“Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living the result of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other opinions drown your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” - Steve Jobs
There’s no disputing it, we care what other people think about us. A co-worker makes a snarky comment towards you and you ruminate about it for the rest of the day, wondering what you could have done to offend her. A friend invites you to an event and you’d rather stay at home and relax after a long week, but you force yourself to go because you do not want him to be mad at you. An acquaintance makes a joke about your significant other, which puts you in a bad mood and you play over in your head, what you wish you would have said to him.
Whether we are aware of it, others influence our thoughts, feelings, and decisions. Human beings have a strong motivation to feel accepted by others. This biological need stems back to our ancestors in which belonging to a group helped increase chances for survival. If you belonged to a group, this would ensure such things as food and protection. Of course when we take to heart what others think about us, this can be positive as well, depending on the person and the influence that he or she has. As adults, we care what our closest friends and family think of us and want to be held in positive regard by them. If the relationship is healthy, this may influence us in positive ways by making sure that we maintain a certain friendship or that we leave someone feeling cared about.
However, caring what others think about can become unhealthy when it causes to make unhealthy decisions that are not congruent with our values or when we start to make decision based on attempts to make others happy. When we place a larger importance on what others think than trusting ourselves, this may be influenced by early experiences. For example, if you grew up not feeling accepted or validated by a parent or caregiver, you may go through life trying to gain the acceptance that you never received. While we can’t control the past or the environments in which we grew up in, we can control what we pay attention to and how we respond to others.
1. We have no control over what other people think of us.
No mater what we do or say, we will never receive acceptance from everyone. We can try to do and say everything “perfectly,” but this will not only drive you crazy and leave you feeling exhausted, it will also not lead to acceptance from everyone. When others do not like us or say hurtful things to us, it usually has more to do with them and very little to do with us. While we don’t have control over what others think, we can control the extent to how we let it affect us.
2. What we perceive others think about us can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
If we think that we are viewed a certain way by others, we still start to become that. Our thinking influences our behavior, so if we think that we are perceived a certain way, we will start to behave in ways that make it true. The problem is our perceptions may not align with how we are actually viewed by others and we may start to live an inauthentic life.
3. People do not care as much as we think they do.
Go through a day and notice how often you focus on what others are doing and saying. You will probably realize that you are more concerned with your own actions than by what others are doing. The truth is, we notice our own perceived flaws more than anyone else does.
4. What is the worst case scenario?
When you find yourself worrying that someone is thinking negatively about you, ask yourself what is the worst thing that could happen as a result? If they were thinking negatively of you, ask yourself what would then happen? What is the worst thing that could happen and how likely is this to actually happen? Would their thinking affect the most important things in your life, such as your relationships, your values, your passion? Even if people think negatively of us, this does not have the power to cause direct harm to us.