times in the morning if I feel I don’t look good. Or I will completely restart my hair and make up all over again. I am constantly feeling bad about myself and can never quite pick out the good traits about myself. This article has helped me so much and I really think it’s starting to change how I feel. I’ve even copied these steps and put them up in my locker to remind me. Oh yeah, I’m 14. What the hell has society done to the world? :-(

    • Steph

      :) im fourteen too and i feel bad about myself too! it depressed me sometimes im lke an off and on switch. I seriously want to stop caring what people think of me. Im trying to understand why Im so quiet and shy in school because the real me is actually fun and funny. People dont realize that there words hurt but its up too you if you want their comment to effect you.

    • Sirk2009

      What the hell has society done to the world is the real question. You see people are really not happy anymore. are so mush stress energy to carry nowadays. To really assure you Rachel, types of  people make fun others to relief them selves from this suppresive energy. Ever try Pay no attention to what people think of you forinstance, on the train or gathering for few minutes, they’ll move on to another topic or stop. Now! to really crush that moment, take a glance at them if you’ll see how mush sad they can be generally or not.

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  • Nishith J

    Absolutely Brilliant.Simple and True. Hopefully effective.

  • http://www.motivationalmemo.com Peter G. James Sinclair

    Someone once told me that as a public speaker that out of an audience of one hundred 3 will hate you. So what are you going to do concentrate on the 3 or the 97? Thanks Ali for reminding us.

  • http://www.ciba-ken.blogspot.com Ovo

    Nice article. It really can be hard to not worry about what people think but in the end, its better not to.

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  • sedigh

    a great post. accidentally found this blog and read few posts :) very helpful.thanks ^^

  • harvin

    im one of these people who thonks this way and its really hard when u cant even say a word to other people bcuz might they think we are bad but from today i ll try my best not to think about what other people think abut me.

  • Hello

    I already know all of this and tell myself that what other people think doesn’t matter, they’re all worrying about themselves and not me and I’m a complete narcissist for even thinking it. That I’m being completely illogical. Yet it doesn’t help. I’m afraid it’s turned into social anxiety and I can’t even trust my longest of friends anymore. I’ve separated myself from my once huge amount of amazing friends to staying home refusing to go out, afraid to leave my house unless it is way out of town where no one knows me. Now I’m lonely and starting to feel depressed and I can confirm that I’m the biggest loser and disappointment and it’s all my fault.

    I wish I could just go out and act like nothing is wrong and keep pushing my limits like I’ve been trying for the past 3 years, but I’m afraid it’s not that easy anymore.

    • Stranger

      Find a purpose in your life. Go and help someone in need. If that doesn’t make you feel good about yourself, nothing will. Life is beautiful, my friend. Forgive and forget.

    • Bob

      Hi,

      Your post is 3 months old, but I was very touched by it. I wanted to tell you that there is a part of the human brain called the Amygdala. It is responsible for negative emotions like fear, anxiety etc. (as well as sense of smell). The act of concentrating on something else non-emotional like a task actually physically blocks the amygdala and therefore makes you feel a bit better. This is what is behind the old adage of ‘keeping oneself busy’. Being outside also helps depression. Perhaps you could busy yourself (on your own) with some gardening? Or if that’s not for you another task that you could focus on. This may ease your anxiety and you could build on this over time.

      If you would like to learn more search for amygdala on the http://www.bbc.co.uk web site.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Ejercito/1192560348 Michael Ejercito

        What would happen if the amygdala, for some reason, stopped working, either due to illness or injury?

        Would the world be a better place if all amygdalas stopped working? 

        • Kim

          I hope this response was an intelligent challenge :) great point. It is true I feel my most anxious and depressed when I’m bored and don’t have much going on. I feel a little happier and more confident when I’m preoccupied and busy with something. Great story & comment feed it helps to know we aren’t alone and we can do something to fix this!

    • Viviana

      Hi, my name is Viviana, where do you live? May be you would like to be friends with me, I don’t have many here… I live in NJ. If it is not possible, then it would be good for you to get a pet, somebody you will love and he will love you back, and you will be busy taking care of him. And there are communities that share the love for pets, you can get in touch with them to find out how to train a dog. It will be a good start to forget about everythign else that makes you feel bad. Get weel soon. 

      • Mula Trav Jordan Simmons

        Hey love thats so true I live in new jersey aswell so nice nice of you to share

  • http://flawlessconfidence.com Martin K.

    Good article! It’s simple: ask yourself how often you think about other people (probably not very often). Now realize that other people think that often about you. Every time you think “what does he/she thinks of me”, this person can have exactly the same thoughts. Even if they think about you, it’s up to you if you give a damn about it. It requires practice, but you can learn to ignore what other people think about you!

  • Jordan

    Im going to take this head on.  hopefully i can just start not caring.

    • Spottedcup

      Much appreciation for all of your comments and this wonderful article about “what people think” .  I am 49 years old and am thankful that I am able to learn new things.  People have the right to their opinion of what they feel is right but this doesn’t mean that their right is necessarily your right.  Thanks again, Lisa

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  • Pinkmyah

    thankyou

  • Ellen Kavanagh

    Great article, my daughter makes her Communion in a few weeks, I’m looking for something to wear. I know what I’d like to wear BUT I know my Mother will hate it!! I now know what I’m buying!.  Thanks so much.

  • Big Pockey

    poeple keep bugging me about my hair cut what do i do people bugging me Shania Agulera,Kevin Farjado and Omar Abundiz etc. =(

  • Big Pockey

    poeple keep bugging me about my hair cut what do i do people bugging me Shania Agulera,Kevin Farjado and Omar Abundiz etc. =(

  • Calista

    This really relates me! Perhaps I’m worrying too much on what others (people I’m not really close to) think about me and talk behind my back. There was once my friends called me ‘creepy’, I took it to heart because she was used to be my so-called ‘good friend’ but not until I found out her true colors, I’ve learnt from my lessons to choose my friends wisely, moreover, I’m sort of “still quite young” to decide who my TRUE BEST FRIENDS will be. Since that incident, I’ve been much quieter, some people even think I’m some kind of emo (truthfully I admit I’m not) and I’m afraid that people might hurt me again like previously. This topic taught me how to be true to myself!
    Everyone has their own way of thinking and we can’t stop them. After all, we’re humans, we’re all part of this world. I’m glad I still have my family members and some small group of friends, I’m happy with what I have now!

    • jennifer

      I know exactly what you mean about the whole friend thing. I dont know if youve had the same experience, but i just came out of a really harsh friendship where she was incredibly self conscious. it actually had the negative effect of making ME self conscious even if I know that no one is really ‘judging’ or criticising me to the extent that i feel. It was only because SHE used to think everyones judging her. she probably does but i have nothing to do with her now. instead im trying to get over the feeling that everyone hates or criticises every little thing i do, which is a horrible feeling. i hope your friends from now on will be who you think they are and are healthy for you, and I hope i can say the same for myself. 

    • Reader

      Good that you found that friend’s true color, but don’t press too hard on the notion of “TRUE BEST FRIENDS” because if you do, you might experience some let-down somewhere down the road. People change, and who you consider your best friends are more of your perception. You’re not sure if the feeling is completely mutual. For that reason, I don’t have my “best” friends, but just good “personal” friends. I hope that our friendship endure my life-time, but there’s no guarantee. It’s okay – because friends are friends when I think they are. That’s what matters and I always have my memories with all of them.  I think of the same when it comes to “soul mate” too.
      That said, people who deceive you are  of course something else, but I mean “friends” who drifted/grown apart were indeed my real “friends” at some point.

  • Kat

    My daughter is 13 and lives with fear about what others think of her.  She now tells me that others at school are making fun of her and laughing at her.  I’m not sure if this is real or not.  What can I do to help her?

  • Genevive47

    Please pardon me Ali…I  mentioned you name on my YOutube page. I told them that you are male.  Forgive me. 

  • Amala85

    so enlightening :-)

  • Ewaewqeq

    What no don’t stop worrying. Just worry less. If you just completely stop worrying about other people’s opinions you’ll probably become a self-centered jerk…

  • Lux

    How about the case of being gay? In which case the opinions of strangers or acquaintances could hurt you, whether via the form of bullying, hate crime, job discrimination, or even votes affecting legislation such as whether homosexuality should be criminalized. “The people who really matter, though, your family and friends, are going to love you for who you are” –not in this case.

  • Kasuni Samara

    Worrying, Worrying, ….more Worrying about anything

  • maria

    Thank you for this powerful insight, I realise I am the person you are talking about..worrying all the time uses up the energy I need to use on myself to go towards my goals.