“But what will they think?”
This thought forms the basis of so many of our decisions even when we don’t realize it. There are so many things we do to seek approval from others and that we don’t do to avoid judgment. It’s so common that the most reported regret from people on their deathbeds is having cared too much about what people thought. So many people die wishing they hadn’t let the fear of others’ opinions keep them from living their truth.
Having said something so tragic, let’s just get this quick slap of reality out of the way…
You will never be liked by everyone.
It might sound harsh, but it’s true. Even if you were a saint, literally did no wrong, had fantastic outfits, the perfect body, and gave everyone their favorite treats every day, someone would find something to dislike about you.
There’s no winning with everyone. So why put yourself through the torture of trying? Why hold yourself back from following your heart and being yourself if you know you may regret not doing it?
Once you let go of trying to prove yourself to others, you experience a level of freedom that is so empowering you’ll never want to go back.
But how do you do it? How do you go from letting others guide your life decisions to suddenly being brave enough to do what feels right to you? It’s definitely not something that happens overnight, but it’s so addicting once you get a taste of it that it becomes easier than you would think. Below are the mindset shifts I had to go through in order to not let this fear continue to govern my life.
Realize it’s all in your head. You choose how to feel and react to others.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” I’m not telling you to become invincible. Let the worry exist; let yourself feel the pain of criticism. But don’t dwell on it. After a few minutes of that icky feeling, pick yourself up! Don’t allow it to go any deeper and become a part of your self worth. That can remain to be a part of their negativity, but it doesn’t have to be yours.
Realize no one actually cares.
One of my favorite quotes is, “You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.” People may say or think judgmental things about you, but they’re too busy worrying about their own lives to spend much more than a minute or two thinking about yours. And if they actually do care enough to obsess over their criticism of you, that’s usually more of a reflection of their own problem than yours.
Acknowledge your own worth and stop comparing.
Start working on talking to yourself nicely…if you’re busy judging yourself all the time, chances are you’ll be more focused on how others may be judging you too. Also, stop comparing yourself to everyone! “Comparison is the thief of joy” is a quote that slapped me in the face with how I was stealing my own happiness. It’s one thing to admire how others look or live, but use that to motivate you rather than depress you.
Check your thoughts.
If you often think about what you dislike about yourself, you’re more likely to worry that others will notice those same things. Try to notice the “I am” thoughts that go through your mind throughout the day. We tend to be our own worst critic. It is so easy to think, “I am so stupid” or “I am so awkward” after simple interactions or mistakes. Would you say those things to a friend though? Chances are you’d be much more positive and encouraging. Life is a lot more difficult when someone’s mean to you all the time…Be nice to yourself.
Consider who/what you are surrounding yourself with.
If you surround yourself with people who are always criticizing others, you’re more likely to be aware of how you could be criticized. This applies not only to the people you spend time with but the ones you follow on social media as well. The more you allow negativity to enter your day, the more you’ll be sensitive to it. Protect your energy by choosing who and what you pay attention to carefully.
Just like you keep exercising a muscle to keep it strong, you have to keep practicing positive thoughts for them to come naturally to you. The same applies to building your confidence in this world. Learning to be comfortable in your own skin is a comfort that takes time, getting to know yourself, and lots of self-encouragement. It’s important to always remember that you don’t have to be perfect—ever—and that each negative encounter is an opportunity to learn and grow stronger.
“Not caring” isn’t as simplistic as it sounds. Obviously you will always care to a certain degree, and rightfully so. The important thing, though, is to learn how to not let that care turn into a fear that stops you from doing what you love and being your true self. Many times to find our “true self” we have to do some exploring…and how can we do that if we’re scared of being judged for it along the way?
If the opinions of others didn’t exist, how would you live your life? What dreams would you chase? Which sides of your personality would you freely express? What curiosities would you freely explore? The opinions may exist, but their power over you doesn’t have to. All it takes is deciding to value your own opinions and happiness more. It’s all up to you.