What You Think Other People Think Of You

Time: 9 minutes.

The search for constant external validation may be hindering your success.

If you worry about what others think of you, think again. Does it make any real difference for you? Do you have more confidence in their opinions than in your own? Is their thinking more valuable than yours? I’ve met people who don’t care at all what others think. And I’ve met people who constantly worry what others think.

In order to be ‘emotionally intelligent’, we need to have some awareness and be sensitive of what others may be thinking of us whilst not care so much that it prevents us losing contact with our ground of being. In other words, we have to find a balance in what a social situation demands from us. It’s human nature to want to be liked and accepted. And because of that, it is only natural that you’re going to start taking the signals that you see and hear about what people think about you.

What others think of us does contribute to our self-identity. Caring about others’ opinions starts already at childhood, looking for external validation from parents and teachers. But as an adult, constantly validating what people think of what you do, can have you obsessively worrying. This human phenomenon is the cause of all kinds of superficial behavior, embarrassment, missed opportunities, inner resentments, regret, and even bitterness. And all of that can be restrictive to your success.

“Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.” – Lao Tzu

Can you prevent drowning in the swamp of worry? Yes, you can. How? Break free. How? Check this out and see if it works for you:

It’s impossible to please everybody. Trying to please people (who are likely doing the same thing) in life, trying too hard to be doing 'the right thing' - is the royal road to regret. You can’t please all of the people all the time. Just make sure that one of the people you please is yourself.

Learn to relax with not knowing what other people think of you. You see, we would worry less about what others think of us if we realized how seldom they do. When I first started public speaking, I was really busy with whether people would think what I was doing was okay, desperately hope they’d like it, and sometimes imagine they didn’t. Now I don't bother; that's way too much work. It's not that I assume people will like me or what I have to say, it's that I've learned to relax with just not knowing.

Some 'problems' in life, such as not really knowing for sure what others think of us, are not really meant to be solved. How people perceive you has everything to do with them than you anyway.

It’s not their life, so it’s none of their business. People are allowed to think whatever they want, just as you are allowed to think what you want. What people think of you cannot change who you are or what you are worth, unless you give them permission. This is your life to live. At the end of the day, you are the only person who needs to approve of your own choices.

Enjoy yourself. There is only one you. It's human to mimic other humans. If you try to be someone else, which you are not, will always leave you feeling unfulfilled, however much you admire that person. We especially see this with teenagers, when they suddenly seems to adopt the accent, clothes, and persona of a particular celebrity. We all have our unique perspectives. The more relaxed we become with our own characteristic, the more comfortable we start to feel just being ourselves.

Don't resist critics. As human beings with big egos, we tend to notice and greatly magnify our flaws while assuming everyone around us has a microscope focused on faults and mistakes. And at the same time, we also want to be liked. We all want to be loved. But if you in your pursuit of success put too much faith in what others think of you, you might feel hurt or rejected if people start to criticize you. 

Our natural reaction is to resist it. In some ways, it feels right to resist what hurts, what we don’t want. Because it’s just not human nature to embrace pain. But pain is not the cause of the problem; it’s the effect. Even Buddha says that it's all in our minds. There's no external cause creating any pain for us. It’s the illusion within that creates the pain we feel. The external cause is what draws our attention to the pain that already exists.

That can be a hard concept to get your brain around, especially when someone is doing a good job of pushing your buttons and criticize you. It certainly seems like they’re the cause of your frustration. Soon you start to blame. Blame is a form of resistance. The more you blame, the more your pain and suffering hangs on. Whatever you resist, persists. Sometimes we need to resist in order to protect ourselves, like unhealthy temptations, for example. But by and large, resistance is a way of fueling to the things we don’t want, whereas letting go is a mindful practice that sets us free. Letting go is an empowering practice that you can do right now!

Acknowledge your Inner Critic. Dealing with someone else's criticism may be tough, but what about your Inner Critic? Often the more we resist something the bigger it tends to grow in our life. So if not to resist, then what else to do? You can't let go of yourself, right? Well, the answer simply lies in accepting your Inner Critic’s just the way it is. In fact, it’s helpful to make a distinction here and see your Inner Critic’s opinion as a set of concerns that this inner voice has for your well-being. In other words, your Inner Critic has a set of positive values. These values maybe hurting you in the moment, but they come from a place of concern.

It’s important to understand that your Inner Critic is part of you and always will be. There’s no switch to turn it off. So the best way to deal with it is to distinguish it from your true Self and see it like a worried parent who just wants the very best for their child. Go back to the realization that it is your Inner Critic and it is up to you to separate fact from fiction and use that information to move forward in a better way. Is the chattering not serving your goal? Let it be totally, acknowledge it and then drop it!

Imagine life once you've stopped concerning with what others think. Worry about being thought inadequate or weird prevents us even trying to do, or experience, what may be of great value to us. Charles Darwin was concerned how his unorthodox scientific views on evolution would be seen by others, but he couldn't bring himself not to publish his ideas. Vincent Van Gogh was worried about his many psychotic symptoms and voluntarily entered a clinic, but he couldn't stop painting. In the year of hospitalization, he painted over 150 paintings.

The fact is that someone will always be upset somewhere and that's not always your responsibility. Just as a psychological hypothetical exercise, take time to dwell on what you could be doing and experiencing if you didn't care at all what others thought. This doesn't mean you'll stop caring completely, but it will give you an opportunity to choose what you would like to say and do.

Conclusion. If everything that happens to you is based on someone else giving you the thumbs up or green light, then you’re going to be at the beck and call of external factors. To put it in a more dramatic way, you will enslave yourself to what you think other people think of you. This is not an empowering context to live from.

The weight of others thought can become a heavy load to carry. It can constrain you from living freely because your entire being (your personality, your thoughts, your actions) are controlled by an idealized standard of what people want to see. When you become so obsessed with other people’s opinion of you, you are drowning in your own swamp.

You can make a thoughtful effort to stop giving a damn; to let yourself free. It’s a skill that needs to be practiced. Over and over and over again.... Because the common confusion for stop giving a damn  is that there's no room for empathy. Empathy is the capacity to understand what someone else is experiencing from within. It's a misinterpretation that you have to think what they think in order to be empathetic. Thinking what other people think (of you), is a subjective aspect of your conscious mind. Don't let it rule your game.

Once you give up catering to other people’s opinion and thoughts, you will find out that it's OK not to be liked by everyone. If you break free from the barrier you will get in return your super duper confidence. That will save the day. Now you can move on with clarity and grace in pursuing your success.

Enjoy the new view of your life.

About the Author

Joeban Machiel. Life Enthusiast. Possibilizer. Coach.

With today's stand of more than 1 million visitors and tens of thousands subscribers I want to leave you here with an experience, rather than to merely impart new information. Don’t just take it as value what you read, test it out and see if it works for you. In any case, even the truth, when believed, is made up. You must experience the truth, not believe it.

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