Does this sound familiar? You’re talking to someone, and something in their tone sounds off; uninterested, tired — bored, even. Even after you stop talking to them and get on with your day, all you can think is: Did I do something? Are they mad at me? Or am I just a super boring person to talk to? Wow, maybe everyone feels tired when they talk to me. And for the rest of the day, you’re so preoccupied with thoughts like these, doubting yourself, that you’re too distracted to really enjoy anything else, because there’s going to be a little voice in the back of your head telling you that maybe everyone in your life secretly thinks you can’t hold a conversation to save your life.
Stop. Chances are, they probably just had a long day, or something happened that wore them out. There is more than one reason for someone’s actions, and it’s not always you. You know what you’re doing? You’re spending so much time worrying about what others think of you that you exhaust yourself overthinking it, then try to change yourself.
Before you go down that path, take a step back. If you push aside all the anxiety that people around you decide to spend all their time thinking about and judging you, you’ll come to the realization that there’s really nothing to be worrying about. If you still need a little help getting there, here are some tricks I’ve been trying out that might help:
Figure out why you care
We worry so much, but we don’t take the time to stop and think why we put in all this thought and effort so others don’t judge us in the first place. What’s the worst that could happen if that girl in your class you never even talk to thinks you’re a bad singer? Why should you let her opinion affect you? What’s the worst that could happen if that stranger you saw on the subway didn’t like your shoes? It’s not like you’ll ever see him again. Don’t let the fear of the what ifs and but maybes stop you from singing your heart out when you feel like it or rocking those badass boots.
Think about the people in your life who you actually care about and who care about you. Those are the opinions that matter. And if you choose the right people, they won’t be the ones who judge you and put you down, but the ones who give you constructive feedback to make you a better person. They don’t expect you to be perfect. Don’t let the irrelevant opinions hold you back from being the most authentic you.
“Should you live for your resume.. or your eulogy?”
— David Brooks, New York Times columnist
People are so obsessed with trying to display a perfect image of their life that they forget to actually live it. What’s the use of everyone thinking you have a perfect life if you hate it?
Keep in mind that everyone is preoccupied with their lives
“You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt
It’s totally natural — human, even, to feel the desire to be accepted. A study conducted by Tony Robbins and Cloe Madanes even shows that the need to fit in is actually one of six basic human needs. But honestly, humans are self-absorbed! Everyone’s so busy thinking about their own problems; they don’t just set aside time in their life to think about that little thing you did today.
Let’s say you just met someone, and had a conversation with them. While you’re busy worrying if they liked you or not, they’re not thinking about if you made a good impression, but if they did! If you think about it like that, you’ll realize people don’t spend nearly as much time judging you as you think. If we reverse the roles, would you spend hours thinking about how your colleague had a small mess-up on that presentation at work and “everyone” was judging them? No, you’d probably just think that it was a mistake, which all humans make.
This is exactly what I’m talking about. We tend to be a lot harder on ourselves, and in our eyes, what would be a small, insignificant mistake if others made it can turn into a catastrophe if it was in turn us who made it. Next time you feel embarrassed because of something you did, keep in mind that people probably weren’t even paying attention. People don’t have the time to waste on judging others, so chances are it’s not them judging you; it’s you judging yourself.
Learn to accept and not judge yourself first
A study conducted by Katharine Omwake shows that there is a strong link between how you view yourself and how you think others view you; the second is dependent on the first. If you think you’ve got great hair, it’ll make you believe everyone else sees it too.
Knowing this, the first thing you need to do is to accept yourself. Recognize that you are strong and independent, and you’re worth it! Doing this will make sure your worth is up to you, not others.
Focus on yourself and your goals
The most important thing here is to really know yourself. Know your goals, and what you want in life. Know where you are, and where you want to be. Know who you are, and who you want to be. Once you truly do and you really want it, others’ opinions won’t stand in your way.
“Self-approval comes out of self-acceptance, which rises out of the recognition that we are, in fact, enough, just as we are. With that recognition, we can free ourselves from fear; we no longer need to look outside for a validation that, on the inside is self-evident. We come into our power, our full humanity, in the recognition that our essential nature is all we need to be fully us.”
— Michael Formica, physiologist and life coach
A bit ago, I noticed that without even realizing it, I change myself around different people or groups. I change myself to be who I think they expect or want me to be — and I do it with everyone. I feel like I have so many personalities, and it’s not because I’m trying to be fake, but because I want people to like/accept me. I do this to the point where I don’t even think I know who I actually am anymore. And it sucks. So I sat myself down and wrote down a general idea of who and what I wanted to be. Doing this, I realized that none of the personalities that I assume was actually who I wanted to be. I didn’t want to be a people pleaser, one who always put, Will people like me if I do this? over Will doing this make me happy/get me closer to my goals? So, slowly, I’m working on it. Next time I feel the urge to do something that makes me uncomfortable just because it might make someone else like me more, I’ll stop myself.
It’s your life, not theirs
It’s important to realize that all the opinions people form about you is from their perspective. It’s what they think is right. What might be right for them could be completely wrong for you. And honestly, what makes you believe they know what’s right?
Even if they were trying to think from your perspective, they don’t know everything that’s going on in your life. They don’t know what’s good or bad for you, and every opinion they’ve formed is based on the assumptions they make from the fraction of the real you that they see. If you do what you think is right, even if you fail, you learn. You don’t think, Why did I let their opinion manipulate me into doing this? You made that choice, and it’s part of your growth as a person. What you do with your life affects you, not them. If you listen to them and do something that feels entirely wrong, you’re the one who’s stuck with what ends up happening.
Understand that not everyone will like you
You’ve got to get this in your head: you can’t possibly please everyone. Wouldn’t you rather be loved by a few people who actually care about you and accept you for you than be liked by a lot of people that you constantly have to change yourself for and worry how they see you when you’re around them?
Especially now in a time when the media tells you there needs to be a specific way to dress, talk, and act for people to like you, it’s almost wired in us that we’ve all got to be these perfect little members of society that blend in with the crowd, as if we all came from a perfect little mold. God forbid you do something out of the ordinary — then you’ll be the “weird” one. Screw that. Change your mindset — this is me, I’ve got my quirky traits but I’d rather people like me, quirks and all, than like the version of me that desperately tries to fit into that mold.
At the end of the day, life is short. Don’t spend it worrying about others and what they think; live your life! Focus on your goals in life and pleasing yourself, not others. Worrying too much about what others think means you’re leaving your happiness and life up to someone else. I’m not saying you can rid yourself of any worries — but learn to not focus on them, but improving yourself instead, and trust me, you’ll be happier for it.
You are the author of your life story, and constantly worrying what others think hands the pen over to them.
Thanks for reading! As always, constructive feedback is always welcome 🙂