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Are you in a constant state of vigilance, forever worrying about what other people think of you?
You're not alone.
The judgment of others can spur hearts to race and heads to swirl.
When we share our ideas, voice our opinions and express ourselves, we are risking being criticized. We risk being mocked, ignored, ridiculed, or even ostracized.
The fear of judgment prevents us from living a life true to ourselves. It robs us of the courage to speak out against injustice or fight for what we believe in.
It can stop us from taking risks or trying new things.
It can prevent us from falling in love, having meaningful conversations, and forging deep connections with other people.
The fear of judgment is one of the biggest reasons why we do not get what we want out of life.
It may even be the primary mental health cause of why we feel we don't deserve to soar in life.
And yet it's also one of the easiest fears to overcome once you realize the 11 secrets to getting beyond the "outer-directness trap."
Tips to Stop Caring What Other People Think of You (from Personal Experience!)
1) You're not that important to other people - My grandmother used to lovingly convey this sentiment to me when I excessively worried about someone's possible negative impression of me.
Scientific evidence reveals the truth in my grandmother's assertion.
In fact, your brain is wired to think about yourself. That’s why you take other people’s actions personally when they probably aren’t even thinking about you.
After all, we talk about ourselves more than anything else.
When we’re not talking about ourselves, again, our brain is thinking about ourselves. (It essentially defaults to thinking about us unless we’re engaged in external tasks.)
We use our own experiences to make assumptions about other people. (So your brain interprets things through a filter of what you have experienced in life.)
Our brains are fundamentally biased toward our own interest.
The good news is that this knowledge takes the pressure off. Yes, you want to be likeable, and you want to be accepted by others.
But it’s good to know that the chances are they aren’t thinking about you as much as you think they are.
And if someone is thinking about you negatively, there’s probably not much you can do about it, anyway.
2) Realize the high cost of engaging in this type of worry - We all have a deep need to be liked, respected, admired and approved of.
In our quest for this recognition, we often behave in a certain way to impress others and win their appreciation. We even go so far as to morph into the people we think they want us to be.
This is not only exhausting, but potentially dangerous. We compromise our values and integrity when we censor ourselves to be safe or liked by others. In doing so, we're also giving away our power.
The cost of worrying about what others think can be excessively high in the following ways:
- We may lose self-control, caught in a downward spiral of overwhelming negative emotions.
- We may fall short of our potential because we're afraid of failure (and are, therefore, unwilling to take risks).
- We may say "yes" when we mean "no," which leads to resentment and burnout.
- We may avoid change or growth because we fear being judged.
- We may try to please everyone, which sets us up for disappointment and resentment since it's impossible to please everyone.
- We may second-guess ourselves, which sabotages trust in our instincts.
- We may spend precious time and energy worrying about how others perceive us when that time could be spent on things that really matter (e.g., spending more time with family, working toward a goal that matters, improving our emotional, physical and mental health, etc.).
Your rationale and intelligence have to reel in the emotional insanity of caring too much about what people think.
3) It's a futile, wasteful exercise - On the face of it, caring about what others think of you is hard to justify. You have no control over what other people think.
They might be mistaken, uninformed, biased, irrational, lying, or just plain wrong. Even if you knew what the truth was about yourself and the world, it would not necessarily follow others would agree with you.
Yet still we spend an enormous amount of time worrying about what others think; this time is essentially wasted.
We worry because in our primitive past, we were dependent on being accepted by others in order to survive. Those who were shunned by their group died off without passing on their "Darwinian-inferior" genes.
Humans have developed a strong desire to be accepted by others and possess a deep fear of rejection by others.
When I was younger, I cared more about what others thought. I was more anxious and insecure in social situations than I am now.
Over time, I learned that worrying about what other people think only caused me stress and unhappiness while not changing their opinions of me at all.
(And too often, I would have to sell my soul in the rare times I could change others' opinions of me. Moreover, the positive impressions would often be short-lasting.)
4) Stop worrying about other perceptions by taking your own power back - Allowing others to determine what you think of yourself is one of the most powerful ways you give your power away.
By letting others affect how you feel about yourself, you are putting your emotional well-being in their hands.
The good news is that it's also one of the easiest ways to take your power back. All it takes is some practice and awareness.
When someone says something critical, it's easy to fall into the trap of believing them, especially if they are a close friend or loved one.
However, this is a problem because people often say things that are not true about themselves or others. You may know deep down inside that what someone said about you isn't true, but it still hurts.
That's why it's important to take control and choose what you believe about yourself no matter what others say - and even when you don't feel like it.
One way to do this is through self-affirmations such as "I am worthy," "I am enough," "I am strong and capable," "I am kind and compassionate," or "I am beautiful."
Then do whatever else works for you - exercise, meditate, write in your journal, get a massage, go for a walk in nature - to remind yourself of how awesome you are, regardless of anyone else's assertions to the contrary.
5) Learn to love and accept yourself above all else -
Learning how to stop caring about what other people think is all about learning to accept yourself.
When you have high self-esteem and confidence in your abilities, you don't waste time on worrying about other people's opinions. You're too busy working on yourself and enjoying life.
People will always judge you. There are billions of different opinions in the world. It's impossible to please everyone, so why even try?
Instead, focus on improving your own life, and you’ll realize that your happiness doesn’t depend on whether or not others approve of you
Loving yourself almost serves as a form of "Teflon coating" to repel any harsh judgments leveled against you.
You know the saying “What other people think of you is none of your business”? But feedback from others can be valuable information, if we’re open to receiving it.
If we are confident in ourselves and our abilities, we won’t take negative comments personally or get defensive. Instead, we can use them as an opportunity to learn and grow.
6) Gravitate towards like-minded people - We need strong connections with other people to thrive and survive.
In fact, studies show that social isolation can have an impact on our health, similar to smoking.
More than ever before, we live in a society where we can choose our connections and create our own communities — online and off.
Find ways to connect with people whose opinions matter to you most, whether they’re friends or family members or members of a group or community that shares your interests or goals.
I'm not necessarily advising to avoid people judgmental people.
I'm suggesting, however, to apportion ample time to surrounding yourself with folks who are inclined to appreciate the unique you.
(Of course, you have to appreciate yourself most of all!)
7) Focus on what really matters -
"It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?" - Henry David Thoreau
Your attention is your most precious resource. If you want to be at your best, choose what you pay attention to wisely.
It's impossible to focus on everything at once. You can't give your full attention to two things at the same time. You can only focus on one thing at a time.
In light of that fact, it makes sense to focus on where it counts.
And you're taking your eyes off the proverbial prize by giving attention to the irrelevant opinions of others.
Wouldn't it be more constructive and productive to concentrate on the fulfillment of personal goals and wishes?
It's natural to wonder how others perceive you. Human beings are social animals who rely on each other for everything from food and shelter to emotional support, and we've evolved to care about how others view us.
However, a "what will they think?" mindset can be paralyzing.
It can sap you of creativity and prevent you from trying new things. It can even cause you to doubt your own judgment or avoid taking risks.
Self-consciousness is part of the human condition, but you don't have to let it define your life.
You can learn to be more aware of your thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them, so that instead of letting self-consciousness control you, you regain the ability to choose what to focus on, and how you feel and act.
8) Become the best version of yourself, keeping your own values in mind - We all want to be liked. We want to fit in and feel appreciated by others.
But seeking such approval is a constant source of stress. Not only does it make us unhappy but also distracts us from our goals and makes us less productive.
Studies show that when we put too much value on what others think of us, we are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.
We become more self-conscious and spend less time developing our talents and skills.
As a result, we become less well-rounded individuals who are more reliant on the opinions of others for happiness and validation.
The solution: stop worrying about what other people think of you and stop trying to please everyone, living up to some impossible standard of imperfection.
You must start filtering out outside noise. When you hear it, just become an observer, catch yourself giving these external opinions too much weight, and drop them like "dead weight."
Live and learn by your dictates.
Focus your energy on becoming the best version of yourself possible.
Once you do this, you’ll start living a better life and gain the respect of those around you.
You will also feel happier because you’re fulfilling your potential instead of worrying about how others perceive you.
9) Stop compounding the problem - A lot of our worries and concerns about what other people think about us come from mind reading, adding negative spin to others' opinions about you, or just assuming that others feel as negative about you as you do yourself.
For example, consider the following scenarios:
Someone at a party is talking to one of their friends and in your mind's eye you sense them looking at you out of the corner of their eye, and you interpret they're sneering at you.
You're giving a presentation on a project and someone in the audience is lightly doodling on the paper in front of them. You assume they're bored with your presentation, think it's stupid, and are rolling their eyes at you right now.
You email your boss outlining a project idea. They don't respond, so you think they must hate it and secretly hate you too.
The trouble with being a self-critic is that you believe others embrace your negative version of yourself.
10) Be grateful for feedback - I am a recovering people-pleaser.
I used to be afraid of what others thought about me, and I was a slave to their opinions. I would go out of my way to make sure that everyone liked me, and it was enervating.
Welcome to the universal human experience: We all want people to like us and to think well of us. That's a perfectly rational desire.
But the problem is this: if you want people to like you, it's tempting to stop doing things that might upset them. And over time, that's a recipe for never putting yourself out there and standing up for what you believe in.
So when other people criticize you, or just plain disagreeing with you, remember this: they're actually doing you a favor.
Because it means that you're finally putting something out there. You're not just blending into the crowd and disappearing into the wallpaper anymore.
Other people's criticism can help you grow as a person. It may give you new perspectives on things that maybe you never thought about before.
Or it may help clarify your own views and strengthen your resolve to stand up for your beliefs.
And if the criticism is unfair — well, then it actually doesn't matter how much other people like or dislike you, does it?
11) Stop Judging Others - Have you ever noticed that when you're unhappy with yourself, you're more likely to judge others?
A woman who's on a diet might look at someone with an extra 20 pounds and think, "She really needs to lose weight."
A man who's struggling in his career might look at someone who's unemployed and think, "He just doesn't have what it takes."
It's easy to judge other people when we feel insecure or inadequate. And sometimes we judge people because we feel threatened by them.
Similarly, when others judge you, their opinions about you may come from a place of bias, insecurity, jealousy, and the like.
So, filter any hurtful, negative comments that come your way through this lens of understanding and detached observation.
Bonus Mindset Shift Tip to Stop Caring What Others Think of You
If someone is criticizing you, or mocking you, or laughing at you, your first reaction may reflect hurt, shame, or anger.
You may try to defend yourself (make them wrong so that you can be right) or explain yourself (prove that what they're saying is inaccurate).
Alternatively, you may justify yourself (show that their judgment of you isn't fair).
But here’s a possible reaction—one that’s rarely considered—is to cultivate a “Who cares?” attitude.
You don't have to take any criticism or vitriol to heart.
You may choose to simply dismiss what other people think of you and understand its relative insignificance in the grand scheme of things.
When others criticize, mock, or laugh at you, laugh back!
In fact, the only people who need to concern themselves with other people's opinions are politicians and sales agents. If you're not a politician or sales agent, don't worry about what other people think of you.
It's none of your business.
What I mean by "laugh along with them" is not to join in and laugh at yourself scornfully; it's more like laughing at the absurdity of the situation. Laughter, as they say, is the best medicine.
And when used appropriately in a situation like this, laughter can be a powerful tool for disarming difficult people.
3 Mental Trick Exercises to Deal with Crippling Criticism
Aside from the important mind shift tips listed above, here are 3 specific exercises to use when you're feeling upset due to criticism and rejection:
1) First, embrace a sense of mindfulness and set aside a few minutes to get in touch with your emotions
Then, think about a time when someone criticized or rejected you. Really put yourself back into that situation as if it were happening right now.
How does it feel? What are you thinking? What are you feeling?
Now, picture yourself responding differently than how you actually responded. Think about what you would have liked to say or do instead.
What do you think your response would be like in this new scenario? How would it affect the situation? How do you feel now?
Finally, consider how you can apply this novel approach to future situations. What lessons have you learned?
2) Mentally detach from others' comments. Here's an example of what I mean:
Imagine you're in a hot-air balloon, flying over your city. What do you see?
You see the city from a high angle. You can see all the streets, buildings, and cars. The view is amazing. You're mesmerized by the grandness of it all.
Now imagine that the wind changes direction, and you fly toward a skyscraper. What do you feel? What do you see now?
The feeling is completely different. You are close to the building. You can almost touch it!
There are tiles on the roof, windows of each floor, and people working inside.
It's completely different from seeing it from far away, yet to you, all remains majestic.
Now imagine that someone sitting next to you in the balloon says: "That's an ugly building." How do you feel?
Does your perspective shift?
Wait a second! Your feelings have nothing to do with what other people say about the building. The building doesn't change if someone likes it or not. It's still the same building!
You are you as well, a beautiful and loving person, regardless of any other assessment of you.
3) When we’re not living true to ourselves, it can be hurtful and painful to hear the critical views of others. It can also devastate our self-esteem, but there is a solution: mindfulness journaling!
Rather than focus on what other people think of you, focus on yourself, who you are and what you want out of life. Let go of the past and focus on the present.
When we continue to ruminate about a situation, or person’s comments, we only hurt ourselves. We can become consumed with negative thoughts that perpetuate unhealthy behaviors and poor decision-making.
Practicing mindfulness journaling is an excellent way to get your mind focused on the present moment, which can help to ease worry, stress and anxiety over situations that happened in the past.
Mindfulness journaling allows us to focus on the good things that we have in our life right now, as well as the things that bring us happiness.
It allows us to acknowledge negative situations without becoming consumed by them.
Despite Effort, Do You Still Feel Fear About What Others Think of You?
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” - Eleanor Roosevelt
Our self-identity is deeply intertwined with the way we think others perceive us.
Many people have trouble with self-image because they come to define their self-worth based on other people's opinions of them.
And that's a dangerous thing because not everyone is going to like you.
If you're constantly afraid of being judged or criticized, it indicates that you aren't confident in yourself or your decisions.
But here's the thing: As Eleanor Roosevelt pointed out, others can't hurt you without your consent. Their words only have power if you allow them to sting you.
Instead, do your best to tune out the noise and opinions and focus on what matters: living your best life every day! (This objective should be included as part of your goal setting practice.)
If you have low self-esteem, criticism can seem like a threat to your very existence.
If you have high self-esteem, criticism can feel like a chance to improve.
Self-esteem is one of the most important attributes to learn and develop.
It's what makes you trust yourself and your abilities.
It leaves you so much less vulnerable to the harsh, prevailing winds of gossip.
What is it Called When You Care Too Much About What Other People Think of You?
The term used when you care so much about what others think of you varies, depending on the lens of focus.
Psychology terms used are obsessive and compulsive where you stay fixated on others' impressions of you.
The more neutral term is outer directed.
To sociologists, you may be seen as insecure and having low self-regard.
Those who are spiritual may see this as a warm and sensitive person who cares about others.
"People pleasing" is another term. If everyone else is happy with your actions, you're happy too.
This is common in young children who are still learning the rules of behavior in their culture but can continue into adulthood as a habitual bad habit.
No matter the term used, it's unhealthy when others can easily exert such a negative influence on your self-perception.
Final Words on How to Stop Over Analyzing and Worrying About Others' Impressions of You
Excessive worry about what others think is a problem that can have far-reaching consequences.
It can influence your friendships and relationships with others, but it can also impact your work performance, self-esteem and overall life satisfaction.
The reassuring news is that I've outlined some simple steps you can take to stop over analyzing and worrying about others' impressions of you.
First, be aware of the issue. You are not alone in your concerns about how you are being perceived by others.
There are millions of people who struggle with worrying too much about what others think of them.
Next, know that there are healthy ways to handle these worries. You don't have to feel uncomfortable around others or avoid social situations because of your fears.
Finally, remember that you have no control over what other people think of you, so don't waste time trying to do so.
Instead, uncover what it is about yourself that makes you worry so much about the opinions of others and then work on changing those traits through self-esteem building activities and a positive attitude toward yourself and life in general.
Understand you'll never stop caring about what others think of you entirely. It's part of being human.
However, you can learn to accept that fact and choose not to make your life so difficult by worrying about it all the time.
Realize that other people are too busy worrying about themselves to care much about what they think of you.
And realize that what other people think of us has little influence on our happiness, unless we choose to let it affect us.
Be kinder and more forgiving toward yourself; spend your time with positive people who boost your morale.
Remember, your worth is not based on what other people think of you, but what you think of yourself.
If you want things to change, then start changing how you see yourself and this world.
"Care about people's approval, and you will always be their prisoner." - Lao Tzu
There is so much at stake:
People who ignore the judgments of others are more independent, confident, more fun to be around, and ultimately happier than those who worry too much about how they are perceived by everyone else.
You deserve to live a worry-free life of happiness and fulfillment. Choose not to allow other people's perceptions of you to derail living your best life!