One of the most common questions I get asked is “How do I stop worrying what other people think of me?”. It is one of my favourite topics to discuss because it can have tremendous effects on physical and mental health. Worry and anxiety are stressful, which can increase the risk for such things as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. In addition, stress is one of the fastest ways to deplete brain chemistry, making you more likely to feel irritable, depressed, emotional, and overwhelmed. If you let the fear of what others think of you stop you from engaging in the activities you like, it can lead to regrets, resentment, and bitterness. None of the aforementioned symptoms are conducive to leading a happy and healthy life. Thus, it is vital to learn how to stop worrying what others think of you. Here are five techniques to help make that happen.
- Don’t Prejudge Yourself Before Others Do
You are your own worst critic. Often the things you nit-pick about yourself others do not even notice. You may think that your stomach looks bloated, but it is highly unlikely that someone else would. You are not a mind reader and cannot possibly know what others are going to think about you before you do something, so stop trying to anticipate their thoughts! All it does is add unnecessary stress to your life. If you are going to judge yourself, look at the positive instead of the negative. What looks particularly good today? What part of your presentation is strong? Build yourself up by looking for your strengths. Doing so will help increase your confidence and help deter you from internalising negative criticism.
- Stop Over-Thinking
You are not the most important person in the world. Although this may seem harsh, it is the truth. Often people think that others are judging them when they simply aren’t. Most people do not care how you are dressed, what words you use in your vocabulary, or whether or not you where Brunei is on the map (I admit, I had to Google it!). Simply put, people place too much importance on themselves and assume that everyone — including random people on the street — are judging them. Let’s be honest, they probably aren’t. Once you realise this, it is much easier to be comfortable with who you are.
- Learn to Love Yourself
This is the most important in my opinion. People who are concerned with what other people think about them tend to be insecure. If you are secure in yourself and confident with who you are, you will not be bothered by others’ negative opinions of you. People spend far too much time dwelling on all of their weaknesses. Instead, make a conscious effort to praise yourself for what you are doing well. You may want to get a journal and write down one of your positive attributes or characteristics every night. You can write down what you did well that day, or list some positive words that others use when describing you. Over time that list will grow and you can reflect on it when you are feeling down or insecure.
- Realise the Only Approval You Need is Your Own
At the end of the day does it really matter what other people think of you? No! If a group of people do not like who you are, is it worth trying to change to fit into their ideal mould? I don’t think so. You may go through a period in which you do not have many friends or people around you. That is okay! Use it as a time to get to know yourself better, and to really determine what you like and what you don’t, what is important to you and what is not, and what your true morals and values are. Chances are, when you let go of the toxic people, you will find those with similar beliefs and interests to you. The point is, you should be doing, thinking, and saying things because they reflect who you are and what you believe in, not because they are what other people like. If people disagree with you, that's fine! We are all entitled to our opinion, but you need to be satisfied with your choices and actions. Seek your own approval. If others agree, great! If not, no big deal.
- Change What You Can
Many people care what others think of them because there are areas within themselves that they do not like. As previously stated, I do not think it is useful to dwell on our weaknesses, however if there are areas we can improve upon that are important to us, then we should try to change them. For example, you may not be great at giving presentations, but you would like to be. Instead of thinking that it is useless to try and you will never be able to stand up and speak confidently, try visualising what it would be like if you did have stellar presentation skills. How would that make your feel? If it is positive, then you should try to improve this area. Take speech classes, and seek advice from those presenters that you admire. There is nothing wrong with growing and becoming a better version of yourself. If, however, a trait that you see as negative within yourself cannot be changed, it is best to stop focusing on it and start thinking about those attributes you do like.
I am not sure who the author of this quote is, but I think it sums up this topic nicely: “You are what you love, NOT what loves you.” If you have any other strategies that have worked for you, please feel free to share in the comment section.