When making decisions in your life, do you often find yourself asking others what they think? Do you call up your closest friends or family members to ask their opinion? Do you frequently “need a sounding board” when planning big events or changes?
You might be someone who cares too much about what others think. But how do you break that toxic habit? How can you learn to trust your own judgement and validate your own self?
There are three main steps to doing this:
Step 1: Understand WHY you care so much
Step 2: Recognize why NOT caring as much can be good for you.
Step 3: Make the CHANGE: Strategies for how to stop needing the validation of others.
Let’s get into all three steps!
Why do I care what others think about me?
Why do we care what others think about us? I’ll give you several of the biggest reasons we tend to seek out the approval of others, rather than trust ourselves. Fear, lack, and desire all drive our need for acceptance. Here’s how.
The first five things that make use care what others think focus on our imagined fears:
- Fear of being judged
- Fear of being rejected
- Fear of disappointing others
- Fear of making mistakes
- Fear of being vulnerable
When we allow these fears to paralyze us, we are really letting imagined things dictate our life. There is no certainty that any judgement, rejection, or disappointment will take place. And in fearing mistakes or vulnerability, we cut ourselves off from allowing are true self to emerge. There is no such thing as perfection. No matter how hard some of us may try.
The next three reasons center around our desires to maintain the status quo and not step our of our comfort zone.
- Desire to stay comfortable
- Desire to maintain an image
- Desire to maintain a status
How need to avoid risk and change drive our obsession with asking others what they think about us. But, the truth is that your image, status, and comfort are impermanent and well, a little superficial. In many cases, YOU being YOU won’t bring you loss but rather will enrich what you already have.
The idea that making the wrong decision might damage your image is an illusion because you achieved your status by being you, not by relying on others. What I mean is, do you really want others to have a fake image of who you are? Are you really willing to sacrifice your own happiness just to maintain an inauthentic self?
Four more reasons for relying so much on what others think, are rooted in a lack mentality.
- Shame about ourselves
- Lack of self-love
- Lack of self-acceptance
- You never learned to self-validate
“Life is inherently risky. There is only one big risk you should avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of doing nothing.” – Denis Waitley
Some of us may be embarrassed or ashamed of wanting more, or wanting something different. We may feel we don’t deserve it, or we may feel unworthy of anything more than what we’ve accomplished. This creates dissonance in our minds and we can unconsciously resist opportunities for growth. Learning to love and accept yourself, who you are and what you want is part of allowing good things into your life.
In order to gain, it’s important to risk. But, sometimes we haven’t learned to step outside of our comfort zone and try new things so we may look to others for approval or validation when it comes to the actions we take and the decisions we make. I know, I’ve done it myself.
In order to develop a more confident way of being, you may need to jump without a parachute and develop a stronger sense of self. Self acceptance and self love are two of the biggest factors in having strong confidence. Embracing who you are will help you take a chance on yourself and go after what you really want. As Oscar Wilde once said: “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.”
What are the benefits of not caring what other people think?
You may be telling yourself, well I don’t really need to change the way I do things. My friend X, or my family member Y has been my constant source of support and they don’t mind being my rock. While you may have established a habit of relying on another person to tell you what they think, there are many benefits to learning to think and decide for yourself.
Making decisions without needing the feedback of others will increase your feeling of empowerment as you become more comfortable with taking risks and trying things out. You will inevitably feel more comfortable with doing the things you’ve been putting off or avoiding. Your new attitude will attract new people, the right people for you to succeed in life.
As you take on more responsibility for your own life, this allows others to do the same for themselves. You can then more away from any unhealthy co-dependence that may have crept in over time. You will likely feel less stress or anxiety because you don’t have to please or disappoint others.
Over time, you will begin to be more aligned with who you are, and as a result, more at peace. You may also become clearer about your life mission or the direction you want to go with your career, relationships, and personal goals. You will learn to make better choices, decisions, and action plans for yourself. When you grow, your life grows.
Remember that being YOU is what you were meant to do. When you stop relying on others to decide for you or validate your choices, you become more authentic and at ease with yourself. You can also become more independent and feel comfortable with doing things alone sometimes. Learning to be comfortable with being alone is a great indicator of how much you appreciate and love yourself.
Finally, no more wasted energy trying to keep up with the Joneses across the street. Believe me, taking risks can bring amazing results! I love this next quote from Peter Drucker.
“People who don’t take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year. People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year.”
How not to care what others think
There’s so much to unpack here but I put together a list of all of the great things that happened to me when I stopped caring what everyone else was thinking. Inevitably, as you detach from your need to meet others’ expectations about yourself, these things can happen to you too.
- I realized that every time I make a decision based on others’ opinions I was derailing my own plans and delaying my progress.
2. I stopped asking everyone what they thought when I had big decisions to make. Instead I became attentive to my inner self and what my intuition and heart were telling me.
3. I stopped comparing myself to others. I am unique. So are they. Why would I want to be like everyone else when I can be the best version of me.
4. I became brutally honest with myself and with others. Pleasing others is easy, you get to put the accountability on others instead of yourself. By being honest about what I need and want, I was able to be accountable to myself.
5. I focused my attention, time, and, energy on what matters: me, the things I want to accomplish, the people I care about. Now I ask myself, “will your decision enhance these 3 parts of your life?” If the answer is yes, I know I’m on the right track.
6. I try to own my negative feelings and reactions. It’s normal to react to negative feedback or comments. But knowing these feelings will pass and where they come from can help you stop resisting and accept what is.
7. I recognize that people who criticize me often do it because they feel unworthy or insecure about themselves. That’s got nothing to do with me.
8. I take any criticism as a learning and growth opportunity. I take what serves me, and leave what doesn’t behind.
9. I realized that others’ opinions are just that. An opinion. Now I do my research and learn the facts instead of taking others’ judgements, expectations, and preferences as certainty.
10. I know my value as a human being. I did the work to understand my strengths, talents, unique abilities and characteristics. I know I am making a unique contribution to the world, and I try to understand what it is.
11. I periodically step away from the social media scrutiny and remember that many people who comment on my posts don’t fully know me. Yes, even family and friends. I’ve learned to validate my own work by feeling good about what you do and acting ethically. External validation will only leave you feeling empty and wanting more. Real internal validation will teach you to give yourself self-praise instead of seeking approval from others over time.
12. I have clear boundaries and I respect them. It’s not necessary to over-share unless you’re in a therapy session. I’ve been guilty of doing this before. I want to show vulnerability, I seek the opinions and validation of others when I try to understand things that happened to me. But, I know that it’s okay to keep some things for myself and decide who gets to see all of me. I choose safe spaces to be vulnerable.
13. I practice doing things for myself when others aren’t available. Self-management is a great way to boost self-confidence and learn to be more autonomous. When we rely on ourselves more often, we because less dependent on others’ opinion of what we’re doing. We can also avoid co-dependent and toxic relationships.
14. I defined and got clear on who I am. What are my likes and dislikes? My values? My interests? My passions? What are my strengths and weaknesses? My talents and skills? I’ve done the work and now I know!
15. I realized that the person I’m asking may not know more than I do. You can do the same!
Begin to see yourself as the badass skilled boss you really are. Doing the work to know yourself, take decisive action without having to question or doubt everything, and learning not to rely so much on the opinions of others will enhance your life in a way that you may not realize. Learning not to care so much what others think will make you stronger, more empowered, and more confident.
Copyright Authentic World Inc 2021, Michelle Thompson 2021
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
My name is Michelle. I have over twenty years of experience as a group facilitator, zen meditator, and public educator. I’ve helped thousands of people re-imagine their lives and create concrete plans for self-improvement. I’ve facilitated dozens of workshops and support groups on topics like stress management, mental health and wellness, goal setting, grief counselling, safety planning, and confidence building. I’m a former social worker and non-profit consultant, and after struggling for years with my own feelings of anxiety and uncertainty about who I was and what I wanted, I did the work and learned how to get out of my own way and create an authentic meaningful life for myself. Now I teach others to do the same. I created Authentic World Inc, to offer a supportive space for learning these important life skills.
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