One of the most common questions that comes up in my practice is, “What will people think?”
It is asked in many shapes and forms. It can look like “But I don’t want to disappoint my parents.” Or “They’re judging me, I know it.” Or, “What if I do this thing, and then they’re mad at me?”
I have learned through my own experience, and while working with my clients one important lesson:
When our fears about what others think determine our choices and behaviors, it will always come back to bite us.
Letting go of the fear around what others think is a simple concept, but that doesn’t mean it is easy to put into practice. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Worrying what people think is a survival instinct that served an important purpose in the past, but may not be serving a purpose in the present.
When we are born, we do not have the skills or the ability to take care of ourselves. It is essential to our survival that our caregivers love us, accept us, and want to take care of us. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t get fed, or bathed, and we LITERALLY would not survive. We would die without the love and care of others.
This need to feel loved and accepted also helped us survive when all human beings hunted and gathered in packs thousands of years ago. If the pack didn’t approve of and accept you, that would mean you were left alone to fend for yourself. Back then, not being a part of a community meant you were more susceptible to prey, starvation, and death.
This desire to be liked by and approved of by others is not only normal, it has allowed us to survive. And let’s be honest for second – it also feels good!
However, today we encounter wayyyy more people and opinions than ever before. It would be impossible to be on the same page of everyone we come in contact with all the time.
It’s important to remember that society has evolved at a much faster rate than our biological instincts. Luckily, in today’s day and age, if others do not approve of us or our decisions, we will survive!
Once you understand this human instinct to seek approval, you can move onto the next step, which is to…
Notice Your Thoughts.
Oftentimes we don’t even notice what we are saying to ourselves when we are worrying about what others think. Once you start to really look at what you are thinking, you’ll find that the assumptions you’re making about others don’t make a lot of sense.
It might be tough to hear, but one of these silly assumptions is that others are thinking about you so much to begin with!
The next time you find yourself worrying about what others think, take a moment to write down the actual thoughts you are having (I always prefer pen to paper, but the notes app on your phone will work in a pinch!). You might find when you look at your thoughts, they’re a bit irrational, and you can start to let them go.
Make Your Own Voice Louder.
One of the best ways to stop worrying about what others think is to shift where you put your energy. If you find yourself doing it, tell yourself to “STOP!” and look the other way. Focus instead on yourself, what you want, and what you believe in.
Sometimes it can be difficult to get in touch with yourself after spending so much time worrying about what others think. Going to therapy, talking to a trusted loved one, or exploring interests are ways to get to know yourself better.
It can also help to reflect on where these worries even came from (hint: usually it’s messaging we received from our upbringing). Once you know the source, you can pause and challenge that source if it doesn’t ring true for you in the here and now.
Once you know yourself, you can more confidently stand in what you believe without letting the fear of what others think control your decisions.
Did any of these tips resonate, or is there anything else you’ve tried that has helped you worry less about what others think? I’d love to hear from you, so let me know!