If you think you care way too much about what others think of you, or you’re simply desperate to stop caring so damn much about everything and everyone, then perhaps this might help.
I used to believe that constantly worrying about others and what they think was a good thing. I thought it meant that I was nice and respectful, that I wasn’t selfish. That I was a “good” person, you know, a “good” girl.
What a load of crap.
In a way, my logic was that if I always did what was expected of me, people would be happy and by extension, I would be happy…
It doesn’t work that way.
Note that I’m not talking about caring for others here. I’m talking about constantly obsessing over what others think of you, their opinions about you, or your life’s choices.
You know? That permanent state of worry you find yourself in. When you care so much about everything and everyone, you start suffocating.
I’m sure you know.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned these last few years, is that trying to control others is pointless. However, fostering responsibility and mastery over ourselves are key to a more balanced, peaceful and overall happier life.
So, when we feel pressured by others, care too much what our friends, family, or even people we don’t know think of us, the solution to that problem starts and ends within us.
How do you stop caring what people think? Well, let’s start with why you should stop caring what people think of you.
Why you should stop caring what people think
If you’re like me, maybe you actually think that caring what people think is a good thing. And it can be… But usually, the way we do it, it’s just toxic behavior.
Caring too much what other people think of you can make you miserable, depressed, angry…
I don’t know about you, but I was spending my entire time (energy and resources) trying to guess what other people thought and wanted. And I was doing that while neglecting my own thoughts and needs.
Imagine doing that for 30 years. I had become a shell of a person. I was lost, miserable, and severely depressed. To say that I hated myself was an understatement.
I was miserable and had more and more trouble functioning in society but couldn’t pinpoint exactly why.
That is until I finally understood that:
Caring too much what other people think of you is a no-win situation
After making the same mistake over and over again for years, I finally (!) understood that trying to please other people all the time was a no-win situation.
By making other people’s opinions and approval my sole point of reference, I was maintaining myself in a permanent state of agitation, anxiety, worry, and despair. I was always questioning my every move, every thought.
I was miserable. And I hated myself.
Also, making other people’s opinions about you or your life your main point of reference is a bad move because:
- There are as many opinions out there as there are people;
- Each person has a billion different opinions throughout their life; heck, throughout their day! People change their minds all the time. All of us! And the worst part is, in most cases,
- People don’t even know what they truly believe or want for themselves! Every single person out there is just as confused as you are. Maybe even more. They are confused about themselves and the world.
So often I found myself doing things because I thought that’s what someone else wanted, only to find out later they didn’t even know what they wanted. Talk about a waste of my time. Of energy! Not to mention the ensuing frustration, guilt, etc.
Just thinking about it now exhausts me.
Signs you care too much what others think
Before we talk about how I finally stopped caring what people think (or, should I say obsessing over what people think), here are 7 signs you care way too much about what other people think of you.
1. You blame others
Bet you didn’t see that one coming.
But it’s true. I cared so much about what others thought of me, I ended up making choices based almost entirely on what I thought they were expecting of me. I believed they knew better than me. I also didn’t want to upset people. Consequently, I wasn’t living my life; I was living other people’s ideas of what my life was supposed to be.
Can you guess what happened?
I became resentful and blamed people for my problems.
I mean, you know a person cares too much what other people think of them when you see them constantly b*tchin… sorry, I mean complaining about other people and how they are ruining their lives or making them unhappy.
Know someone like that?
2. After a social encounter, you obsess for days, if not weeks (ok, fine: months), over what you said
Or what you did, or how you said it. You revisit the situation over and over again in your head, feeling ashamed, worried, guilty, constantly beating yourself up.
This is great for your self-esteem and has absolutely no impact long-term on your mental health at all.
(in case you didn’t catch that: I’m being ironic).
3. The idea that a specific person would stop liking you is unbearable
Guess what will happen if they stop liking you?
You will not die, lose a leg, or get struck by lightning.
But right now, that thought alone feels like the end of the world.
4. You don’t think you know what’s best for you
I mean, you think you do, but you don’t truly believe it.
5. You struggle with setting boundaries
Another clear sign that you care too much about what others think is that you don’t know how to set boundaries.
Instead of sticking to your guts and putting a stop to someone’s unwanted behavior, you just give in as soon as the person in front of you pushes a little.
(Then you blame them, btw).
You give in because you care too much what they think, at the expense of what you think of yourself, and what you think about them, for that matter.
6. You give in to pressure
When you care too much about what people think of you, you don’t dare upset them. So you never stand your ground. Or you do it, but you make yourself sick over it.
Acting like a true martyr or victim of your circumstances.
7. You do things to provoke or shock others
On the other hand, constantly trying to provoke, upset, or shock others is also a sign that you care what they think. Whether you try to make other people happy, or angry, your frame of reference is still other people.
Anyway, I could go on and on about different signs that you care too much what others think of you, but let’s move on.
Is it possible to stop caring what others think?
Honestly, can you ever stop caring what other people think altogether? I’m not sure, and I don’t know that you should. I mean, I still want to care about other people. And no man is an island.
I still care what people think… just differently.
It’s not that I have stopped caring per se. But in the past few months, I think I have learned to value what I think above what others think; and I have learned to manage differently how other people’s opinions about me make me feel about myself.
Well, most of the time. It’s a work in progress.
Ok, so how did that shift happen?
How to stop caring what other people think?
These tips helped me finally stop caring what people think about me, and I hope they will help you too.
1. Understand your values and let them guide your actions
Other people’s opinion of you is like the wind; you are the tree; and your values are the roots.
People’s opinions come and go, like the wind. If your tree’s roots are shallow or nonexistent, every gust of wind will either blow you away or cause severe damage to your tree.
If, however, your roots are strong and run deep, you will stand tall in the face of stronger storms.
Our values work in the same way. They are the basic principles in which our thoughts and behavior are rooted. If you are confused about your values or don’t give them the attention and respect they deserve, you become much more vulnerable to all sorts of external inputs.
This means that without strong personal values, other people’s opinions of you will tear you apart.
You stop caring what people think when you start to understand yourself better:
- How do you view the world?
- What do you hold in the highest regard? Is it family? Religion? Nature? Honesty? Your physical health?
- What do you care about? What impact do you want to have on the world?
- What kind of person do you want to become? How can you get there?
This topic is way too broad and too important for me to address in just a few lines. I put the questions and prompts I followed in a workbook.
If you want to change your life but don’t know where to go, where to begin, and don’t even believe it’s possible? Explore your pain, it will tell you where to go.
It’s FREE and printable, and you can access it right here:
Note that it’s not enough to know your values; you must also live by them. This means you must act in accordance with your values.
I also believe that our values are not static. They evolve, as we ourselves evolve. So don’t be too rigid about the whole thing.
The point is not to come up with a set of fixed, definite answers. But rather to learn to hear what your mind, your heart, and your gut tell you at all times. Not just what others say.
2. Spend time alone and away from overbearing friends and family members
I’m not saying to isolate yourself and live hidden forever. But for a time, if you need to, do spend some (a lot of) time alone.
You don’t have to speak to your Aunt Karen twice a week, especially if she’s always telling you how you should live your life. If you need to get away from her constant nagging, do it.
I stopped caring what people think of me when I finally spent a full 6 months alone, in my apartment, taking care of myself, figuring out my sh*t and NOT explaining myself to NO ONE for half a year. I made it my mission to tune out the voices of a few (very specific) people. I’m serious. I literally quit my job and told people that I needed space and put all my relationships and friendships on pause.
Except for like, my mom and 1 friend.
My life got so much better after that! I opened up again when I was ready.
3. Learn to give love and respect to yourself instead of expecting it from others
When you systematically place other people’s opinions of you above your own, it is safe to assume you don’t value your opinions as much as other people’s. Or maybe you don’t value your opinions at all.
Related post: Why you are so needy and how to stop
If that’s the case, now is the perfect time to learn to love and appreciate yourself, and replace your negative thoughts with new knowledge. For example, you could:
- Learn a new language, a new skill
- Read about a new topic
- Practice self-care
- Learn to pay attention to your thought patterns by starting a journal
- Identify which of your needs you have been neglecting or ignoring, and take action
If you get the feeling that other people don’t value or respect you, chances are, you probably don’t respect or value yourself.
Respect yourself and act accordingly. Once your thoughts and behavior are aligned with your values, what others think of you will not matter as much anymore.
4. Heal your wounds
What are your insecurities? Where do they come from? Where did it all begin?
Take some time to reflect on the origins of your behavior and then challenge your thoughts with tools like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
I recommend this book but find what works for you.
And remember: just because something happened to you in the past does not mean that you should keep repeating the same pattern over and over again, especially if this pattern is not serving you.
Explaining something is one step; moving on and changing your narrative is the next one.
5. When others express negativity, it usually isn’t about you: it’s about them
If you want to stop constantly worrying about what others think about you, it helps to understand that other people are just as (if not more) f*cked up than you.
Once you become calmer and more at ease with yourself and stop engaging or reacting systematically to others, you realize something:
Other people’s behavior, reactions, or opinions have absolutely nothing to do with you (most of the time). It’s ALL about them.
Their wounds, their past, their childhood experiences… their own f*cked-upness influences their behavior toward themselves and the world.
Let’s say that Person A makes a snarky remark over Person’s B weight in front of other people for example, do you agree that it doesn’t say much about Person B? But it speaks volumes about the kind of person A is, their personality, values, insecurities… And, most importantly, the type of bullying that is probably going on in their own mind.
Instead of feeling bad about other people’s negativity, realize that what other people do or say is usually about them, and don’t give it too much energy or mental space.
Besides, do you honestly think you have any power over what 7 billion humans think or do? Once you finally understand that, I mean, truly understand that, you realize it’s not about what other people think. It’s mostly about how you react.
And it is incredibly liberating.
6. Also… it’s often in your head
Now here’s the thing, very often, it’s not even about what people actually think of you. It’s about what you think they think of you.
But remember, when you think you know what someone else is thinking and feeling, it’s exactly just that: you think you know; you don’t actually know.
No one knows what goes on in someone else’s mind, even if that person is someone you “know” pretty well.
Heck, even they don’t know what goes on in their mind.
I have driven myself crazy so many times, obsessing about what someone else thought of me when in fact, it was only my interpretation of what I thought they thought of me.
7. Constantly worrying about what other people think of you is not humility, it’s self-centeredness
Caring too much about what other people think of you is, in a way, self-centeredness.
It’s just you bringing everything back to you. You simply disguise it as you “caring” about others. But let’s face it, it’s about you, isn’t it?
People don’t think about you as much as you think they do. As a matter of fact, they often don’t think about you at all. They are just as obsessed with themselves as you are with yourself.
Knowing that, whenever I find myself obsessing about what other people might think of me, I try to remember that it is “fake” humility and that I should cut the crap.
Obsessing about everything and everyone does not show that I care about others; it’s only me caring about myself. Same old ‘me, me, me’.
In order to step out of that vicious spiral of self-centeredness, it helps to constantly remind myself of this and to find ways to truly care more about others.
Go volunteer for a change. At least then you might truly think about someone other than yourself.
8. Other people avoid the misery of their lives by focusing on yours
In the rare instances where other people do think about you a lot, they may do it as a way to avoid their own doubts and fears about their lives.
Life is scary and uncertain for everyone. Some people try to cope by focusing on you, just like you try to cope and avoid yours by focusing on them.
Don’t play that game.
Focus on your life, and gently remind them that they have their own life to worry about.
9. Dare to do the things you want to do
No longer caring about what others think is not just a mental exercise. It’s about behaving differently.
So, to stop caring what people think, you must start acting differently.
What caring too much what other people think looks like
Situation A: You’ve been thinking about dyeing your hair blue for months now but you don’t dare to do it. You know your family and friends will (probably) make fun of you, and you can’t stand that thought.
Situation B: You’ve been thinking about quitting your ‘good’ stable job to go volunteer on a farm for 6 months because you are craving physical labor or time with nature and animals. But you think everyone around you will think you’re crazy. So you don’t do it. (And resent other people for your misery).
Caring too much about what others think often holds you back from doing something you want to do. If that weren’t the case, other people’s opinions of you wouldn’t bother you as much.
It bothers you because it stops you from doing things.
Exercise to stop caring what people think
The next time you find yourself caring what someone else thinks of you and you catch yourself changing your behavior as a result of that: stop!
Stop, and force yourself to do, or to keep doing, the thing you were doing in the first place.
That’s how you build self-respect and self-confidence. At first, it is hard but it gets easier the more and more you do it.
Not doing it has more negative consequences than you might think. If you catch yourself changing your behavior because of what (you think) others think about you, when you know deep down you should continue doing what you do, and you don’t… then you are building negative self-respect.
So, dare. Force yourself to do that thing you want to do but are stopping yourself from doing, and do this despite other people’s opinions.
Start small because it is those micro-decisions that change your life.
By doing so, you will slowly build more and more self-confidence and self-respect. Which in turn will help tone down other people’s voices in your head. And you will gradually hear your own voice more and more.
10. Find trustworthy friends to keep you in check. Don’t care what EVERYONE thinks; care what a few people who have earned your trust think
We all make mistakes, and sometimes we are incapable of seeing our own faults. It helps to have a few people that we trust, or even just one person, who will let us know when we screw up.
When you find that person, listen to what they have to say and ask questions. Then, think about what they have said for a few days and assess your behavior and choices.
It helps to write it all down. Be honest with yourself, and then decide what you will do.
Follow their advice, or don’t. But decide, and move on.
11. You will have to talk to yourself to avoid falling into the spiral of self-doubt, self-criticism, and constant questioning
I didn’t magically stop caring what other people think of me. But rather, I learned to deal with it more healthily and constructive way, until it eventually became “second nature”.
One of the ways you learn to deal with what people think about you is through your own self-talk.
When you catch yourself doubting yourself, questioning your every move, or obsessing about what others might think of you, realize that you are the one having those thoughts. Not other people. You.
You will have to learn to speak to yourself kindly like a good friend or a loving parent would.
When you start worrying or obsessing over what others think, explain to yourself that what is happening is normal. Remind yourself your reasons for doing make the choices you did, and actively try to redirect your attention away from the doubts and towards something constructive or positive.
Learning to stop caring what people think of you is a process.
Worrying and caring what others think is an essential part of living in harmony within a group. However, just like everything in life, it’s all about finding the right balance and I think most of us struggle with that balance.
It is important to respect others and their opinion, but it is also important to respect your own. I believe it all comes down to learning to understand, accept, and respect ourselves better.
Like any new skill, it takes time to build it and gain confidence. It becomes stronger with practice and actions. Not by learning about it “in theory”.
We will always be confronted with other people’s opinions about us. And nobody on this earth will ever be loved by everyone. (Try Googling “Mother Teresa controversy”. You’ll see what I mean).
People’s opinions about us will never go away. I think we simply learn to deal with it better.
These are the strategies that helped me in these situations. Do you have other tips or tricks that have helped you stop caring what others think?