By Erica Cramer, LMSW
Whether delivering a work presentation, going on a first date, or riding the busy subway, most of us care about what others think about us to some degree (Though whether or not you are willing to admit that is a completely different story). The need to be accepted and liked by others is human nature. Although this sense of belonging is inherent in our DNA, it often causes stress and anxiety, which interferes with our ability to act in our best interest. Below I've shared some reasons why it is important not to care what others think, and hope that the next time you find yourself overly concerned about someone else’s opinion, you don't accept these feelings at face value.
1. You never know what others are truly thinking.
We could sit here for days and discuss what we think is someone else’s opinion of us. Unfortunately, neither of us are psychic and we will never know what that person is actually thinking (Or if that person is even thinking about us at all). Therefore, trying to figure out what someone is thinking is a waste of time and energy that could be invested into something else. In the future, try to invest that time and energy into something more positive and productive.
2. You can't make everyone happy.
If you are trying to please everyone, you are setting yourself up for disappointment (especially here in New York City). New York City is one of the most diverse cities in world with people from all different backgrounds, cultures, and religions. It is impossible to simultaneously make everyone in this city happy. Therefore, if you are acting according to what others think, you may act in a way that is not true to who you are as an individual, or be so confused that you do not act at all. Either way, you are the one missing out (and as mentioned in #1 you will never actually know what people are thinking anyway).
3. You are your own worst critic and people don't care as much as you think.
When you make a mistake at work or say something embarrassing, chances are that you are the only person who noticed. People place the most emphasis on their mistakes, and most are more concerned with how they appear to others to notice something that you did or did not do. The next time you criticize yourself and wonder what others think, I encourage you to ask yourself, “If someone did the same, is it likely that I would notice?" How would this change my opinion about them?”
4. You are the one who has to live with your decisions.
It's very easy to make a decision based on what you think will be socially acceptable. However, you have to live with your decisions. In many cases, that may be far after you remember what their opinion of it was or who that person even is. It is essential that you approve of your decisions and they align with your ultimate goals. Caring about what people think can prevent you from realizing your potential or accomplishing your dreams. If you are happy and doing what you want in life, is someone else’s opinion really going to matter?
5. People do not know what it is like to walk in your shoes.
People do not know what it is like to be you or the entire context in which your actions and decisions take place. Therefore, it is impossible for them to have a fully informed opinion about your life. You are the expert of yourself and the person who is capable of making the best decisions that affect you.
Erica Cramer, LMSW is therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support with coping with anxiety and building self-esteem contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.