“What is that person thinking about me?”
“If I say no, will they think that I’m a bad person?”
“What should I wear? What impression will I give if I wear this?”
“Would they like me or not like me?”
Have you asked yourself one of the above questions lately? Are you concerned with what people think of you?
We are all social being. We need other people to survive. Feeling loved and belonged is necessary. However, caring too much about what other people think of you is tiring. Our mind is already busy with our own self-perception. And now we want our mind to perceive how people perceived us. That’s more work for our mind.
How people see you are based on perception and perception is not real.
Perception is based on one’s interpretation. Some people see a glass half-full and some people see a glass half-empty. So is the glass half-full or half-empty?
Perception isn’t real. It is only real to the individual. A glass can be both half-full and half-empty, depending on a person’s interpretation. We could be good or bad to different people. So why are we so bothered about how we are perceived? Why are we so concerned about something that isn’t real?
Excessive worrying isn’t necessary. Don’t let it control your life.
Here’s how to not care what people think of you.
1. Let go of self-importance.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, self-importance is an exaggerated estimate of one’s own importance. One reason why we are so concerned about what other people think of us is that we placed too much emphasis on ourselves.
We take everything personally. We think that every action or word that people take or say have to do something with us:
- “He must have found me irritating.”
- “She must have thought that I’m unfriendly.”
- “Why didn’t he reply to my message? Did I say something wrong?”
The truth is most of the things people do or say have nothing to do with us.
Most people are too busy with themselves to think about us.
Even if the negative comments are directed towards us, the negative comment is more about the other person than it is about us. For example, if your parents tell you it’s unrealistic to do what you love, you should get a job that pays well, it has nothing to do with whether they love you or not. Or whether they think you have the capability to succeed or not.
It has everything to do with their own insecurities. They haven’t tried doing what you are about to do. Of course, they are going to find your dreams to be risky and project their insecurities on you.
When you understand that people are just projecting a part of themselves onto you and you let go of your self-importance, you will find there’s no need to care what others think of you.
2. Realize that others don’t know what’s the best for you.
I used to argue with my dad a lot when I was young. It’s not that we don’t like each other. It’s because we have a very different perspective and approach to life. My dad makes his decisions based on memory and logic, while I make my decision based on possibilities and heart.
When planning for the future, my dad would look at his past experiences or other people’s past experiences to predict the future. He wants to use methods that had been tested before. I, on the other hand, look at possibilities. I don’t use my past to plan for the future. I just go straight into the future and plan what I want in the future. So my dad’s approach appears too safe for me, while my approach appears too optimistic for my dad.
Everyone is different. What works for someone, might not work for you.
I also do things that feel meaningful to me and close to heart. What I do need to have a positive impact on other people’s life. For a logical person like my dad, this may appear dumb because it is not the most effective way to do things and it’s isn’t practical.
But if I would to choose a logical approach, I would feel unfulfilled because it’s not me. I’m not being true to myself.
People don’t know what’s best for you even though they appear to be. Most of their advice is in accordance with their own values and preferences. You need to find out what’s best for you. And not care too much what people think of you because they are not you.
3. Know your own worth.
Since everyone is different, pleasing everyone is impossible. There are going to be a lot of different and opposing views about you. So who do you listen to? Whose view do you believe in?
You don’t have to believe everything you hear.
When you care too much about what other people think of you, your mind gets too wrapped up in other people’s opinions of you. It’s as though you are giving away your power to someone else and letting them decide who you are as a person.
Sometimes, people say things that are totally untrue about you. If someone says you are weak, cold or selfish, are you going to believe it even when you know it’s not true? Or are you going to find evidence in your life to support their opinions and wallow in self-pity?
Regardless of what people told you, you have a choice whether to believe it or not. Sure, be open to listening to other people’s feedback, but only trust a few and forget the rest. Stop allowing others to control you with their opinions.
What other people think of you is none of your business. At the end of the day, it’s what you think about yourself that matters the most.
4. Give up black and white thinking.
The reason why some of us are so affected by what other people think is that we see the world in absolute extremes and nowhere in between. We see ourselves as either:
- good or bad,
- a success or a failure,
- selfless or selfish,
- strong or weak,
- kind or rude,
- positive or negative.
People can’t label you when you don’t label yourself.
If you label yourself as an absolutely strong person, you’ll try to hide, protect or defend yourself against anything that makes you weak. You might even push yourself to the maximum when your body can’t take it anymore just to prove to others that you are strong. But is it worth it?
And is it an accurate representation of oneself? A person can’t be strong all the time. Everyone has their weak and vulnerable moments. A person can be really successful in his career, but a failure in his relationship. A positive person like me can be negative at times and be affected by depression too.
If you only think in terms bad and white, then what other people think of you is going to hurt you badly. If you adopt a duality approach instead (hmm… I can see that sometimes I could be a little selfish, weak or rude), then whatever people think or say you are don’t really matter that much.
5. Understand people change their perceptions.
People’s perceptions of you aren’t that important because they change over time. Someone may think that you are a cold and unfriendly person. But as they get to know you better, their perceptions may change. On the contrary, someone may like you because you love what they love. But after they know you, they might feel a distance from you because your values in life are totally different from theirs.
People’s perception of you has nothing to do with who you really are.
People’s perception is determined by:
- how much information they have about you, and
- how do they interpret the information they have.
Changing yourself to get a more favorable perception from others is pointless. People’s interpretation of you changes when they have new information about you or new experiences themselves.
6. Don’t overthink.
I’m guilty of this. Sometimes, I think too much for my own good. I would anticipate the other people’s reactions to my action. For example, I would think if I say no to someone, what would they think:
- Would they feel hurt or rejected?
- How can I say no to someone without hurting them?
- What if they get angry?
Overthinking often leads to indecision and inaction, which is usually worse than other people’s reactions. Instead of saying no, you say maybe. You continue to give other people hope when deep down inside you already know your answer is no.
Most of our overthinking come from fear.
We are afraid to reject and disappointing other people because we over-imagined other’s people’s reactions to our action. But fear isn’t true. It’s an imagined outcome. People are usually more receptive and stronger than we think they are.
Don’t let your fear control you. The worst case scenario you have thought of may not be true. Also, realize that you can’t control other people’s reactions to your action. You can only control your own action. So do what that feels right.
7. Don’t react to what others think of you.
There will be times when people are rude to you. You might know your self-worth and you try hard not to believe what they say about you. But somehow the other person’s words are like poison. Once you allow the other person’s words to affect you, it slowly creeps up through your veins and spread negativity to your whole body. It makes your heart sink.
Don’t engage with the other person.
When you are in a situation like this, stay calm, take a few deep breaths and don’t react to what they say. I know how hard it is to be in such situations. But if you react to the other person when you are feeling emotional, you might regret what you say or do later on.
You don’t have to defend yourself. You don’t have to attack the other person. Whenever an emotional person engages with another emotional person, both are on a losing end.
If possible, remove yourself from the source of negativity immediately. Go to a quiet place where you can heal yourself and remove the “poison” in you. Remember people can only make you feel a certain way when you let them. Detach yourself from the nasty words and regain the peace that is always residing within you.
And when you are back to a peaceful state, practice empathy. The other person is doing the best that they can. When people are emotional, they don’t realize how nasty they were at the moment. Learn how to forgive others.
8. Finally, practice self-approval instead.
The more you care about what other people think, the more you are going to attract these negative views to yourself. Why? Because you are looking for evidence of unfavorable comments about you. And when you look for something, you are sure to find it.
Instead of focusing on other people, focus on yourself. Learn to love yourself and accept who you are. One reason why you care so much about what other people think of you is that you want approval from others.
However, external approval is not sustainable.
What’s sustainable is internal approval. Without self-approval, every steps and action you take is going to be a struggle. You can’t move forward without getting an outside opinion and external validation first. It’s like driving a car and stepping on the brakes every few meters to ask if you are on the right path.
Do you want such a life?
Featured Photo Credit: I miss you everyday / lauren rushing