Since the dawn of time, humans have depended on their relationships to survive. If you were thrown out of your clan or tribe, your chances of survival were nil. Being accepted is a biological imperative so your brain is trained to care deeply about what others think about you. In fact, about 4 out of 5 processes going on in the background of your brain have to do with your relationships!
Today I’m going to teach you how to override your brain’s wiring. I’m going to take you through the 5 most common ways caring too much about what other people think shows up in your life and my top 5 strategies for dealing with each type of situation.
As I just mentioned, your brain is hard-wired to care what other people think. But that hard-wiring is ALL fear-based, not love-based, and fear never helps your relationships. In fact, fear is like a cancer in relationships. It results in low self-esteem, poor self-confidence, anxiety, depression, rage and resentment. Nothing you want in any of your relationships. If you want to lead a happy, calm, centered life, you’ve got to find a way to push past your brain’s hardwiring and focus on yourself.
So let’s get into those situations where you’re caring too much what someone else thinks about you and what to do instead:
Situation #1: People Pleasing
People pleasing shows up in 2 main ways. The first way is saying “yes” to just about everything, trying to anticipate what someone else wants, always being that go-to person and never really saying no to anything.
The second way is the avoidance method. Basically, you want to be left alone and not deal with any real feelings or conflicts, so you bite your tongue and withdraw. Your real life is somewhere else.
Tip to Deal:
Mindfulness – keying in to how you feel in each moment so you can notice those feelings of resentment and numbness (yikes – you want to be numb or feel nothing around people you love?) is what it’s all about!
Situation #2: If a Tree Falls in the Woods
If you do something, and no one acknowledges it, did it really happen? If you don’t feel like you did a good job unless someone else gives you praise or kudos, then you’re caring too much about what others think. Do you need other people to acknowledge what you do? Do you always need to feel appreciated and have people comment? Does it feel like it doesn’t really mean much without that?
Tip to Deal:
Acknowledge your wins! Write down a win daily. Feel it! Own it!
Situation #3: They Need to Understand/Appreciate You
Are you focused on getting the other person to understand you or “get” what you’re saying? Do you go after that same conversation over and over and feel so frustrated if you believe they don’t understand you or have the wrong impression of you? And even when they do seem to get you and maybe even compliment you, it doesn’t last? You question their thinking and motives constantly – it’s never enough!
Tip to Deal:
You need to appreciate you. The way to do this is to identify the negative feeling or feelings you’re having (which is what you don’t want) and then think of how you do want to feel. Then ask yourself, “What’s one thing I can do right now to move in that direction/to feel that way?” And then do that thing!
Situation #4: If They Don’t Like It, You Change It
Another common situation is to automatically change what you’re doing or saying if someone else gives any inkling that they don’t like it or don’t agree. If you feel rejected or dismissed in any way, you think you need to change.
Tip to Deal:
Stand your ground! Identify your standards and stick to them! Who are you trying to make happy? Is the other person’s happiness more important than your own? You might set intention before you meet with someone who particularly sways you!
Situation #5: You Don’t Even Like Them!
Maybe you don’t like Alice at work, but then you found out she doesn’t like you so now you find yourself kissing her ass in an effort to get her to like you! There’s this feeling that the other person is missing something – they’re not seeing the real you – there’s a misunderstanding and you’ve got to make them see how fabulous you are and that they were mistaken. Again, you don’t care about or like this person but you are all up in their head!
Know this for what it is – ancient, outdated hard-wiring telling you that being rejected means death.
Tip to Deal:
It doesn’t take Freud to figure out that this all boils down to self-esteem. If you felt confident about yourself and your decisions, if you respected yourself fully, you wouldn’t care quite so much what others were thinking about you. I’ve got posts devoted to building self-esteem and self-confidence that you’ll definitely want to check out if this feels like you.
Again, it’s OK to care what others think in a smaller way, but your own thoughts about yourself should be the predominant factor here!
Resources and Links:
Kenneth Savitsky, Nicholas Epley, and Thomas Gilovich, “Do Others Judge Us as Harshly as We Think? Overestimating the Impact of Our Failures, Shortcomings, and Mishaps,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 81, no. 1 (2001): 44-56.