21 May Want to stop worrying about what others think? Here are 7 ways!
by Marc Chernoff
The unhappiest people in this world are the people who care the most about what everyone else thinks.
“What’s wrong with wanting to please others?”
That’s what several people asked me via email in response to one of my recent articles. Today, I want to discuss why it’s not healthy to try to please everyone, and how to stop yourself from doing so.
Seeking approval from others is perfectly fine up until the point where you are compromising your health and happiness in the process. It becomes a serious problem if you feel as though widespread positive approval from others is the very oxygen you need to breathe. There was a time in my life when I felt exactly this way.
I literally felt like I was short of breath – almost as if I’d die if my peers didn’t approve of me. This is a condition that developed in my mind when I was very young, after kids in grade school teased me for being a “nerd.” I did everything I could to win their approval. And although I grew out of my awkward stage pretty early in my teenage years, the damage was done – I was left feeling insecure. I was conditioned to seek and beg for outside approval at all times.
The big problem was that, as a twenty-something college graduate entering the work force, I felt that anything I did or even thought only had validity if it was the “right thing” to say and think. And by “right thing,” what I really mean is “what other people thought was right.” I was terrified to step outside the box of acceptability – which was especially harmful to my creativity as I tried to nurture my passion for writing and blogging.
Once I realized what I was doing, I read several books, spoke with a coach, and focused diligently on healing this broken part of myself.
The bottom line is that constant approval-seeking forces you to miss out on the beauty of simply being yourself, with your own unique ideas and desires. If you are led through life only doing and being what you’ve come to believe is expected of you, then, in a way, you cease to live.
So how can you stop fearing what everyone thinks of you? Let’s take a look:
1. 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. 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.” (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Self-Love” and “Relationships” chapters of “1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.”)
2. Know that most people are NOT thinking about you anyway.
Ethel Barrett once said, “We would worry 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; 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 problem…
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