What will people think? This question has single-handedly stopped many a destiny, aborted many a dream and reduced the lives of most to an existence well below their potential. For the longest time, it was also the crutch I kept leaning on to remain in my comfort zone. Caring about what people think, this disease that’s been passed on from generation to generation, especially among women, has destroyed careers, halted businesses and instilled doubts in the most promising futures. For the longest time, it was also the crutch I kept leaning on to remain in my comfort zone.
I grew up in Senegal, West Africa. Where I come from, you don’t just act how you want to act. You think about others, about the community first. It was that way back in the days because the community came first, before personal interests. As time went by though, this concern for the communal slowly turned into excessive care about appearances. And that’s the way it has become pretty much anywhere around the world, especially with the predominance of social media. It’s all about the way our lives, our work, our families, the arch of your brows or the shine of your highlighting powder, is going to appear to the world. What they’re going to think about you eating lobster on a Thursday night, or jet-setting in St Tropez on your last dime. How many likes or comments you’ll get, as a reflection of your own self-worth and validation.
At the age of social media, rented private jets and made up scenery for Instagram pics, not caring about what people think is close to achieving miracles. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve created countless memes and images around being free to do what we want and living life on our own terms. Yet, we seek approval on these same memes we post day in and day out. So what is one to do, to disentangle oneself from the prison of others’ opinions, without drifting into exile or shunning social media forever?
Cultivate the fierce art of loving yourself
In a world where selfishness is being masked as loving ourselves, we’ve lost the art of real self-love. The ability to unconditionally hold ourselves in high esteem, without doubting our divine worth, assignment and purpose. Instead, we tend to allow the wind of circumstances and events to dictate who we are at any moment.
Stop second-guessing yourself, and start appreciating yourself, even as you make mistakes and are not as successful as you think you should be. Let your sense of worth dictate how you allow others to treat you, and the path you take in this life. And don’t let anyone else convince you otherwise.
Practice going against the grain
Care is a muscle. The more you exert pressure on it, the stronger it will be. Practice going against others’ opinions to strengthen your resolve to stop caring about what people think. This is not about disagreeing with everyone about everything, but rather having the courage of your own convictions in a world that constantly demands that you conform.
Be your own person. Stand alone if you have to. Let go of the need to say yes, the urge to please and agree with others so you can be accepted. The more you have to seek acceptance within yourself, the more likely you will stop caring what people think of you.
Spend time alone
The noise of other people’s opinions very often clouds our judgment. Energy is contagious, so are behaviors and opinions. By removing yourself from the noise around, it’s easier to make space for your own opinions and convictions.
Don’t be afraid to spend time alone. If anything, welcome it as an opportunity to explore your innermost thoughts and desires. The more grounded you get in who you truly are, the less likely it will be for you to succumb to others’ opinions.
Detach yourself from the need to be liked
I used to have what I’d call the “disease to please”, this urge to be appreciated by everyone around me. In turn, I would jump through hoops and desperately try to cater to the needs, desires and whims of people around. While it wouldn’t make me happy, I’d still do it for the fleeting comfort of being liked.
Not everyone has to like you. As a matter of fact, many, if not most people, you meet, may not like you at all. And that’s ok. You have neither the time, nor the energy to cater to a gazillion friendships and other relationships. Take it as a blessing, which frees you up to build strong relationships with those who are meant to be in your life.
Open yourself up to criticism
Unless you’re ready to be talked about and criticized, you’re not ready to be successful. What stands in the way of many people who can’t seem to achieve the success they crave is their refusal to be criticized. Unless you do absolutely nothing, you will be talked about, most of the time in rather unflattering terms. Which also means that you’re doing something that’s making people talk.
Don’t fear criticism. As a matter of fact, you should welcome and celebrate it as a sign that you’re making a difference. Keep in mind that not all criticism is negative. Learn from some of the most constructive remarks you get along the way, and use them as tools to continuously improve.
Learn to master your emotions
The more you tend to care about what other people think, the more you maybe tempted to react emotionally in response. Having control over your emotions allows you to step away from the pressure of others’ opinions, and be able to look at yourself in a more objective way.
Understand that while your emotions are valid, they’re also fleeting. Emotions may be great indicators of where we stand at the moment, but they shouldn’t be trusted to be acted upon. Practice distancing yourself from your emotions, and not reacting to them, while still allowing yourself to feel.
Last but not least, having compassion for others is a great way not to feel threatened by their opinions about you. Understanding that most people don’t even like or appreciate themselves, and as such are incapable of liking you, helps put some perspective in this. Everyone is faced with their own journey, and has to tackle many a challenge to get there.
Be compassionate with the people who may judge you. They’re probably also judging themselves. What people think about you has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.
What other tips do you have to stop caring about what people think about you?
To Your Success,
The Corporate Sis
Author: Solange Lopes
Solange is the founder of The Corporate Sister, as well as an author, entrepreneur and CPA. She’s passionate about helping women do work they love, build fulfilling careers and living life on their own terms.