Caring Too Much About Other People (and what they think)
We all do it at times. Care far too much about what other think of us, that is. It’s one of the most common things that I work with clients on, and so the same comments come up time and time again.
“What if people think this is stupid?”
“People will think I’m arrogant if I do that.”
“I’m always thinking about what this will look like to other people.”
As humans we’re social creatures, and getting approval from other people is a very normal thing to aspire to. Social media makes it very easy to seek that these days, but it also opens the floodgates to who sees our lives and that’s a far more scary idea than “only” your close friends and family. (Sometimes close friends and family are the people you’re most worried about, and we’ll get to that.)
It’s overwhelming at times, and once the “what will people think?” self talk starts, it’s so much harder to keep walking your path, but I’m here to say that I think it’s incredibly important that you do, and here’s a few reasons why.
You’re being held back
When you give more importance to what others think than what YOU think about YOUR own life, then you’re holding yourself back. There are no guarantees that what you choose to do for yourself will automatically work out. You may still get rejected for a job you apply for, but if you want to go for it and apply for a job, then you absolutely should.
How else will you know what is possible for you if you don’t go for it? Why should someone else get to decide what you do?
You’re prioritising other people ahead of yourself
You can’t please all the people all the time, so who should you try to please first?
The reality is that when you don’t do something because of what other could think, then you’re putting someone else’s happiness ahead of your own. Take the job example again. If you don’t apply for something because you think people will think you’ve got ideas above your station, then what you’re really doing is playing small so you don’t upset anyone else.
Of course everyone hasn’t got the same skills and opportunities at the same time. There is a chance that some people will be a bit cheesed off to see you succeed. However, if they are, that’s their problem. It’s not your job to live a small life in order to make people around you feel better. Even if it does make some people feel better, are you really prepared to live a small life to keep them happy?
Most of the time, you’re making assumptions
I might hesitate before I press “post” on an Instagram post, or as I sit down to write because I can imagine what people might say about me, but that’s only because I’m making up stories in my head. Really I have no idea what my friends, family or strangers on the internet think about what I post and do.
When I worry that people are judging me for how I spend my time, that’s more about how I feel about ME/CFS and insecurities I have.
When I assume people will think I’m not creative enough to write a book, that’s my own insecurities about my creativity coming to the surface.
I don’t know exactly what people think of me. They rarely tell me, and 99.5% of the bad things I’ve imagined have never happened. Hardly ever in my life have the people around me told me the things that I have worried about. The vast majority is in my head.
As I said earlier, sometimes we worry about what those closest to us think. If you have people close to you who are openly not supportive of your choices then you might need to think about how much information you give them about what you’re doing, and how you respond. Just because someone is dismissive of you, doesn’t mean you have to accept it. “I appreciate that you have a different opinion on this, but I’m doing what I think is best for me,” could be a good response to repeat when you’re met with objections. Often our closest friends and family think they know us really well and believe they are protecting us from harm by pointing out all the things that could go wrong. However, I know that once we’re adults, they don’t always know us as well as they think.
What you can do about it
Next time you feel that pause as you’re doing something, ask yourself “Do I know this or am I assuming this?” Are you worried about what people think, or what they might think?
There’s a huge difference there, and holding yourself back and playing small because of what someone MIGHT think of you? It’s just not worth it. Just think of all the things you could miss out on in your life, because of what someone else MIGHT think!
Who’s opinions truly matter to you? There may be just a couple of people in your life who know you really well and who you trust in this way. Maybe it’s just one. For me, I know that if what I’m doing is making me happy and proud and my husband supports it then I’m happy with that. It’s easy to wonder what my friends and family think but when I feel myself wandering into this territory, I make myself stop.
Because they don’t really understand what I do and so their opinions (or what MIGHT be their opinions) don’t count. Does that sound harsh? Perhaps. It’s just that this is my business, my creativity and my life. So most of the time, it doesn’t matter if they approve of what I put on social media or how I approach my work. Just like it’s not my business how they conduct themselves at work, in their relationships or online.
Try making yourself a little list of people whose opinions really matter to you in different areas of yourself. You may surprise yourself with who is on their and how short they really are. Keep that list close by, especially when you’re working on something that brings up these feelings!
Any more suggestions?
Of course this isn’t something you’re going to shift overnight but, as is often the case, noticing when that self talk tips in “what will people think?” is really valuable, so start there.
Notice what happens when you think that. Do you stop what you’re doing/delete the post/close the laptop etc? Do you sabotage your work, tell yourself it’ll never be good enough or go off and watch Netflix instead? Consider challenging yourself to do the uncomfortable things for the next week regardless of what you think others might say, and see how you feel then. The world will not end and you may feel a lot better for taking action anyway!
Want to work together on this?
If you feel as though you’d benefit from some one to one time on this, then make sure you sign up for my newsletter and be the first to know when coaching spots open up again. Just click here and head to the bottom of the page.