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.
When you care so much about what other people think, they actually get a poor impression of you, or at least one that’s not really who you are. Because the more you’re worried about what someone else thinks of you, the more insecure you become. And when you’re insecure you can be clingy, needy, anxious, resentful, bitter as well as constantly looking for reassurance and approval and this drives other people crazy! This very behavior is what drives others away or what attracts bullies or others with their own “issues” to you resulting in more of the same. It becomes a vicious cycle feeding on itself. YUCK!
When your self-esteem, confidence and feelings of self-worth are contingent on other people you’re no longer the boss of you – other people are! It puts you in a total victim/blame role and you lose all your power.
This is why when you care too much what other people think, you feel resentful. The resentment is stemming from your anger at them not “getting” you or not appreciating you the way they should. You’re resentful that they’re not giving you this thing you need. The real truth, though, is that they can’t give it to you because you’re like a funnel. No matter how many good things they say, it’s all leaking out the bottom, so it’s never enough and you easily dismiss any of the good things and keep finding “evidence” for the worry and anxiety.
And here’s the kicker, people aren’t’ thinking about you as much as you think they are! Study after study shows that we grossly overestimate how much (and how badly) other people view us, including when we screw up! And when you’re thinking everyone is waiting for you to mess up and judging you in such a big way, you end up taking less risks, being less spontaneous and certainly being less happy than you could be (and feeling that resentment again – if they’d just see x, I could be happy; if they’d just say thank you, I’d feel so much better. No you won’t because, as I said earlier, it’s never enough).
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
I see this one the most and this might be you even if you think it’s not, so listen up because people pleasing shows up in 2 main ways. The first way is the more obvious. 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. This person is often very visible and might even be the glue that holds things together or the go-to person for everything.
The second way it shows up is the avoidance method. Basically, you want to be left alone and not deal with any real feelings or conflicts. It just feels easier to give up so you do things to keep others happy by not rocking the boat and flying under the radar. If you don’t say anything, they can’t judge you, right? So you bite your tongue and withdraw. Your real life is somewhere else.
You’re one of these 2 depending on what you do when faced with a threat. This is your fight/flight/freeze response. If you say yes to avoid you likely get trapped in the flight response. If you give up and don’t say anything – that’s generally more of the freeze response.
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! Mindfulness is going to be the number one tip for ALL of this because, without it, you won’t notice what’s happening and you’ll just get sucked into old patterns of thought and behaviors.
Situation #2: If a Tree Falls in the Woods
You know the old saying that if a tree falls in the woods, and no one is there to hear it, did it make a sound? For you, 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!
Basically, you’re going to focus on what you can do and not what you can’t. What you can control and not what you can’t. This takes you out of VERRB crap and into action and self-empowerment.
Again, no relationship is made better through fear. It doesn’t matter if it’s your partner, boss, friend or kid.
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.
If your boss doesn’t like your suggestion at work. If your parents don’t like your choice of a profession. If your friend thinks your idea is stupid. If your partner judges what you’re wearing. If any of these prompt you to change your mind just on the basis of their disagreement or judgment, then you’re caring too much.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t take in feedback or suggestions. However, being judged or criticized is never OK. Sure you might need to change that report according to the way your boss likes it, but don’t take that as an attack on you. If your suggestion was sound, this says more about your boss than you and it’s time to move on and stop focusing on getting them to change their mind or understand your point of view.
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!
In other words, care about your own feelings first! You were likely taught this was selfish. It’s not. You might not even know your feelings – start practicing identifying your feelings often!
You need to be the dominant vibration in the room. You want them to calibrate to you, not the other way around.
Situation #5: You Don’t Even Like Them!
I had a client recently who wanted to break up with her boyfriend. She lamented for weeks about what a jerk he really was now that she’d gotten to know him better. As we kept talking about him she realized that she didn’t really like him that much. His best attribute was that he liked her!
Before she could have the conversation though, he ended up breaking up with her! She was beside herself! How dare he? He was lucky to be dating her! They had parted “as friends” (she wanted to seem, above all, like the cool chick) but now she wanted him back or at least to want her again! She started stalking him on social media and paying a TON of attention to her own posts and pictures all in an effort to make him jealous and want her again.
May I remind you: she doesn’t even like this guy! But she wants to control what he thinks of her and what he might be saying about her to others! And you’ve likely done something similar.
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!