“What will they think?” We’re willing to bet that this phrase has killed more dreams and inspired more misery than any other. And if you look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the reason why is clear. According to US psychologist Abraham Maslow, humans have five levels of needs. First up are basic needs like food and warmth, second is shelter, third are emotional needs like belonging, then come self-esteem needs like prestige, and last of all is self–actualisation. Because being on purpose and being true to yourself (self-actualisation) is less of a pressing human need than the need to belong, most of us instinctively sacrifice our own happiness and fulfilment to make sure we belong (by doing what others expect of us).
But if you’ve reached a point in life where you’re sick of living for others and you just can’t continue ignoring the things that will truly make you happy, it’s time to act. The first step is getting to a place where you value what you think about yourself WAY more than the opinions of others. Once you can do this, you’ll be able to act fearlessly.
Wanna know how to do this (and not be a jerk about your newfound self-assured status)? Read on to discover how to not care what people think.
How to not care what people think
Remember that no one is thinking about you as much as you think they are
It’s a sobering thought, but the truth is that you aren’t the centre of anyone’s world except your own. But don’t just take our word for it, dig into psychological research and you’ll find that experts claim that we all spend 95% of our time thinking about ourselves.
Think about your day so far. What’s been your top concern?
We’re willing to bet you’ve been mainly focused on yourself. Even if you have stopped to think about other people or obsess over something someone said or did, if you look closer, you’ll find that the thing you were actually obsessing over was the impact their actions had on you.
Similarly, have you noticed how when you’re in a group setting and everyone has to take turns to speak, you spend most of the time thinking about what you’re going to say and how that’s going to be received rather than paying attention to what everyone else is saying and judging them?
Well, just as you’re caught up with yourself and what everyone thinks of you, everyone else is also caught up with themselves. We’re all just a society of self-centred people trying to hold it together.
But take comfort in this fact because it’ll transform the outlook of anyone who wants to know how to stop caring what people think.
Simply put, no one cares what you do or say as much as you think they do.
Stay away from buzzkills
Now, while we said that no one cares what you do as much as you think they do, that doesn’t mean that everyone’s words reflect how little they care. Most of us walk around projecting our fears, insecurities and experiences onto other people, which means that people who are judging themselves harshly will often walk around saying judgemental things about others.
If your self-esteem isn’t great and you know you’re easily swayed by the opinions of others, do yourself a favour and pick your circle wisely. Minimise contact with the buzzkills whose words trigger you and make you feel bad about yourself. For them the words come fast without a full awareness of the impact those words may have on others – because like everyone else, they’re busy thinking about themselves when they speak.
You can’t (and shouldn’t try to) change them, so if you want to know how to not care what people think, make sure you protect your energy by minimising contact with buzzkills while you’re building yourself up. Focus on surrounding yourself with people who recognise your talents and strengths, and make you feel good about yourself.
But remember that your goal is to discover how to be your own cheerleader, rather than become dependent on others to make you feel good. So be careful about the role positive people play in your life. Don’t treat them like a comfort blanket. Instead, pay attention to their words, repeat them to yourself and remind yourself of them when you start to beat yourself up. This will help strengthen your self-belief. (And if you’re actively working on feeling better about yourself, check out this list of books that will help you get to know yourself better.)
Find your cheerleaders
It’s often said that in life, 25% of people will hate you no matter what you do, 25% of people will dislike you but can be persuaded to like you, 25% will like you, but can change their mind, and finally, 25% will love you no matter what you do.
We don’t know the origins of this saying, but we think it’s a game-changer if you want to know how to stop caring what people think. That’s because it shows you that everyone – absolutely everyone – has haters. You can bend over backwards to please them and they will never approve of you. So, why sacrifice your needs to make them happy? You’ll never win.
Remind yourself of this the next time you want to do something that will make you happy but you’re worried about what John or Luisa will think. Remember that John and Luisa will have something to say whether you do that thing or not, so you might as well make yourself happy.
Practice being wrong
For many, the thought of being wrong, looking less than perfect or having to eat humble pie is a fate worse than death. And to avoid this, they live safe, unfulfilled and unhappy lives. Of course, the reality is that everyone is flawed and we all mess up.
To quote the actor Jim Carey, “You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”
If you play it safe to avoid making mistakes out of fear of judgement, you’re standing in the way of your own happiness. The only way to overcome this is to get comfortable with doing silly things and openly owning your mistakes more. When you next make a mistake, don’t hide it – even if no one else witnessed it. Instead, tell people about it and pay attention to their reactions.
How much do they care… really?
Get used to saying ‘I’m sorry’, ‘I was wrong’ and ‘I messed up’ – pay attention to what happens when you do this. Does the world end?
The more you do this and see that it’s really not a big deal to make mistakes, the more comfortable you’ll become with going against the crowd to follow your heart. The worst that can happen is that things won’t work out exactly as you expected and you may need to course-correct. But the best that could happen is a magical once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
Which option do you prefer?
So, there you have it – four things you can do today if you want to know how to not care what people think. Drop a comment below to let us know which of the four actions you think you’ll have the easiest time putting into action and why.