“You can’t force anyone to value, respect, understand, or support you, but you can choose to spend your time around people who do.” ~Lori Deschene
It can be paralyzing.
The worry about what other people think about you, I mean. That worry can hinder you from pursuing your dreams. It can stop you from expressing your true nature and stand in the way of the life you so badly want to create.
This worry can easily get your mind wandering to dark places and trigger feelings of insecurity, anxiety, and self-doubt. When it has a grip on you, you do anything to avoid rejection, ridicule, and potential embarrassment. Better to be unseen than negatively judged, right?
You know that you shouldn’t worry about what others think of you. But that’s just easier said than done.
For a long time, I felt stuck because I was afraid of other people’s opinions. Due to this fear, I was terrified of pursuing a new career path. Eventually, I reached a point where I couldn’t take it anymore.
I knew I had to deal with the fear and worry of other people’s judgment, or I wouldn’t be able to live the life I wanted. And I was not willing to compromise on that—neither should you.
To help you move past the fear of other people’s opinions, I’ve put together a list of ideas that have helped me. Use this list as your go-to whenever your worries about what other people’s opinions get the best of you.
1. Know that you’re not a mind reader.
I used to assume that I knew what other people thought of me. But assumptions often lead to bad conclusions.
When I left my corporate job to travel and pursue my own entrepreneurial endeavor, I was afraid of ex-colleagues judging my decision. I thought they would see me as naive, reckless, or foolish for making that decision.
Turned out I couldn’t have been more wrong. During the following months and years, many of them became my greatest supporters! Some said I was brave for walking my own path, others opened up about their desires to do something similar. The takeaway here is: You never know what people think about you unless you give them a chance to speak.
2. Understand that it’s never about you.
This has been a game-changer for me! Hear this: Another person’s judgment about you is never about you—it’s about them. It’s a reflection of their fears, limitations, and perceptions.
One of the closest people in my life told me that I was making a mistake by quitting my corporate job to start my own business.
First, I felt that he judged me and didn’t support my decision. Later on, I realized that his reaction was a mirror of his beliefs, fears, and view on the world. For him, staying at a corporate job meant security, safety, and a good life.
When I realized that he always had my best interest at heart, I felt nothing but compassion and love for him. To make sure you navigate your choices right, ask yourself: What do I want? What is the right thing for me to do?
3. Stop judging yourself.
Many times, we’re so aware of what we find awkward about ourselves that we look for others to confirm our beliefs. So, the judgment we fear from others is really a reflection of what we judge ourselves for. Sneaky, right?
Be honest with yourself, what do you judge yourself for? It can be related to your health, career, relationship status, living situation, or looks. Then ask yourself why you judge yourself for this. What beliefs are driving the judgments? Do you believe it’s wrong to prioritize career over family? Do you believe it’s bad to be the center of attention?
Once you challenge these beliefs and stop judging yourself, you’ll be able to make peace with who you are and the choices you’ve made, good and bad. Once you’ve reached acceptance, you won’t fear the judgment of others because you stand behind yourself.
4. Stop judging others.
The more we judge others, the more we tend to believe that they judge us. It’s a vicious cycle. So, instead of judging others for their choices, character, religious views, ways to dress, or something else, choose to be curious about the differences and diversity.
Ask yourself what you can learn from this person? Why this person is in a certain way? Maybe there are reasons for it. As Wayne Dyer said, “When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.”
5. Use your worry as guidance.
What is it that you worry other people will judge you for? Perhaps it’s your job position, living situation, relationship status, insecurities, looks, or intelligence. That worry tells you there’s either something you need to accept and make peace with or something you need to change.
For example, maybe you can start pursuing a new career path that feels more aligned with your values. Or maybe you can choose to view your situation today as a stepping stone to something better. When you approve of yourself and your life, other people’s opinions won’t matter as much.
6. Expect reactions from others.
Instead of trying to avoid getting reactions from others, expect them! If you try a new plant-based diet, change career paths, or decide to go all-in on that geeky hobby of yours, expect people to say something about it. And take it as a good sign because it means you’re doing what’s right for you, even though people will have opinions about it.
As Aristotle said, “There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” And that’s not you, right? You are here to live to the fullest, follow what excites you, and be the incredible person that you are.
7. Focus on long-term happiness.
Judgment and criticism from others can hurt. But it will never hurt as much as regret. Do you know what most people regret on their deathbed? This: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
Be willing to take judgment and criticism in the short term, in exchange for what will serve you long term. Focus on living life true to yourself and not on the life others expect of you.
8. Approve of yourself.
Acceptance of yourself is what it all comes down to, right? Once you approve of yourself, you stop worrying about other people’s opinions. You have the one approval that matters most: your own.
Look at your imperfections, flaws, and the choices you wish you had made differently and accept it all. Know that you are enough. Know that you’ve done the best you can, from where you once were. We all want you to be the person you are meant to be—including the quirks, flaws, and imperfections.
Living with the worry that other people will judge you is hard. It can keep you stuck, paralyzed, and separated from the life you want to live.
It’s time to take your power back. Use this list, choose one or two points that resonate, and practice them. Then, once you’re ready, come back to the list and choose another point.
Stop living in accordance with other people’s expectations and start living life true to yourself.
Now, go out and show the world what you’re made of. We are waiting eagerly.
About Maria Stenvinkel
Maria Stenvinkel is on a mission to help you move from fear to fearless—and to unleash your confidence, greater potential, and true self-love. Download her free and powerful worksheet: "The Secret to Boosting Your Self-Confidence [Easy Worksheet]."