This is one question I often get asked by some of my life coaching clients: “How can I stop caring about what people think about me?” It’s one of the main things that bothers a lot of people and causes them stress.
This article is designed to show you how to not care what other people think of you.
That doesn’t mean that you completely ignore them or don’t seek advice and collaboration when you need it; it just means that you don’t allow yourself to be ruled by the opinions of others.
Why do we care what other people think anyway?
From birth, we are conditioned by our parents, friends, teachers and society to behave in a particular way. We are rewarded for behaving in ways which please others and we are chastised or punished when we do not. This could be a simple as being given a biscuit for ‘being good’ or for having our parent’s attention denied to us when we have not done what they asked.
We all do it to a lesser or greater extent. It is human nature. We try to control the behaviour of other people because we often want them to conform to our way of thinking or our rules.
We do it as:
- work colleagues
The problem with this is that no one else knows what you really want, what you are about and what will make you happy in the long run. But they will try to tell you they do.
And they will often try to tell you it is for your own good.
Sometime it is – as a parent, I will advise my children not to run across the road in front of the traffic because I know that getting knocked down by a car would not be keeping them safe. Or touching the hot oven will result in a nasty burn and a trip to A&E, so I advise against it.
(This is really a bit of a dilemma for me as a law of attraction coach, because I really don’t know what my children’s path is in life, and ultimately a trip to A&E might just be what they need. However, I have to keep a certain perspective here and look out for the safety of my children as I see fit, so I do advise against running in the path of the oncoming car or putting their hand on the hot stove! I’m sure you do the same.)
However, there are many situations in which people try to control other people in ways that are not conducive to the general well-being of the other person. For example, if a lover tells you that they want you to stop seeing a particular friend, or your sister tells you that how you are not dressing in a way she likes so she won’t go out with you.
There are many situations that I’m sure you can think of in which another person has tried to dictate their will onto you. What they really mean is they want you to behave in a way that will make THEM feel happy.
And in order for you to do that, it means you must:
- do what they want
- live according to their values and beliefs
- follow their rules
Otherwise THEY will feel miserable.
The problem with this is that at a very early age, we learn that if we do not do what other people want, then things that we want will often be denied us, or we think they will be denied us. So we quickly learn to agree and do what they say.
What we want is their agreement that we are valid people, and if we are not confident enough in ourselves and our own opinions, then we need other people’s validation because it makes us feel better.
We learn that we need their approval in order for us to feel good.
The problem with this is that whilst age 2, it may be appropriate for your parents to require you to stop your tantrum before you are given the sweet, or for your parents to ground you to prevent you ‘getting in with the wrong crowd’, by the time you get into adult life, this way of thinking and behaving can have some seriously damaging effects on your own development and well-being if you do not adjust and learn to trust your own guidance system.
If you have not learned that it is OK to have your own thoughts, ideas, career, relationships and choices by the time you become an adult, then you will always be relying on the opinion of others in order to find your own happiness. And that is never a good idea because you have given all the power in your life, to someone else.
If they are not happy – you will not be happy
If they disapprove of what you do, say or how you act – doubt will be created in your mind and you will begin to crumble into a person who lacks self-confidence.
Doubt leads to negative thoughts, and negative thoughts will only attract more negative thoughts until you can no longer trust or function with your own guidance system and your whole life will be set around pleasing the other people around you.
And that can only ever lead you to one place:
If you are trying to please other people all the time, you will constantly be disappointed with yourself, because you are not living for YOU!
You are in the driving seat but will find yourself constantly driving where everyone else wants to go and you will never get to the place you really want to be. It’s depressing!
What can you do to readdress the balance?
Luckily, there are a number of things you can do to reassert your own identity and learn to trust in yourself again:
1. Understand where the criticism is coming from
Sometimes you just need to realise that there are people out there who like to knock you back just because it makes them feel better. One of my foster daughters was inherently jealous of her sister for quite a while when they were growing up. It stemmed from learning at an early age from her birth family, that if the other one was being chastised or told off, then she herself, would be safer.
What this led to later in life was a tendency to always criticize everything her sister did, and to try to get me to do the same. Nothing the younger sister did was every right or good enough, and she would always come and tell me when her sister was doing something she shouldn’t.
We spent hours dissecting and re-looking at this behaviour before she finally began to realise that she didn’t need to put her sister down in order to feel good herself. But it did take quite a bit of unpicking, understandably.
Luckily, her younger sister was very switched-on and self-confident from the outset, so she soon learned not to need the approval of her older sibling on anything. Her reaction to criticism was always “so what?” which meant she was in control of her own happiness and as a result was often a lot happier than her controlling older sister.
If you recognise yourself here, then learn to say “So what?” when other people try to put you down for their own reasons. Realise that sometimes people don’t like to see others succeed because it reminds them of their own failings and that they have not followed their own path. But that is their problem. Do not let it affect you.
2. Trust your inner guidance system
You have an inner guidance system from your higher self that you can learn to listen to and trust. It is called your emotions. If you feel good about something you do, say or want to be, then you are on the right path for you. If the thought of something you’ve done, said or want to do, makes your stomach churn, then you can be sure you are far away from where you really want to be.
When you are feeling good, you are connected to your higher source energy who knows everything about you – where you are and where you want to be. Your inner guidance system is simple but very effective at guiding you along your own path. But don’t get confused with the voices of others or you will be back to needing their approval.
You are the only person who is with you from the cradle to the grave – it is YOUR LIFE, no one else’s. Listen if you must to advice or research the experiences of others, but follow your own heart.
Remember: One person connected to their source energy is more powerful than a billion who are not.
3. Be polite, but be assertive – it is YOUR life
You do not need to be confrontational when trying to get your opinion over. It will only lead to more aggression and resistance from the people you are talking to. So when you need to, be polite, but be assertive.
Use a lower pitched tone of voice and a slower-paced delivery to express yourself calmly and without getting angry. This will let the other person know that you are confident in your choice and your opinion, and that although you may have considered what they think, you have come to your own conclusion and are happy with it.
Use sentences and phrases such as:
- I can see things from your point of view of course, but I’m sure you’ll understand that I need to follow my own heart/head on this occasion
- I’ve considered everyone’s advice and am grateful for it, and I have come to my own conclusion
- I’ve thought long and hard about this and I’m very happy with the decision I’ve made
Using sentences that acknowledge other people’s opinions but let them know you have made up your own mind, will reassure them that you are not ignoring what they say, but you have evaluated things in your own way.
4. Focus only on the things you want
Once you realise that you don’t need other people’s approval to be happy, you can really start to focus on the things that YOU really want. Use everything in your power to make your dreams and visions a reality. You could:
- Start a dream or vision board and display it in your house to focus on regularly
- Download of listen to some audio or audiovisual resources such as subliminal programs that can help with self-confidence. I like one from subliminal audios about enhancing your self-esteem, called Boost Self Esteem but they also have others that can help with weight-loss or relationships for example too
- Start practicing meditation or a mindfulness technique such as yoga
- Create your own affirmations to get what you want.
If you need to get rid of some negative thoughts or anxieties, then I recommend tapping or EFT (emotional freedom technique) which I have found to be a powerful way of reducing stress and negative thoughts.
Above all, believe that you are a powerful, creative being. Your connection to YOU is paramount – no power on earth is more powerful.
5. Just do it and don’t worry what others say
Other people do not know what is right for you, whatever they say and whoever they are. So ultimately if they continue to display controlling behaviours, then you will need to kindly and gently allow these people to fall softly out of your life. If you are focusing on what you want, rather than what they want, this will happen naturally through the law of attraction because you will no longer be a match to each other’s desires.
This can be disconcerting at first but ultimately it will help you lead your own life and lead you to a much more healthy and successful future – where you are the one calling the shots.
You might be interested in an article I wrote about leaving negative things behind which you can find here.
Finally – ask yourself if YOU are trying to control others?
When you have discovered your own self-esteem and confidence, make sure you don’t fall into the trap of requiring other people to do what YOU want so you can be happy – even if they are your own children or family.
There’s a great poem called “On children” by Kahlil Gibran which is a wonderful reminder of everything we have been talking about here. I leave you with these wise words.
Please leave a comment or view some more of my posts for more information.
Wishing you all the best.