I wish I could get back all those years I wasted by worrying about what others thought of me.
I wish I had lived my life by focusing on myself, my dreams and on things that mattered.
I wish someone told me when I was little that it didn’t matter what others thought as long as I was happy with I wanted.
I wish, I wish.
Instead, what I heard was “Don’t do such and such thing, what will people say?” or, “If you do that, people will mock you”.
I think that was the beginning of my anxiety. The worries about living up to other’s expectations and the pressure to take decisions that looked good in front of everyone that didn’t matter to my life.
I don’t blame my parents or anyone who passed to me this wasteful way of thinking. Because I know that they are unaware of the negative effects of it. And they were told the same by someone else when they were growing up. And many of us tell the same thing to our kids unknowingly. And it goes on like a cycle because it’s in our programming.
And if you are reading this, let’s put an end to the cycle and change it.
How to stop worrying about what others think
Don’t change so people will like you. Be yourself and the right people will love the real you.
1. Know yourself
The first step in personal growth is being aware of the problem. If you don’t know that you have a problem, you can never solve it and grow out of it. You think you were born this way and that you have to live with it.
For example, I lived with social anxiety (still working on it) almost until the end of my twenties and never knew I had anxiety. Of course, I had the symptoms like being afraid to meet new people, worrying constantly about how people perceive each word I speak (so painful), whether the few words that came from my mouth were impressive and lose sleep over it if I thought it was not good enough, and afraid to speak in front of a group because I felt my contribution wouldn’t be good enough.
Basically, I lived inside my head by constantly scrutinizing every word I spoke and re-evaluating the past situations again and again. I constantly worried about the clothes I wore, the shoes I bought and kept procrastinating on chasing my dreams because of fear.
I want to tell you though, this type of anxiety is not felt by everyone as this is an extreme case of worrying about other people’s judgment. But I wrote about it, in case it could help someone who is suffering but is not aware of the problem. I thought I was born this way and was meant to suffer my whole life because I couldn’t live like others. Until I came across some resources that explained social anxiety and I realized I have it.
That’s the power of learning and keeping on educating yourself.
Not everyone has social anxiety. But we all have the need to feel approved. It’s normal, but when we give it more importance than required, we start worrying about other people’s opinion.
The solution is, to know yourself. You should know your personality type(introvert, extrovert, ambivert, etc), your values, how you want to live and your goals.
Knowing your personality type is important because a lot of times introvert (more research on extrovert ) traits are labeled as negative or antisocial when it’s not.
Know your values. And stand firm for the values, no matter what. If you have a set of rules that you have set for your life, let them guide you. Let them guide you on when to neglect other people’s opinion because you know your rules.
For example, I value honesty and transparency in my life. And I have decided I will my life in a way I don’t have to lie and cheat. So when the time comes when I have to lie about something so that I can impress others, I refuse to do that. I remember my principles and stand by it.
If you are confident about your values, you don’t need to impress others.
2. Most people think about themselves all the time
No, you are not holding the center stage and the spotlight is not focused on you. But since you are important in your own eyes and you think about yourself all the time, you feel others are watching you too.
But the irony is, they think the same thing. Like you, they are thinking about their lives and how others view them. They are thinking about how to make money, what to make for dinner, notes for the next meeting, etc.
See, everyone has a lot of things on their plate and that occupies their minds most of the time in a day.
But what about people who say opinions on what you do?
Most of the people who say opinions on your life don’t know you thoroughly. They don’t know your plans, or dreams or your values as much as you know.
So when they say an opinion they might be saying it without knowing your story. Only you know your story. Then why should you value what someone says when they don’t even know you?
They might be expressing a passing thought. Learn to ignore such opinions and stay indifferent to them.
3. The differences in perspective
Each one of us sees the world differently. We all have different perspectives on life. Some have a broader perspective and a non-judgemental attitude, while some people like to judge anything and everything that others do.
Before you get obsessed with what others think and say, know that perspectives differ. When people pass an opinion, it’s usually based on their life experiences and their perspectives which may not always be true. And perspectives change all the time. They might not say the same thing after 10 years.
That’s why I said you should know your true self. If you know who you are and what you want, you do not get swayed by what people say.
I used to let a lot of negative comments affect me and rule my days. But now I am connected to my true self more than ever, and I imagine having a protective shield around me that doesn’t let in any kind of negativity. The shield may not always be strong, but now I know how to shed a few tears and get back up without letting it tear me down. Feel through the emotions and let go.
I just entered my thirties, and I enjoy aging. You know why?
As you get older, you have earned more experiences under your belt and start to see things from different perspectives. Now you know what will matter in a few years of time and what will not. You learn what should you cry for and what not. And more importantly you learn who you are and that’s wonderful.
Dig deep and uncover yourself from the society’s judgments and your own false beliefs and you learn you were not that bad, after all. But you get to reach there only if you invest in learning and personal growth.
And in the process, you automatically learn to not worry about what people think.
So, keep learning and keep growing.
4. Don’t try to please everyone
No matter how much you try, everyone is not gonna like you. And THAT’S OK. Say that to yourself over and over again.
It doesn’t matter if everyone doesn’t like me. I am happy with who I am.
And say this to yourself when you start worrying about what people think. And don’t make your success rely on the opinions of other people. Don’t choose a profession that others want you to be in.
When you do not speak your mind, you put yourselves through stress and anxiety that you can’t handle. You become the ultimate go-to person for everything because you want to please people and are scared to displease anyone as you are afraid to say NO.
It is okay to speak your mind. And you should set boundaries for what you can do and what you don’t want to do. Remember, how much ever you do, people are not going to be pleased with you completely.
5. Get out of your head
Those who worry about others too much have a wonderful imagination. Or in general, people who have anxiety tend to imagine unreal things about every situation.
For example, if you are at a party and you feel someone ignored you, your brain starts to draw different kinds of worst-case scenarios. You think you are not well-dressed like the other person or you are boring etc. But in reality, the other person may not have even thought about your dress.
They might have moved on to get a drink or to look for something. Over analyzing situations leads to believing unreal facts about yourself.
Realize these are just thoughts and thinking them over and over makes it look like a fact by your brain. And then you start acting upon these beliefs by avoiding people. But where did it all start? In your head. And you don’t even know if that’s true.
So when the thoughts come, try to acknowledge it and let them go. Detach yourself from the negative thinking pattern.
6. Practice self-love
Love yourself for who you are. When you constantly seek the approval of other people to feel good, you develop a lack of self-confidence. It makes it impossible for you to do something on your own because you are worried about what others would think.
But when you realize who you are, you get to identify your strong and weak points. Love yourself unconditionally with all your flaws and accept yourself for who you are.
Don’t bang your head against the wall thinking about your inadequacies, because God (or the Universe, insert whatever you believe in) never makes mistakes. You were born here as the exact person who you were supposed to be. You are unique and there is no one else with the same characteristics as you in the whole world.
Through self-acceptance comes self-confidence. After a while, you realize you don’t need so and so’s approval to live your life your way. I have gone through it all, so I know how liberating it is to finally able to love yourself for who you are.
7. Worrying is just a waste of time
My life has been filled with terrible misfortunes; most of which never happened.
– Michel De Montagne
You might feel like the days are long, but have you observed how years fly by? Yes, life is too short to worry about what your neighbor thinks. And worrying is just imagining things that seldom happens.
We all have to die one day even if we have enjoyed life or not. Then why make it miserable while you are it? Enjoy each day and when the unnecessary worries start to cloud your mind, practice mindfulness. Enjoy the present moment and let everything else go.
I hope you were able to shed at least some worries by reading this. I would love to hear your thoughts, please comment below.
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- 10 healthy habits that are worth adopting into your life
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