Ethel Barrett once said, “We would worry far less about what others think of us if we realized how seldom they do.” Nothing could be closer to the truth.
Forget what everyone else thinks of you today; chances are, they aren’t thinking about you anyway. If you feel like they always are, understand that this perception of them watching you and critiquing your every move is a complete figment of your imagination. It’s your own inner fears and insecurities that are creating this illusion.
It’s you judging yourself that’s the real problem.
2. Acknowledge that external validation is only getting in your way.
Spend time clearly and consciously articulating to yourself how your thoughts about what others are (potentially) thinking plays out in your life. Think of situations where it gets in your way, and identify the triggers and the regrettable responses it causes in your life. Then identify a new behavior that creates a more beneficial response.
Tell yourself, “Instead of responding in the same old way based on what I think others are thinking, I will respond in this new way based on my new way of thinking about myself.” Every time you interrupt your automatic response and respond differently, you are re-wiring your brain to think more effectively.
The ultimate goal is to never let someone’s opinion become your reality. To never sacrifice who you are, or who you aspire to be, because someone else has a problem with it. To love who you are inside and out as you push forward. And to realize once and for all that no one else has the power to make you feel small unless you give them that power.
3. Get comfortable with not knowing what other people think.
When I first started writing on this blog, I’d agonize over whether people would think what I was writing was good enough. I desperately hoped they’d like it, and oftentimes I’d catch myself imagining they didn’t. Then one day I realized how much energy I was wasting worrying about it. So I’ve gradually learned to relax with simply not knowing.
Some problems in life, such as not knowing what others think of you, are not really meant to be resolved. As I’ve mentioned, how people perceive you may have more to do with them than you anyway. They may even like or dislike you simply because you’ve triggered an association in their minds by reminding them of someone they liked or disliked from their past, which has absolutely nothing to do with you.
So here’s a new mantra for you – say it, and then say it again: “This is my life, my choices, my mistakes and my lessons. As long as I’m not hurting people, I need not worry what they think of me.”
4. Refocus your attention on what DOES matter.
People will think what they want to think. You can’t control them. No matter how carefully you choose your words and mannerisms, there’s always a good chance they’ll be misinterpreted and twisted upside down by someone. Does this really matter in the grand scheme of things? No, it doesn’t.
What DOES matter is how you see yourself.
So when you’re making big decisions, make a habit of staying 100% true to your values and convictions. Never be ashamed of doing what feels right.
To help you implement this positive habit, start by listing out 5-10 things that are important to you when it comes to building your character and living your life honorably. For example:
Having a list like this to reference will give you an opportunity to consciously invoke your handpicked traits/behaviors in place of doing something random simply for the purpose of external validation. While it may sound overly simplistic, most people never take the time to actually decide what is important to them when it comes to their self-image – they let others decide for them.
5. Let go of your ‘end of the world’ thinking.
All variations of worrying, including worrying about rejection, thrive on ‘end of the world’ thinking. In other words, our emotions convince us that an undesirable outcome results in annihilation.
What if they don’t like me?
What if he rejects me?
What if I don’t fit in and I’m left sitting alone at the party? etc.
None of these things result in the end of the world, but if we convince ourselves that they do, we will irrationally fear these outcomes and give our fears control over us. The truth is, we – human beings – are inefficient at accurately predicting how future misfortune will make us feel. In fact, most of the time we avoid consciously thinking about it all together, which only perpetuates our subconscious fears.