Wanting to feel accepted by others around you is a natural desire. But, when you start to care more about what others think about you then you think about yourself, you might start to allow others to assign meaning to your life. Untangling how others feel vs. you we feel will enable you to break free from anxiety, live a more authentic life, and learn how to stop caring what people think about you.
Why Do People Worry About What Other People Think of Them?
If you find yourself spending a lot of energy worrying about what others think, don’t be too hard on yourself. Caring what people think is a fundamental part of human DNA. As human beings, we are naturally social creatures who rely on others for companionship and inspiration. The feeling of wanting to belong is entirely natural. Our ancestors relied on group inclusion to help protect them and their offspring from danger, thus increasing our survival rate. Therefore, isolation from the group meant higher mortality rates.
In our modern world, we no longer have to face the consistent threat of an animal attack like our ancestors, but the need for social inclusion is deeply rooted in human existence. Michael Formica, LPC states, “today, our greatest predatory threat is our own species, both physically and socially.” This shift in threat has caused us to put a greater emphasis on what we perceive others are thinking of us. Worrying too much about others’ opinions can lead to negative symptoms to our mental health such as anxiety, depression, people-pleasing, lack of boundaries, and codependency.
How to Stop Caring What Others Think
Reduce Emotional Reasoning
Emotional reasoning is a process in which negative thoughts inform how we feel about ourselves and others. When emotional reasoning takes over, the negative thoughts are taken as factual regardless of any evidence to the contrary. Operating based on adverse emotions alone may lead to cognitive distortions such as magnification, all-or-nothing thinking, and catastrophizing.
Are you stuck in a spiral of negative thoughts that feel bad and ultimately are not serving you? Stop the spiral by questioning your thoughts. The first step to reducing cognitive distortions is to be aware of your anxious thoughts and pay attention to how you internalize those feelings. When you examine our anxious thoughts, you can start to interpret events accurately rather than using emotional reasoning. Healthy thoughts lead to less mental energy used worrying about what others think.
When you befriend yourself, it can become easier to internalize that it truly doesn’t matter what others think of you. By understanding who you are and what you want out of life, you will naturally come to rely less on other people’s opinions around your choices and decisions.
Psychiatrist Abigail Brenner, M.D. states that to befriend yourself is to know yourself. Knowing your values and goals helps you identify your needs to create the life you want. Dr. Brenner encourages individuals to check in with themselves to see if they are happy with their life decisions, relationships, and goals. By doing weekly check-ins with yourself, the less you will need others to make and validate choices for you.
When we are too worried about what others think about us, we can tend to make ourselves small and close ourselves off from new opportunities. Showing vulnerability means understanding that all humans are flawed and make mistakes. Try that new hobby you always wanted but were too scared to fail or interview for that job you always dreamed of but never thought you were qualified for. Growth rarely happens when we are complacent.
Theodore Roosevelt said it best “comparison is the thief of joy.” In our social media-obsessed world, it’s difficult not to compare yourself to others. Engaging in an unhealthy amount of comparison robs us of our creativity and spark for life.
Decreasing comparison can start with being mindful of how we spend time on social media. Stop over scrolling by putting time limits on your phone use or engaging in more activities that take you off your phone screen—Unfollow or mute accounts that cause you to compare yourself in unhealthy ways.
It’s important to remember that what others present outside does not always depict what’s happening inside. Take time to reflect that everyone is on their own unique paths. The less time we spend comparing ourselves to others, the more energy we will have to live authentically.
Find Your Group
Caring too much about what others think of you can make you feel like a social chameleon who’s always changing yourself to fit the needs of others. Accepting that not everyone will like you is the first step to authenticity. Don’t waste energy trying to conform to others people’s norms and expectations. The more authentic you are in social situations, the more you will attract other like-minded individuals.
The first part of self-acceptance is letting go of the idea that you need to be “perfect” to gain others’ love and respect. We are all deeply flawed, and perfection is just an illusion. Owning our flaws allows others to relate to us on a humanistic level. Leon Seltzer, Ph.D., discusses, “self-acceptance has nothing to do with self-improvement. It isn’t about “fixing” anything in ourselves. With self-acceptance, we’re just affirming who we are, with whatever strengths and weaknesses we possess.”
Create a list of all your strengths and weaknesses. Take time to look over your list and what prompted those answers. Look over your weaknesses without trying to change them. How might your life improve by accepting your flaws? By making peace with parts of ourselves that have been previously shamed, we no longer have to fear others’ judgment.
Living Life For Yourself
We are social creatures; therefore, we will never entirely stop caring what others think of us. However, by looking inward to determine how we feel rather than outside validation, we start to live our life for ourselves. As we feel more comfortable in our skin, we will find others who value and care about us for exactly who we are and what we appreciate about life. Showing ourselves compassion leads to self-acceptant and authenticity.