It is human nature to care about what other people think. However, there is a happy medium here. When we care too much about what other people think, we may lose our sense of self. If we allow every opinion we hear to penetrate our psyche, we risk becoming trapped in inertia.
You have the right to disregard the thoughts of everyone around you. People will always give you their opinion, but you control how this lands. Do you take it in and let it settle in your soul, or do you allow it to slide off without causing you to pretzel yourself up?
This article will outline the pros and cons of caring about what other people think. We will also suggest five tips to help you break this habit.
- What does it mean to care about what others think?
- The benefits of not caring about what others think
- 5 ways to stop caring about what others think
- Wrapping up
What does it mean to care about what others think?
A certain amount of caring about what other people think is healthy; otherwise, let’s be honest - you would be a sociopath. But when you care too much about what other people think, it can become consuming and damaging.
Caring about what other people think starts from a very young age. But let’s look at the turbulent teenage years. The teenage years are when we figure out our identity and find our place in the world.
Wearing the “right” shoes and following the “right” fashion is essential for teenagers to feel like they fit in and are liked. This need for acceptance can cause teenagers to place undue importance on the opinions and thoughts of their peers.
If others disagree with you or hold contrary opinions, leaving you feeling unhappy or unsafe, you may be an approval seeker. Being an approval seeker has many symptoms, including shame when others dislike or question your work.
If you are someone who cares too much about what other people think, you have likely spent too long in rumination cycles. But the likelihood is that once they purge their unsolicited opinion onto us, they move on. We are the ones left caught in the trap. And if we care too much about the opinions of others, this can weigh us down.
The benefits of not caring about what others think
The actress Meryl Streep once said, “The minute you start caring about what other people think is the minute you stop being yourself.”
Streep summarises this in a nutshell. We lose ourselves when we care too much about what others think.
The period when I was most disconnected from myself corresponds with the time I cared most about what others thought. I put all my actions through the filter of what other people would think instead of listening to myself. This lack of intuition caused me deep suffering and discomfort.
Since I’ve learned to shake off my attachment to other people’s thoughts and opinions, I’ve learned to live a more authentic and happier life.
Since learning to let go of the thoughts and opinions of other people, I have experienced an increase in positive psychology, including:
- Increased self-esteem.
- Greater self-confidence.
- Deeper self-acceptance.
- Reduction in people-pleasing habits.
- Alleviated anxiety symptoms.
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5 ways to stop caring about what others think
Until we shake off the hold that other people’s opinions have on us, we will forever be living an unsatisfying and perhaps frustrating life.
It’s time to learn how to kick other people out of your head and give yourself the space to nurture your own thoughts and ideas.
Here are five ways to help you stop caring about what others think.
1. Back yourself and know your worth
I’m still learning to back myself. I’m a work in progress, but I’m making ground, and you can too. When we back ourselves, we recognize our abilities and believe in ourselves. Instead of shooting ourselves down, we set ourselves challenges and back ourselves with faith that we will achieve them.
When I didn’t know how to back myself up, I allowed other people’s opinions to illuminate my self-doubt. I can still hear some of the words that have previously stopped me from showing up in life unapologetically as myself.
- “Do you really think you are cut out for that job?”
- “What do you even see in him?”
- “Why would you bother spending that time on that?”
- “I’m not interested in that, but go for it if you are.”
Believe in yourself and back yourself like you would a friend.
2. You are not for everyone
One prevailing takeaway from the book Not Nice by Dr. Aziz Gazipura is that I am not for everyone, and neither are you. Some people will love you, and others won’t; it’s that simple. And when we accept this, we can stop placing such pressure on ourselves to be celebrated by everyone.
When we accept that we are not for everyone, we claim the space to accept being disliked. And when we are comfortable with other people not liking us, we learn to be comfortable with rejecting their thoughts and opinions.
I worked with a colleague with whom I didn’t vibe for several years. But me being me, despite not warming to her myself, I went to extreme lengths to win her favor. It was exhausting. Once I accepted that I am not for everyone, it was an enormous relief. I no longer sought her approval or interaction.
Once I stopped caring about her liking me, I let her thoughts and opinions cascade to the floor. It was freeing.
3. Practice self-love and acceptance
It may sound kooky, but it is true. The more we practice self-love and honor ourselves, the more we can reject the thoughts and opinions of other people.
I’m not a controversial person, yet the way I live does not conform with the majority. For instance, I am vegan, and I am child-free. Both of these lifestyle choices invoke critical opinions from other people.
I am living in alignment with my values and ethics. Yes, others have opinions on my choices, but that doesn’t make them right. If I were to betray myself and listen to those who don’t even know me, I would only cause myself suffering.
When we practice self-love and accept ourselves, we learn to honor ourselves and stay true to our own path.
When you love and accept yourself as you are, you are less inclined to be influenced by the thoughts and opinions of other people.
4. It’s not all about you
I hate to break it to you, but a lot of what we think is in our heads. We aren’t the star of the show for other people, just like other people aren’t the star of our show.
There’s an interesting phenomenon called the spotlight effect, which makes us believe people are paying us more attention than they are. It can be both negative and positive.
For instance, I was away on a training weekend with another 30 runners. I was in charge of organizing an ice-breaker quiz. I made a silly mistake and spent the rest of the evening thinking others thought negatively of me. The feedback showed they all enjoyed it and laughed off my stupid mistake.
A while ago, my friend tripped over, walking into a pub. She was mortified and spent the rest of the evening thinking the whole pub was laughing at her. The reality is no one noticed or paid any attention.
5. Choose your tribe wisely
Be selective about who you grace with your energy. Of course, there will be those you can’t evade, such as colleagues and some family members; this is where boundaries come in.
Remove yourself as much as possible from over-critical people. You may also find it helpful to use verbal boundaries such as, “I appreciate your feedback, but I’m not looking for your opinion on this.”
Your tribe also extends to your social media accounts. While I’m not encouraging you to surround yourself with an echo chamber, you don’t need to feel constricted in your online space by the thoughts and views of others. Feel free to block, unfollow or mute. Believe me; this will bring instant relief!
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We all care about what other people think to some extent. But the trick is to make sure that we only allow the opinions of our chosen few to land on us, and we can disregard the rest. It’s hard not to care what others think, but with a bit of practice, you can learn to lighten the burden of the thoughts and opinions of other people.
Don’t forget our top five tips for helping yourself care less about what others think.
- Back yourself and know your worth.
- You are not for everyone
- Practice self-love and acceptance.
- It’s not all about you.
- Choose your tribe wisely.
What other techniques do you use to stop caring too much about what other people think? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!