Five secrets to help you worry less about other people’s opinions

community personal development relationships shame Oct 10, 2018
rainbow in front of waterfall

I have watched far too many people try to fit themselves into a life that makes them miserable simply because they are too worried about other people’s opinions.

We spend so much of our lives in the futile attempt to control other people’s opinions of us.  Ask yourself honestly, how much of your life do you spend worrying about what other people might think about you or your actions?  Do you like your answer?

If not, the first thing I want to say is ‘don’t be too hard on yourself.’  The fear of rejection from the group is a basic and primitive fear for all of us, whether introvert or extrovert.

Approval seeking is a pattern of behaviour that was probably encouraged in you from a very young age and it is probably one that has served you well for many years.  But if you are ready to live a life you truly love, you will have to graduate from spending so much time worrying about other people’s opinions and I hope that this blog post will support you to take your first steps in that direction.


Secret #1 – People’s approval or disapproval of you actually has nothing to do with you

I want you to imagine that you are giving a talk to a group of ten people.  If your words and actions were what determined other people’s opinions about you, then all tend of those people would have the same opinion about you.  After all, you looked the same and you said the same things to each of those ten people so surely they should all come to the same conclusions?  But that never happens, does it?

In real life, the chances are that each of these ten people would have a different opinion of you.  And the reasons for this have nothing to do with you.  Maybe they already knew a lot about the topic and found your talk boring or maybe they knew nothing about it and were completely confused by what you said.  Maybe you looked like someone they really dislike and they transferred some of that dislike on to you.  Or maybe you reminded them of their best friend and so they instantly liked you.

The factors that determine other people’s opinions about you actually have far more to do with factors that are completely outside of your control than they do with your words and actions.

There will always be some people who like you and some people who don’t.  You have not control at all over this.  When you try and act in a way that you think will cause someone to like you, all you are doing is making it harder for the people who would always have liked the authentic you anyway to get to know you as you really are.


Secret #2 – What other people think is none of your business

This is true regardless of whether we’re talking about other people’s opinions about you or anyone else. It’s none of your business.  Other people have the right to maintain the privacy of their own thoughts.

Even if someone tells you what they think of you, we never really know if they’re being honest to us or to themselves.  You’ve probably had that thought before and felt a little paranoid, but I intend for it to be a liberating thought.

When you make decisions based on what other people might think, all you’re actually doing is making decisions based on what you think they might think.  And when we say it like that, doesn’t it sound like a slightly ridiculous reason for making decisions that don’t feel right to you!?

Here’s the truth: not only do people have the right to their own thoughts, they also have the complete right not to like you.  You don’t need to convince them to like you.  As the saying goes: “you can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.”  And that’s ok.  People have the right not to like peaches and people have the right now to like you.  Don’t take it so personally!


Secret #3 – You are the one causing your own pain

We get so scared of people not liking us, but the truth is that disapproval in and of itself doesn’t actually hurt us at all.

The only reason we want people to like us is because of what we choose to make it maen about us when they don’t.  For example, if someone doesn’t like us we often choose to make that means that we are unlikeable.  But does it really mean that?  Of course not!  It simply means that one person doesn’t like us and it would be impossible to make every single person like us anyway.

The same goes for any criticism that any person could ever give you.  If someone criticised a particular trait of yours, then you will only feel hurt by that criticism if (a) you agree that the trait is indeed negative and (b) you also believe that you possess this trait.

So, for example, if someone criticises you for being a dreamer, but you believe that being a dreamer is a good thing then you won’t feel hurt by the criticism.  Equally, if someone criticises you for being a dreamer but you know that you’re actually as practical and pragmatic as anyone could be, then you’ll probably just be amused by the criticism.  The criticism of being a dreamer will only hurt you if there is at least some part of you that agrees that this is a bad thing and that this is a trait that you possess.

And this is good news because it puts you right back in the driver’s seat!  There’s no need to build your life around other people’s opinions because, at the end of the day, it really is true that the only opinion that matters is your own.


Secret #4 – You only need to earn your own approval

The world we live in programmes us from childhood to engage in approval seeking behaviours, so it’s really no surprise that so many of us are worried about other people’s opinions.  But when we continue this behaviour, we are getting stuck in a state of emotional childhood.  In order to graduate into emotional adulthood, one of the necessary steps is to reorientate ourselves from seeking the approval of others to instead earning our own approval.

Ask yourself what you would be doing differently if you were no longer worried about other people’s opinions and instead were entirely focussed on earning your own respect.  Taking small steps in this direction will build up your self-confidence and self-respect and reduce your dependence on other people’s opinions.  At first, it may feel deeply uncomfortable but this one of those inconvenient situations where there really is no other way to do this than to start taking action even if it’s only baby steps.


Secret #5 – More people will like you when you stop worrying anyway

When you try and act in a certain way that you think other people will approve of, you don’t show up as yourself at all.  You show up as some inauthentic version of yourself, maybe even as someone who’s trying just a little too hard to fit in.  And let’s be honest, when we see that in someone else, we can usually see straight through it can’t we?  At best, the other person comes across as a bit needy and it doesn’t actually make us like them any more does it?

In contrast, when you show up to the world as your authentic self, two things start to happen.  Firstly, you make it easier for the people who genuinely like the authentic you to find you.  And, secondly, you unconsciously start giving other people permission to be their authentic selves too.  And together these two things create a space in which deeper and more fulfilling relationships are possible.  And that’s a much better recipe for a more fulfilling life!

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