I used to have social anxiety that was so bad, I would have physical symptoms (like sweating profusely). This would make me even more anxious and obsessed with who noticed, what they all must think of me, and how I was ever going to recover from my need for external validation before I could make a move in my own life. I had no idea how to stop caring about what other people thought of me.
If you care about what other people think to the point that it affects your mental health and the quality of your life, you are most likely a people pleaser.
If you don’t know how to stop caring about what people think of you, your decisions, the way you choose to live your life, etc., you will suffer from the disease to please.
Always having to contort and conform emotionally exhausts you. It’s disempowering. And it prevents you from realizing your full potential. This leads to:
- Bad relational luck
For me, it lead to compulsively and pathologically lying.
Without the approval of others, you believe that you have nothing. And in actuality, you really don’t have much of anything. The opportunity to amplify your own boundaries, backbone, eyes, ears, and voice, and listen to the oldest part of your soul, your instinct, has passed you by. And you don’t know where to even begin when it comes to resurrecting that opportunity.
So, you continue on. A cheerleader for others on the sidelines of YOUR OWN life. A follower of followers. Everyone else is extraordinary while you’ve acquiesced to mediocrity. A grateful-for-any-crumb peasant among “kings.”
As a child, it was easier for your caregivers to shut you down with what was “right” and “wrong” versus approaching you with curious inquisition at times when doing so would have benefitted your emotional development. Performance, achievements, and good behavior became your currency to secure love that, as a child, you needed to know you had unconditionally in order to one day become a self-validated adult.
My inability to stop caring about what other people thought of me as a child, a teen, and an adult, stemmed from years of being so disempowered in my early development (I do not say this as a victim whatsoever) I began to talk to myself in a very negative way, very early on.
It also came from role models obsessed with appearances and keeping those appearances up.
Any of this can happen from experiences at home, at school (peers/teachers/coaches), or under trusted care when you were a child. My parents did the absolute best that they could and are incredible people. This is not about vilifying them and victimizing myself.
The stories I subscribed to were so limiting that I had no choice but to rely on the outside world to be my own eyes and ears. I needed others to essentially give me permission to exist.
I’ve spent most of my life worrying about coloring outside of the proverbial lines, offending people, saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing, and being judged for my decisions. I’ve obsessed over whether or not others thought I was cool enough, smart enough, educated enough, pretty enough, successful enough… you name it.
I’ve embarrassed myself over trying to control the opinions that mutual friends had of me after a breakup. I’ve even asked people if they were mad at me when I knew deep down that they had no reason to be mad. It was insane.
This way of life pedestalled everyone around me. And when others are pedestalled, your only option is to look up to them. You are no longer on an even relational ground.
I have dedicated my life to making sure that it doesn’t take life having to show you what truly matters (like it did for me) for you to make a change and stop wasting precious time caring about what people think.
So, how do you stop caring about what other people think?
Hitting Your Limit: Prioritizing Peace Over Chaos
Having a preoccupation with the opinions of others sets you up to overshare. This gives toxic people (I define toxic as anyone who gets validation by exploiting your hunger for theirs) ammunition for one-upmanship, exonerating their selfish behavior, exploiting your low self-esteem to get their needs met, and possibly, emotionally blackmailing you in the future.
I got to a point in my life where I just couldn’t take it anymore. I had become a professional doormat, always nervous and never comfortable in my own skin. Even worse, I stood for nothing because I was too scared of alienating or offending others.
I didn’t know how to stop caring about what people thought of me. But I was also scared to NOT care because I knew that meant having to take action that would most likely result in loneliness. The number one symptom of standard setting is loneliness.
It’s amazing how just by raising your standards, you’re able to see how many people benefited from you not knowing your worth.
How to Stop Caring What People Think About You, Your Decisions, and Life
When it comes to toxic people, they were always able to control my emotional weather.
No matter how moved on I thought I was from all the times I’ve messed up and the terrible ways I’ve acted in the past, I always felt like at any moment, I could be “found out” – and subsequently, abandoned – by the people whose approval I needed to feel significant.
What I didn’t realize is that it’s not just one-sided. These people had secrets, mess-ups, and embarrassments of their own.
And it was probably far worse than the things I was so worried about them finding out, or else they wouldn’t have to exploit any soft spot they could sense with their passive aggression, fear-mongering, and boundary-busting behavior.
Emotional blackmail is the modus operandi for toxic people.
They love carrot dangling the “info” they have over your head so that you morph into their doormat. You are as scared of being “found out” that the facade you’ve created is cracking, just as much as they are confident that their finger-pointing will relieve them of how ordinary they know they are.
Bottom line, every single one of us has messed up. BADLY.
Toxic people love having info on you, adding lies to the information they know (to make themselves look better), and drowning you while convincing you that they’re a certified lifeguard.
The most powerful place you can be is standing in complete ownership of everything you’ve done wrong in your life because then, you are unf*ckwithable. And you can start to become proud of yourself because you are FREE. You’re no longer a prisoner of outside opinions.
There are many things I have done in my life that I am not proud of, but I did them. And every day, I can become a better person because I’ve accepted it and forgiven myself. And once you forgive yourself for everything you’ve done, you can do things that the finger-pointers cannot. You can own it, take responsibility for it, learn, evolve, strive to become a better person every day, and move on.
Whether people are toxic or not, if you want to know how to stop caring about what they think, here are some things to always remember:
- Like I said above, EVERYONE has messed up. We all have insecurities and rehash what we said/didn’t, did/didn’t do. You are not alone. The majority of people don’t know how to stop caring about what other people think. The ones that do are the ones who change the world.
- Even if people don’t agree with you, they will respect that you care more about what you think of yourself than what anyone else does.
- Authentically communicating will always run the risk of offending someone. Accept it and continue to be YOU. As long as your heart is in the right place and you aren’t doing things to bring attention to yourself or perpetuate hate, division, drama, and pain, it’s okay to deviate from the majority. It’s okay to be YOU.
- People are going to judge you no matter what.
- Everyone is thinking about themselves and how they come across way more than they are obsessing over you, your decisions, and your life. “Two traps that you need to avoid: 1) Caring what they think. 2) Thinking that they care.” – Annonymous.
- You don’t need everyone to like you to be happy, complete, or enough.
- *Your* people matter. I noticed that I used to take the good people in my life for granted (family, close friends, romantic partners, etc.). I worked so hard to impress people I barely knew. And then, once I secured the approval of and impressed that person, I’d move on to the next. It was an endless cycle. I preferred to work on impressing new people than work on enriching and appreciating what I already had. When you put your gratitude and focus on what you do have (as opposed to what you could have), you won’t be consumed with what other people think of you. And you’ll end up attracting more of what really matters.
Written by: Natasha Adamo