Worried about people's opinions
How to Stop Caring What Other People Think of You
How to Build a Life
Our fears about what other people think of us are overblown and rarely worth fretting over.By Arthur C. BrooksJan Buchczik
“How to Build a Life” is a weekly column by Arthur Brooks, tackling questions of meaning and happiness. Click here to listen to his new podcast series on all things happiness, How to Build a Happy Life.
A friend of mine once shared what I considered a bit of unadulterated wisdom: “If I wouldn’t invite someone into my house, I shouldn’t let them into my head.” But that’s easier said than done. Social media has opened up our heads so that just about any trespasser can wander in. If you tweet whatever crosses your mind about a celebrity, it could quite possibly reach the phone in her hand as she sits on her couch in her house.
The real problem isn’t technology—it’s human nature. We are wired to care about what others think of us. As the Roman Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius observed almost 2,000 years ago, “We all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own,” whether they are friends, strangers, or enemies.
This tendency may be natural, but it can drive us around the bend if we let it. If we were perfectly logical beings, we would understand that our fears about what other people think are overblown and rarely worth fretting over. But many of us have been indulging this bad habit for as long as we can remember, so we need to take deliberate steps to change our minds.
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Paying attention to the opinions of others is understandable and, to a certain extent, rational. As the philosopher Richard Foley argues in his book Intellectual Trust in Oneself and Others, you trust your own opinions; your opinions are saturated with and shaped by those of others who are similar to you; therefore, you trust their opinions as well, whether you want to or not. Thus, if one of your co-workers says, “Squid Game is really great,” your opinion of the show will probably rise, at least a little bit.
Other people’s influence on your opinions about the world pales in comparison to their influence on your opinion of yourself. Evolution neatly explains why: For virtually all of human history, humans’ survival depended on membership in close-knit clans and tribes. Before the modern structures of civilization, such as police and supermarkets, being cast out from your group meant certain death from cold, starvation, or predators. This can easily explain why our sense of well-being includes others’ approbation, as well as why the human brain has evolved to activate the same neural substrates when we experience physical pain and when we face social rejection.
Unfortunately, the instinct to want the approval of others is woefully maladapted to modern life. Where once you would have justifiably felt the terror of being expelled onto the frozen tundra, today you might suffer acute anxiety that strangers online will “cancel” you for an ill-considered remark, or passersby will snap a photo of a poor outfit choice and mock it on Instagram for all to see.
In the worst cases, anxiety about the approval of others can blow up into a debilitating fear, a diagnosable psychological condition called “allodoxaphobia.” Even if it doesn’t become a mental illness, worrying about the opinions of others can lower your basic competence in ordinary tasks, such as making decisions. When you are thinking about what to do in a particular situation—say, whether to speak up in a group—a network in your brain that psychologists call the “behavioral inhibition system” (BIS) is naturally activated, which allows you to assess the situation and decide how to act (with a particular focus on the costs of acting inappropriately). When you have enough situational awareness, the BIS is deactivated and the “behavioral activation system” (BAS), which focuses on rewards, kicks in. But research from 2013 shows that concern about the opinions of others can keep BIS active, impairing your ability to take action. If you always leave an interaction kicking yourself over what you should have said—but didn’t—it may indicate that you are being unduly influenced by concern over what others think.
One reason we fear others’ opinions is because negative assessments can lead to shame, which is the feeling of being deemed worthless, incompetent, dishonorable, or immoral—and thus, given the weight we place on others’ opinions, feeling this way about ourselves. Fearing shame makes sense, because research clearly shows that feeling it is both a symptom of and a trigger for depression and anxiety. People will go to a lot of effort to avoid shame, which can explain behaviors such as virtue signaling on social media and giving money to strangers.
Just because our overconcern for other people’s opinions of us is natural doesn’t mean that it’s inevitable. The right goal for flourishing is not a complete disregard for the opinions of others. That would be abnormal and dangerous; this tendency could lead to “hubris syndrome” or even be evidence of antisocial personality disorder. But many of us could become better off if we learned to care a good deal less than we do. I recommend taking three steps.
1. Remind yourself thatno one cares.
The ironic thing about feeling bad about ourselves because of what people might think of us is that others actually have much fewer opinions about us—positive or negative—than we imagine. Studies show that we consistently overestimate how much people think about us and our failings, leading us to undue inhibition and worse quality of life. Perhaps your followers or neighbors would have a lower opinion of you if they were thinking about you—but they probably aren’t. Next time you feel self-conscious, notice that you are thinking about yourself. You can safely assume that everyone around you is doing more or less the same.
2. Rebel against your shame.
Because a fear of shame is frequently what lurks behind an excessive interest in others’ opinions, we should confront our shame directly. Sometimes a bit of shame is healthy and warranted, such as when we say something hurtful to another person out of spite or impatience. But often it is frankly ridiculous, such as being ashamed for, say, accidentally leaving your fly unzipped.
Several years ago, I was nearing the end of my first 90-minute graduate class of the year and realized I had given the entire lecture with my fly unzipped. There was absolutely no chance that anyone hadn’t noticed. Afterward, I realized something odd: I felt liberated—not liberated to do it again, obviously, but from the fear of what might happen if I accidentally did something terribly embarrassing in class. After the fly incident, I couldn’t imagine anything worse happening, and as a result I relaxed and had a great semester. I am not recommending that you walk around with your fly down on purpose. But ask yourself: What am I hiding that I’m a little embarrassed about? Resolve not to hide it anymore, and decimate the useless shame holding you back.
3. Stop judging others.
“Judge not, that ye be not judged,” Jesus taught. “Whoever judges others digs a pit for themselves,” the Buddha said. Maybe you think you’ll face God’s punishment or karmic justice for holding harsh opinions of others, but these lessons are just as important while we’re on Earth. To judge others is to acknowledge a belief that people can, in fact, legitimately judge one another; thus, it is an implicit acceptance of others’ judgment of you.
The way to free yourself from this belief is to stop judging others, and, when you accidentally do so, to remind yourself that you might well be wrong. Try this experiment: Set a day in the coming week when you resolve to judge nothing, and instead merely observe. Instead of “This rain is terrible,” say, “It is raining.” Instead of “That guy who cut me off in traffic is a jerk,” say, “That guy must be in a hurry.” It will be difficult, but strangely refreshing. You will have relieved yourself of the burden of constant judging—and thus be less worried about getting judged.
In the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu wrote, “Care about people’s approval / and you will be their prisoner. ” He no doubt intended it as a dire warning. But as the years have passed, I have come to interpret it as more of a promise and an opportunity.
I have learned that the prison of others’ approval is actually one built by me, maintained by me, and guarded by me. This has led me to my own complementary verse to Lao Tzu’s original: “Disregard what others think and the prison door will swing open.” If you are stuck in the prison of shame and judgment, remember that you hold the key to your own freedom.
Soothe Your Worries of What Others Think of You I Psych Central
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It’s natural to want others to like and respect us, but worrying too much about thoughts others hold about you could injure your mental health.
Have you ever lay in bed at night and recalled that time in eighth grade when you said “orgasm” instead of “organism” while reading aloud in class? Us, too.
OK, so maybe you didn’t have that exact experience, but you know what we mean.
Chances are your classmates have zero recollection of that middle school moment, your colleagues already forgot you left your mic on during the morning Zoom meeting, and your friends didn’t think that bold outfit from Friday night was too over-the-top.
And yet, we still spend untold energy worrying about how other people perceive us. Any amount of praise is immediately overshadowed by one piece of criticism.
There’s no use in acting like we don’t care at all about what others think because it’s just not true. But there are ways to lessen the burden and not let their opinions hurt your mental health.
Just like most other seemingly pointless traits we humans have, caring what other people think of us is an evolutionary adaptation.
According to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, joining a group or tribe and being accepted by others was critical to survival.
Even though today we might not need tribes to survive, we do need other people for stimulation and companionship. Humans are social animals, so placing weight on others’ opinions of you is entirely natural and largely unavoidable.
One brain imaging study showed biophysical reactions – chemical responses in the brain – to positive and negative feedback from others. Fear of negative evaluation is especially strong for people who have social anxiety.
People with low self-esteem and those who grew up without emotional support are also more likely to care too much what other people think of them.
In some cases, putting too much time and energy into worrying what other people think can be harmful to your self-image and mental health.
Taking others’ opinions as truth can lead to a vicious cycle of insecurity and vulnerability.
But caring about how our actions impact people around us also plays a crucial role in maintaining meaningful relationships.
You’d care if you were unwittingly causing harm to a friend or family member. Although it might cause temporary distress, adjusting your actions to remedy the relationship is ultimately worthwhile.
In this way, caring what people think isn’t always unhelpful.
Of course, things can get out of hand. Listening to our friends’ concerns is different than worrying about every little thing someone thinks of us.
Here are some indicators that the opinions of others might be harmful to you and your mental health:
- You change yourself in response to criticism, regardless of what it is and who it comes from.
- You let other people make decisions for you.
- You don’t set or maintain boundaries.
- You’re a perfectionist.
- You hold your tongue if your opinion differs from everyone else’s.
- Your peace of mind relies on approval from others.
- You’re constantly apologizing, even when you did nothing wrong.
- You rarely say “no.”
So, how can you get unstuck from worrying about how others perceive you? Here are some tips you can try.
Expect and accept that people will have opinions of you
There’s no use in trying to avoid any and all judgment – it’s simply impossible. For better or worse, assessing other people is a natural part of social interaction.
So, prepare yourself ahead of time for people to have their opinions.
A simple mental reminder that others will have perceptions of you – even some that may be inaccurate – can help you let incoming critiques roll off your back.
Take back control over your own feelings
Other people might have poor opinions about you, but that doesn’t have to translate into difficult emotions. They are not the same.
While you can’t control how everyone perceives you, you can lessen your worry and anxiety over it.
Consider practicing some mindfulness techniques. Mindfulness is all about staying in the present and being aware of and accepting how you feel in that moment.
Learning to be in the moment can help you cope with those unwanted feelings and thoughts.
Some mindfulness strategies you can try include:
- breathing exercises
Remember that everybody makes mistakes
Perfection is impossible, so expecting it is futile. More important, judgment for failing to attain perfection is unproductive, unfair, and completely unhelpful.
Keep in mind that anyone who thinks badly of you for making some small slipups has made mistakes themself.
Plus, making mistakes at work or in personal relationships can be an important part of self-growth. Look at them as learning opportunities and being human.
Develop your sense of self and build confidence
Practicing self-reflection can be a powerful tool for building a strong identity. Take time to ask yourself some difficult questions.
Who am I? What do I care about? What do I enjoy?
Developing a value system is also important to providing a strong foundation to live your life on.
People may critique your beliefs or actions, but if they’re grounded in your values, the criticism is less likely to stick.
Confidence building and developing a sense of self go hand-in-hand. Being confident in who you are and what you stand for will boost your self-esteem and willingness to ignore haters.
Don’t try to mind read – you’re probably wrong
Research suggests that while most people have some idea of how they’re perceived by others, they still have major blind spots.
People will associate traits with you that you’ve never even considered.
The researchers found that the most well-adjusted and emotionally stable people have the least amount of insight into what people think of them.
It’s an indication that constantly worrying what other people think is not only stressful but also not helpful.
Consider the source
Caring about what people think of you is natural. But some people’s opinions are much more important than others and should be treated as such.
A family member saying that your behavior negatively affects them or a boss expressing concern with your work can be helpful. A random stranger complaining that you don’t smile enough is not.
Know that you’re usually your own worst critic
A research paper tells us that we often believe people judge us much more harshly than they actually are. In reality, we’re often much harder on ourselves than other people.
We also tend to think that one slipup will mar how people perceive us for good. While it’s true that first impressions can have a long-lasting impact, one mistake is unlikely to change their overall judgment of you.
Surround yourself with accepting, supportive people
Friends and family members who are consistently judgmental can take a huge toll on your mental health. Knowing that someone you care about has negative opinions of you is incredibly hurtful.
Developing relationships with people who embrace your true self and people who are supportive and willing to talk it out – even if they can be a little “judgy” sometimes – is crucial for maintaining mental well-being.
Talking with a therapist can help you develop skills for coping with criticism and building your self confidence.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), specifically, works to build more helpful ways of thinking.
Through exercises and practice, you can learn new ways to approach unhealthy feedback and let go of unnecessary stress.
Hold your own judgments of others
Next time you meet a new colleague or your friend introduces you to their partner, hold off on casting blanket judgments about them.
Even if the first impression isn’t great, give them a chance.
Being accepting of others can help you let go of what others think of you. If you know you’re giving people the benefit of the doubt, you’re more likely to think that others are doing the same for you.
If you think you’re worrying too much about how you’re coming off to others and whether people like you, join the club.
Sometimes feedback and constructive criticism can be useful and worth listening to. But there’s often no productive use for listening to or worrying about what other people think.
Keep in mind that you’re likely judging yourself harder than anyone else is.
If you need more assistance, consider reaching out to a mental health professional for help.
How to stop worrying about what others think of you
January 31, 2021 Life
You can spend your whole life worrying about the opinions of others. 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.
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.
About 100 years ago, sociologist Charles Cooley developed the theory of the mirror self, which is as follows:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 to know what others think of you
When people start to exhibit their creations 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.
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. Notice 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.
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:
- 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.
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.
Read also 🧐
- Why you shouldn't 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 the opinions of others0003
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.
1. Make a list of your ten core 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.
2. Write down your unique qualities
Build your self-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.
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.
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.
6. Be skeptical about 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 all of that at times.