“I can’t stop caring what other people think”

It's absolutely normal and okay to care about what others think about us and our actions but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be able to live the life, be the person and do the things we want to do.

The other day I received an email with a plea for help from a Feelmo user:

I can’t stop caring about others’ opinion on my life. I really can’t. What should I do?

I bet every person who reads this has felt similarly at some point in their life. I know I have. How much time, energy, and even money haven’t we spent trying to fit in, to feel like we belong and be liked.

It’s such a common feeling because we are by our very nature social beings. When we evolved, considering the opinions of others was vital for our survival. Can you imagine the caveman without social awareness? They would have been kicked out of the communal cave in minutes and left to fight wooly mammoths on their own (good luck). Although it’s natural for all of us to want to fit in, some of us can struggle with this more intensely than others. Perhaps we had someone in our history who made their love and affection conditional on our performance or way of being. Or perhaps we weren’t ever encouraged or even allowed be ourselves.

Just because it’s a normal and common feeling doesn’t mean that there aren’t things we can do to better cope with these thoughts and feelings.

Remember, it’s normal

While it may seem like little reassurance, it is important to remember that others struggle with this as well. You are not the odd one out. In fact, it’s even likely that the people you are afraid are judging you are thinking and feeling the exact same way.

Look for patterns

Begin by better understanding your feelings. When do they arise? Are there certain people or situations that trigger these feelings more often, or more intensely, than others? Can you take a step back and try to understand why?

Stay objective

It’s also important to try - I write try because I know how difficult this can be!  - to stay objective. As you replay the moment in your head, wondering why this person didn’t wave back at you or why that person said what they did... are there other reasonable explanations to explain their behavior than you did something wrong? Perhaps they didn’t see you? Or perhaps they simply had a bad day and didn’t think about how something they said came out.

Strengthen your self-confidence

Surround yourself with kind, loving people who love you for who you are and who you can rely on. With honest friends you can be yourself more fully and won’t have to spend so much time wondering if you did something wrong because they’ll definitely tell you if you did.

Spend time doing things you enjoy and that you believe you are good at, and remember you don’t have to be an expert artist or an olympian to be a good painter or enjoy running. Fill yourself with positive energy, whether that be from other people or from activities and stay away from situations and people who drain you.

There’s no button you can press to stop caring about what other people think and unfortunately, some people may say bad things or do rude things, but don’t let that hold you back from being you. In the end, that’s the only person you can be. This won’t be easy, and change won’t happen over night, but slowly and surely, as you notice and probe your feelings and as you grow your support network, things will get better.

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