If I had a dollar for every time I got anxiety about what someone’s opinion of me was, I’d be filthy stinking rich. Many people, including myself, want to be accepted and seen by friends, family, coworkers, etc. It’s part of our nature. It’s why we feel super satisfied and content when we get lots of likes and comments on social media. It’s why we light up when our boss tells us we’ve done a good job or when our parents give us a nod of approval.
And when someone dislikes us, or we have no idea if they dislike us (but we assume so), our world comes crashing down. In comes the anxiety and the fear that they don’t like us or approve of us. And we only feel anxious because we know we’re freaking awesome and need to whole world to agree with that. Then comes the rush of thoughts on how we can change their minds about us.
If this resonates with you, I’m sure at some point you’ve Googled some version of “how to stop caring what others think of me.” I know I have. And Google comes up short every single time. Because most of the results tell us to let go of needing to be liked or to gain confidence in ourselves. Blah, blah, blah.
Here’s the tea: gaining self-confidence and letting go of things are sometimes LIFE LONG pursuits. You don’t just wake up one day and suddenly have all of the self-confidence in the world and suddenly stop caring about what your mom thinks of your life choices.
So, how do you stop caring about what other people think of you, exactly?
By realizing you’re trying to not care about the wrong thing. We’re always going to value people’s opinions of us, especially those we love and care about. We’re human, for crying out loud. And I already know that you know that you’re awesome.
The thing you need to stop caring about is closing loops and filling gaps or silence. You need to stop caring so much about incompletion. Hear me out.
I used to spend a tremendous amount of time explaining myself, defending my actions, and trying to get people to see my point of view in situations – all in the vein of getting their approval and getting them to like me. I HAD to close the loop, to fill the gap in their knowledge about me.
If you’re like me, you’re finisher. You cross all your t’s and dot all your i’s. No problem is left unsolved. Nothing is ever left unfinished and if it is, you end up feeling anxious.
So, if there’s something that someone doesn’t know about you that will help bring them to the other side (or at least off the fence) and have a positive opinion about you, you jump at the opportunity.
Now that we all feel seen, we can figure out what to do about this. The key isn’t just ignoring people’s criticism or comments. It’s not pulling all the self-confidence out of your butt. It’s being okay with incompletion. Being okay with open loops, unfinished business, and gaps in knowledge. It’s allowing people to go on without having you trailing them trying to prove how good of a person you are or how hardworking you are.
Leaving things unsaid is hard. And in order to stop concerning yourself with what people think of you, it’s important to not fill the silence. If your mom thinks you’re crazy for not wanting kids and you’ve said your piece about why and she still doesn’t get it, leave it at that. No need to continue to explain why and provide tangible proof in favor of your decision.
And here’s another cup of tea: It’s not your job to fix people or change their mind about you or anyone else. It’s their responsibility to decide how they feel about anything and anyone. Putting that on yourself leads to unnecessary pressure and stress.
And if there’s anything to let go of on your quest to stop caring of what people think of you, it’s the need to not be misunderstood. The need to close the loop and tie things in a nice neat bow to hand over to someone in the hopes then that they will understand and openly approve of you or your choices.
And when they don’t approve, around the loop goes again. Are you getting dizzy yet?
And yes, I said you need to be okay with being misunderstood.
Feeling misunderstood is not a great feeling. It’s frustrating and it can leave you feeling hopeless. Being okay with people not understanding you is something you need to accomplish in order to to stop caring about folks’ opinions of you.
Being misunderstood is not a danger (in most cases, at least). The world isn’t going to implode because your brother doesn’t understand your desire to go to the gym. Cities will still stand and the sky won’t fall.
I’m being a bit dramatic here, but you get me! The next time you find yourself frustrated or disappointed because someone’s opinion doesn’t meet your expectation, don’t you dare tie up that loose end.
The next time someone just doesn’t like you after your attempt to convince them otherwise, tell yourself that it’s okay to be misunderstood. And keep moving.
Besides, freeing yourself from needing people to like you or understand your decisions will free you up for some much needed creativity and energy to go out there and make bold in this world. Will you choose freedom?