Why do i care so much about what others think

Why Do I Care so Much About What Other People Think?

Charlotte Howard, a therapist at Deep Eddy Psychotherapy in Austin, TX, talks about why it is healthy to care about what other people think, as long as we have a way to properly grieve any hurt feelings and do not change solely based on external opinions.


Caring About What Others Think Is Healthy

It’s really healthy to care about what others think of us. That is a normal human response. We want closeness with others and we care about them, so of course we care about what they think and we care about our relationship with them.

It’s very healthy to care how we’re viewed. What becomes hurtful to us is to change ourselves based on that. It’s much more healthy to be yourself and, of course, it’s sad if someone rejects that, but we can grieve and then we can go on.

There’s plenty of people who will love our real self and we can find them. It’s healthy to care, but not to change who we are based on that.

Does counseling help with that? Does it work? When I have these things that seem like they’re happening to me that are outside my control, what could therapy do?

For instance, if I’ve had a lot of negative feedback coming my way from people at my work, how can therapy help me in a situation like that?

Therapy can help you discern and ask, “Is this feedback great feedback for me to learn from and grow?” People do reflect back to us really important things that we need to know. For instance, “Oh you’re coming across as really cold. No one in the workplace wants to be with you.” That’s very valuable feedback—it might hurt my feelings, but I really need that information and I’m so glad to have it.

What part is true? What part is not?

When that happens, the part that wants to shut down needs shoring up. That’s something that you could look at in therapy and have a therapist say, “Oh, that must’ve been so hard to hear. Let’s look at it together. What part is true? What part is not? What do you think this is about?”

A good therapist can really help you navigate how to deal with rejection and other feedback you’re getting that feels like too much. They can also give you feedback, when it’s necessary, like, “Wow, this relationship seems toxic. Do you need my help setting boundaries with this person and getting this person out of your life?”

Let a Therapist Be Your Second Opinion

Sometimes we need a second opinion and someone that cares about us to look at the things in our life with us–someone who can help us decide whether we need to open, to learn and grow, or if we need to say, “This isn’t healthy.” That’s one of many roles a good therapist will play in your life.

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How Not to Worry About What Others Think of You

Over the course of teaching for more than 15 years, I have experienced many embarrassing moments. One occurred last year when I failed to switch off my lapel mic during a bathroom break for a class. (Thankfully, I used the washbasin and not the toilet.) Not switching off the mic wasn’t a grave mistake, of course. And yet, I felt quite embarrassed.

Embarrassment, and the related emotion of shame, arise when we violate a moral code or an expected standard. Thus, we feel embarrassed and ashamed when we are caught cheating on an exam or when we do badly on it. These emotions arise when we wonder how poorly others must think of us.

Embarrassment and shame aren’t pleasant to experience. But they do serve a useful purpose. Studies show that we are likely to be more considerate and kind, and also more likely to be motivated to correct past mistakes when we experience embarrassment or shame. So, at one level, it’s a good thing that we care so much about what others think of us.

But what’s also true is that most of us are guilty of worrying too much about what others think of us. Studies show that we consistently overestimate how much, and how badly, others think about our failings. An unfortunate consequence of this is that we are far more inhibited and far less spontaneous and joyful than we could be.

The good news is that many of us seem to recognize this problem. In my happiness course, I sometimes ask students to list all the things they want to get out of the class. The outcome that consistently ranks at the top of this list: I would like to learn how to stop being bothered by what others are thinking of me.

How do we stop being bothered by what others think of us?

I have discovered that the following three principles can help.

Operate from other-centeredness

As I commented in another post, we are a painfully social species. For example, as many as four out of five processes going on in the background of the brain are about our relationships with others. We care so much about others because our happiness depends on the quality of our relationships. One study found that every last person in the happiest 10 percent of the participants had at least one intimate relationship; so, if you want to belong to the happiest 10 percent, great relationships are not a luxury—it’s a necessity. Similarly, another study found that the top 2 of 25 activities that we routinely do—like eating, driving, socializing, working—involve other people.

So, there’s a good reason we worry about what others think of us. We want to be in their good books so that we can develop and nurture our relationships with them. Our worrying about what others think of us stems from the fear that we may be bereft of friends or intimacy. This fear can, in some instances, be useful. As I mentioned earlier, embarrassment and shame can motivate us to behave in a more considerate or appropriate manner, increasing the chances that others like us.

But if the fear is too high, it can also be counterproductive. Constantly wondering whether others like us enough can evoke anxiety, leading to neediness and insecurity, which in turn drive others away from us. This can propel a vicious cycle, resulting ultimately in a loss of self-respect and social alienation.

One way to break this vicious cycle is to operate from a place of other-centeredness, rather than self-centeredness. If you are consistently kind and considerate, then you will worry less about what others think of you. There are two reasons why. First, others will naturally like you more when you are kind and considerate; so, you won’t need to worry as much about what others think of you.

Second, even if your actions are misinterpreted or lead to unforeseen negative outcomes—the road to hell, after all, is paved with good intentions—you will know that your intentions were benign. This will give you the mental freedom to worry less about what others think of you.

Is it worth becoming more other-centered just to stop worrying about what others think of you? Here is good news: Being other-centered is not just a happiness booster, but also a success booster. Specifically, you are more likely to be successful if you are a giver, rather than a taker.

Recognize that hurt people hurt people

That's not a typo: Hurt people do hurt people. Even if you do your best to be kind and considerate, you may still be judged negatively by others. This is not a reflection of your failings; rather, it is a reflection of where others are coming from. People often behave in the only way they know. Recognizing this can help you become a little more compassionate towards others, and thereby, lower your worry about what others think of you.

That said, however, this principle—of discounting the negative judgments of others—should be applied with caution. As we know from numerous findings on the self-serving bias, it’s easy to blame others for one’s own failings. So, you will want to make sure that you aren’t brushing aside your real shortcomings just to make yourself feel better. It’s important to be brutally honest with yourself: Was I truly considerate and kind? Or, am I being delusional about it?

The third thing you could do to stop being bothered by what others think of you: Develop attentional control.

Develop attentional control

Sometimes, you may realize that others’ negative judgments of you are justified: you simply screwed up. But that doesn’t mean that you have to wallow in embarrassment and shame forever. The Catholics have a nifty way of getting rid of unproductive embarrassment and shame: confessing to a priest. But if you aren't lucky enough to be Catholic, you can practice what researchers call attentional control.

Attentional control is what it sounds like: being able to control what you pay attention to. It involves practicing the ability to direct your attention to those things on which you wish to focus, and away from those things on which you do not wish to focus.

Perhaps the best way to practice attentional control is through mindfulness. Although mindfulness does not work for everyone, it is still a very powerful way of developing attentional control, as I can attest from personal experience. The one downside to mindfulness is that it can take quite long—a few weeks at least—to start seeing progress. But I think the time is well worth it, and the sooner you begin, the better off you are. Another side benefit of mindfulness is that you develop greater self-awareness, which can be useful in preventing self-delusion.

If you wish to try out a mindfulness exercise, here’s one called presence practice that my good friend, Vijay Bhat, developed for my Coursera course on happiness. You’ll find it particularly useful if you lead a harried, stressful life, and have never practiced mindfulness.

If you don’t find mindfulness palatable or useful, there is an alternative for developing attentional control: plunging yourself into action. As Goethe famously said, “action has magic, power, and grace to it.” One reason why action has magic, power, and grace is that it helps you focus your attention on the goals that you are trying to accomplish, rather than on what others are thinking of you.

But what type of action should you take to focus your attention away from what others are thinking of you?

I would suggest doing those things that help you nurture your other-centered—kind and compassionate—side. Do a random act of kindness. Or write a letter of gratitude. Or, do those things that get you into what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls flow.

Worrying too much about what others think of you can be debilitating. But these three things can help:

  • Operating more consistently from other-centeredness
  • Recognizing that hurt people hurt people
  • Developing attentional control can help you overcome this tendency to worry

How to stop worrying about what others think of you

January 31, 2021 A life

You can spend your whole life worrying about other people's opinions. Or you can become smarter and save yourself a lot of nerves.

You can listen to this article. If it's more convenient for you, turn on the podcast.

Why do we care about other people's opinion

Each person wants to please others, dreams of being attractive in the eyes of others. Many constantly monitor their Facebook* and Instagram* pages, counting likes and comments. To please others is a desire that came into being with us. nine0003

As we grow older, we learn to separate our thoughts and emotions from the opinions of others, but many of us continue to seek, and in some cases, ask others for approval of our actions. This can lead to serious problems, especially when it comes to self-esteem and happiness. Recently, a survey was conducted, in which 3,000 people took part. 67% of the respondents admitted that their self-esteem directly depends on the opinions of other people.

We react to everything that surrounds us. We have long-held expectations about how the world should work and how the people who inhabit it should behave. And one of our well-established beliefs is that we know how other people should react to us, to our appearance and behavior. nine0003

About 100 years ago, sociologist Charles Cooley developed the theory of the mirror self, which is:

I am not what I think of myself, and I am not what others think of me. I am what I think about what others think of me.

This proves once again how much importance we attach to other people's opinions.

However, we forget that other people often judge us on the basis of their past experiences, habits, feelings - everything that has nothing to do with us. Therefore, basing self-esteem on the opinions of other people is very unreliable. nine0003

When you completely rely on the evaluation of other people, you try in every way to please them, rise in their eyes, and eventually lose your "I".

But there is good news: we can stop this. We can become self-sufficient and not look at others, wondering how they evaluate our every step.

How not to worry about other people's opinions

1. Remind yourself that many people don't think about you at all

We'd be less worried about what others think of us if we realized how rarely they do. do. nine0003

Ethel Barrett


Nothing could be closer to the truth than this statement. Other people have better things to do than sit and think about you. If it seems to you that someone thinks badly of you, mentally criticizes you, stop: maybe this is a figment of your imagination? Perhaps this is just an illusion that is fueled by your inner fears and self-doubt. If you constantly engage in self-flagellation, it will become a real problem that will poison your whole life. nine0003

2. Think with your head

Sit down and in a calm atmosphere think about the place in your life that other people's opinions occupy. Think about situations in which the evaluations of others are meaningful to you. Determine how you respond to them. If you understand that the assessments and opinions of others determine your self-esteem, then consider changing your behavior model.

Say to yourself: "Instead of relying on others again, I will learn to listen and hear my own thoughts and think exclusively with my own head." Learn to cut off unnecessary noise, to separate the wheat from the chaff. The more often you do this, the faster it will become a habit. nine0003

The ultimate goal of all this is to never let the opinions of others determine who you are and how you live. Understand that no one will ever be able to make you feel like a "little man" unless you yourself give him this power.

3. Feel Free - Don't Seek What Others Think of You

When people start putting their creations out in public, such as blogging, they often worry about whether others will like you. They worry even more when they torment themselves with thoughts that other people do not like their work. Until one day they realize how much strength and energy they spend on these useless experiences. nine0003

Have a new mantra that you repeat to yourself day after day:

This is my life, my choices, my mistakes and my lessons. I shouldn't care what others think about it.

4. Pay attention to what really matters

People will always think what they want. You cannot control the thoughts of others. Even if you choose your words carefully and have excellent manners, this does not mean that you will be good for everyone. Everything can be misinterpreted and turned upside down. nine0003

What really matters is how you rate yourself. Therefore, when making important decisions, try to be 100% true to your beliefs and values. Never be afraid to do what you think is right.

Begin by listing 5-10 qualities that are important to you. For example:

  • honesty;
  • self-respect;
  • self-discipline;
  • compassion;
  • focus on success and so on.

If you have a list like this, you will be much less likely to make unbalanced decisions, you will have a system of principles and, ultimately, you will have something to respect yourself for.

5. Stop thinking that not being liked by someone is the end of the world

What if they don't like me? What if the person I care about refuses me? What if I am considered a black sheep? These and similar questions too often torment people. Remember: if someone doesn't like you, and even if the person you care about doesn't feel the same way about you, it's not the end of the world. nine0003

But we continue to be afraid of this mythical "end of the world" and allow our fears to get the best of us, while we ourselves constantly feed them.

Ask yourself: “If my fears come true and the worst happens, what will I do?” Tell yourself a story (or better yet, write it down) about how you will feel after the rejection, how disappointed you will be, and then you will realize that this is a negative, but still experience, and you will move on. This simple exercise will help you understand that not being liked by someone is not so scary. nine0003

Read also 🧐

  • Why you should not share your goals with others
  • How to stop pleasing others: 5 steps to independence
  • The paradox of tolerance: why you can't put up with someone else's opinion all the time

*Activity of Meta Platforms Inc. and its social networks Facebook and Instagram are prohibited in the territory of the Russian Federation.

7 ways to stop caring about other people's opinions0003

Humans are social beings. We strive to experience a sense of belonging and community. It is important for us to have a support network of friends and family with whom we can talk about problems in difficult times. But it is equally important to maintain your independent thoughts, interests, and sense of individuality.

Let's say you like Hawaiian pizza and your friend prefers vegetarian pizza. You have different opinions, but this does not mean that someone is wrong. Giving too much importance to what others think of your choices will confuse and confuse you. You will never be able to please all people from all sides. The sooner you accept yourself for who you are, the sooner you will drop the mask and stop worrying about what others think. Here are seven tips to help you listen to your inner voice, be yourself, and put aside other people's judgments. nine0003

1. Make a list of your top ten values ​​

Sometimes other people's opinions confuse or convince you because you yourself are not sure of your own beliefs, principles and values ​​in life. Take the time to figure out what moves and inspires you and why these factors are so important to you. Perhaps your main value is freedom, while others value stability and predictability. The main thing is not to condemn yourself for other values, you have the right to defend ideals, like any other person. nine0003

2. Write down your unique qualities

Build your confidence by noting your most interesting qualities. Perhaps you are shy of some hobbies or aspirations, drop it. Instead, think about how these qualities make you unique. When you realize the value of the components of your personality, you will stop worrying too much about the opinions of others. Be brave and follow what makes you happy. Everything else will fall into place.

3. Say what you think

When talking to friends or colleagues, stand your ground when it comes to values ​​or beliefs that are important to you. When someone argues with you, it's easy to be tempted to give in. Do not do that. Speak what you believe. Over time, you will notice that the difference of views makes the conversation more interesting. Discussing different opinions will not necessarily lead to conflict or lead to the fact that people do not like you. When you stay true to yourself while facing other opinions, you gain confidence in yourself and your beliefs. Feel free to be yourself and do not apologize for it, and then others will begin to appreciate your individuality. nine0003

4. Live in the present

Be mindful in everyday life. Often in different situations, we spend time worrying about what others think, and completely miss the moment. As a result, we find ourselves distracted or disinterested. If you find yourself drifting off in a negative direction during a conversation, try to gently bring yourself back to the present moment. To do this, focus on your breath and the sensory sensations around you: what do you hear, what smells do you smell? When you begin to live more consciously, worries about other people's opinions will dissipate, and you will be able to perceive what is happening in a more positive light. nine0003

5. Find inspirational role models

It's hard to ignore the gossip behind your back when you're feeling lonely. Perhaps you want to be an artist, a blogger, or a world traveler. Whichever path you choose, try to find people who have already walked it. This will make you feel more confident and positive as you pursue your goal. Maybe the people around you do not understand your aspirations, but there is surely a person in the world who is already living the life of your dreams. Instead of being jealous of such people, use their stories as fuel. Study the lives of inspiring people through their biographies, articles, or social media pages to remind yourself that your dreams can come true. nine0003

6. Be skeptical of everything

It's no coincidence that people repeat this expression so often. If you take other people's opinions too personally, you will get bogged down in a thousand different ideas about how to live. There are too many lifestyles, ideologies and points of view in the world. Of course, it's important to stay open to new ideas and other points of view, but it's also important to disconnect from it all at times. Remember that people speak and act based solely on their experience and understanding. Each of us has our own unique path. nine0003

7. Get on with your life

Social media constantly tempts us to “peep into the neighborhood”. We relentlessly compete with each other, like in the movie "Jones Family". For many people, social media has become a source of endless anxiety and public pressure. Of course, sometimes scrolling through Instagram (an extremist organization banned in Russia) is exciting, but try to be cool about it. Remember that people post only the brightest and most positive moments of their lives. Write about what turns you on and don't get hung up on comparing yourself to others. If you are sincere and real, over time a “tribe” of those who love you just like that will form around you. nine0003

Text: Zhanna Omelyanenko Photo source: Getty Images

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