To some degree, I often found myself caring too much about what others thought about me, driving myself insane ruminating over and over the interaction, drawing conclusions and then sometimes behaving according to how I believed they had judged me. (Oops)
Although it can be useful to care about what a few important people think, I worried about everyone even people I didn’t particularly like, or people I shouldn’t have liked…if I were being true to myself.
Taking notice of my own behaviour helped to change my mindset, not to mention the feelings of exhaustion trying to keep up with a lifestyle the universe did not have in mind for me, surrounded by people I had a minimal amount of things in common with and resentment aimed mostly at myself for not honouring my path and ending up so off-piste…I was lost.
Everyone wants to be liked and thus accepted.
We have evolved to better survive within groups, it’s an inherent need of the human condition – to belong as recognised by American psychologist Abraham Maslow and illustrated in his infamous 5-tier triangle.
In his 1943 paper ‘A theory of human motivation’ he outlined in order to self-actualise, five human needs must be fulfilled.
According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the third stage of development is the social stage based on our psychological and emotional needs. The primary source of this need derives from friendships, family, social organisations, romantic attachments or any other situations which involves interactions with others.
As it is psychological need rather than a physiological one…unfulfillment of this need can result in anxiety and even depression.
It’s not our fault, the need to feel accepted and belong is firmly imprinted within our DNA; however this should not be confused with placing a level of importance of what others think over what we think.
Caring more about what others think more than your own thoughts, can lead us to people-please and destroy our self-esteem if we do not receive the approval and adulation which we are expecting, which not only keeps our happiness at the whim of others but prevents us from being the beautiful and unique human being which we are destined to be.
It’s easy to say and extremely difficult to practise because we generally behave this way on a sub-conscious level. Difficult, yes but not impossible!
Picture the moments you do things without worrying about judgement, for example bobbing your head along to a song you enjoy, or becoming lost within music and dancing like no one is watching (even if they are)
- Isn’t it the most freeing feeling when you are just being yourself without a thought to how you are being perceived?
In these moments, would you describe yourself as happy?
Here are some tips to help you to break this debilitating affliction which keep you imprisoned to other people’s thoughts.
1. Who are you?
Do you know who you are and what you truly like?
Do you know what you want to accomplish in life?
If you are unsure, don’t worry this is where life can become fun as you begin trying all the things you have been curious about but perhaps worried it wouldn’t be “cool enough” or people would think you were crazy to try these things.
It’s time to get experimenting!
- Go to that country you have wanted to visit
- Listen to that music,
- Attend the course
- Apply for the job
- Wear that outfit (Yes that one!)
- Do not attend that party
2. Get rid of your idea of perfectionism
Ideas of perfectionism is what can keep us stuck, the need to have others validate our perfectionism can have us exhausted through endless people-pleasing and anxiety inducing thoughts leading us to wonder what others think of us. Doing ourselves a complete disservice through over-analysis of what we said, what we wore and our beliefs of judgements from others.
This behaviour not only places our happiness and thus our lives within the hands of others but also places people on a pedestal.
If…these people have formed an opinion about you, it says more about them and nothing to do with you and you are better off without them.
Instead ask yourself
Why do their opinions of you carry more weight than yours?
3. Stand for something
If someones’ behaviour is in direct conflict of your values, speak out, even if going against them or a group and runs the the risk of disapproval or being shunned. It’s a bitter pill to swallow but not everyone will like us, even if we try and do everything to please them.
Now that’s out of the way…
It is time to walk in our own truth and yes it is scary but we do not grow into the best versions of ourselves by stifling ourselves down and hiding our magic. Trust and believe in yourself which bring me to….
4. Find your people
When we behave authentically and walk down the path we are supposed to, we give the universe the chance to provide us with the people we are meant to be with.
You may feel lonely, however you will feel even lonelier if surrounded by people whom you feel force you to conform to their beliefs and values.
You deserve to belong, however we will only belong to the people we are brave enough to present our truest self to. We must not allow our need to belong to take centre stage over self-acceptance.
5. Become your own best friend.
If you rely on others for your happiness, security or anything else, when they inevitably leave, you will feel lost and believe me I have learnt this the hard way.
How do you become your best friend?
In exactly the same way you would with another human-being.
- Honour yourself
- Face the parts of yourself you have been avoiding for so long if even if means seeking out the help of a professional.
- Accept every part of you, (yes your flaws too)
- Pay attention to your wants and needs, these are clues leading you to your path
- Speak to yourself compassionately (just as you would a friend)
Just like any relationship, there will be days when you feel irritated with yourself and also just like any relationship work through these feelings, giving yourself the room and respect you deserve.
When I travelled solo, I was often asked what I did away all alone with people looking at me incredulously, calling me brave.
I didn’t feel brave, I felt extremely liberated. Free to do exactly what I wanted, when I wanted.
I had grown tired of either not visiting the places I wanted to, or dishonouring myself by going along with others to places I had no desire to visit because I worried I would be judged if I went alone or with another group. The truth is… people are going to judge you anyway.
Although we are worthy and important we need to accept that do not occupy as much space in other people thoughts as we may believe.
People have their own stuff going on; worrying too about what other’s think, their own battles to face, their own insecurities and living out their own lives and dreams etc.
Believing people are consumed with endless thoughts about us, can make us appear selfish. I have experienced both sides of this coin and I can assure you…it isn’t pretty, our need to be liked can end up ostracising people.
It’s a humanistic need to belong and to be accepted, however belonging to ourselves and accepting ourselves is still fulfilling that need.
We as a species…
are extremely complicated with many emotions, thoughts and feelings passing through us at any given time.
Why then would we allow something as important as our life to be controlled by something as fickle as another persons thoughts?