Why We Worry About What Other People Think of Us (And How to Stop)

“When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.” ~Winston Churchill

I often play a little game with myself when I’m feeling bad. The game is a simple one, and maybe one that some people might find slightly morbid, but it cuts to the heart of the matter.

I ask myself if this thing that is making me feel bad will matter to me when I’m on my deathbed. Ninety-nine percent of the time the answer is no.

The things that matter to us when we’re contemplating our demise are the things that are actually important like, Did I love enough? and, Did I do all of the things I wanted to do?

No one on their deathbed has ever said, “Man, I really wish I hadn’t stumbled over my words during that job interview.” Or, “I wonder why no one complimented me at that party when I was twenty-two.”

We spend a lot of our time worrying about things that won’t matter to us later.

You might be thinking, but it matters to me now, and it does. But there are two reasons why it shouldn’t: The first is that worrying is counterproductive, and the second is that worrying about what other people think of you doesn’t serve you.

Worrying is the most impractical way to use your energy. There has never been a time when worrying if so-and-so would like you, give you the job, or want to be your partner in life contributed to you getting what you want.

Not only does this not solve your problems, it typically leads to anxiety and overwhelm.

When things are outside of our perceived control, like when we’re meeting people for the first time, worry kicks in.

Our minds are wired for negativity—an evolutionary tool designed to keep us safe. But today, this process doesn’t serve us. We’re not meeting bears that might kill us at the event tonight, but our bodies are responding as if we were.

Just like anything that isn’t serving us, worry can act as a signpost for where we need to dig more deeply into ourselves.

Worrying about what other people think about you is a key indicator that you do not feel whole without the approval of others. 

You’re looking outside of yourself to fill something only you can fill. No amount of approval from an outside source will ever make you feel whole. You’ll get it once and need it again and again and again. It’s an addictive cycle that turns you away from yourself.

I remember when I began dating in my early twenties. I was super nervous because I wanted to make a good impression on whoever I was going out with. I was so focused on appearing likable that I didn’t even consider whether or not I liked him.

This, in the simplest of terms, is disempowerment.

We disempower ourselves when we’re more concerned with how other people perceive us than we are about how we perceive ourselves.

When you are truly content with who you are, you stop being concerned with whether or not other people like you.

You deserve to live your life for you instead of chasing an ideal your mind has created.

You deserve to discover who you truly are, and show that incredible person to the world.

You deserve to have people around you who love and admire you for who you are instead of who you are trying to be.

There are two techniques that have alleviated my worry about what others think of me. The first is my breathwork practice, a powerful active meditation that gives me clarity, connection to my deeper self, and lightness of being.

The second is mindfulness, the act of being conscious and nonjudgmental of my thoughts. Once I’m aware of my thought process, I work on actively shifting my focus to something that serves me.

I recently went through a shocking breakup. It was shocking because the person I had been dating led me to believe he was committed to me, and we were planning our futures together.

Without warning, he decided he didn’t want that. Of course, there is a natural grieving process when we lose someone we love dearly, but part of my challenge has been letting go of what he thinks about me now.

I will have thoughts about how he doesn’t hold me in the high regard he once did, and it will leave me feeling deflated.

In these moments, I am disempowering myself. I am allowing his thoughts about me to matter, and they shouldn’t.

It’s not that we shouldn’t ever care about what people think about us, but we should care what we think about ourselves first. So in these moments I ask myself who I am and place my attention there.

If he doesn’t think I’m amazing anymore, it doesn’t matter, because I know I am.

We disempower ourselves far too often. A simple shift in our thinking can bring us into connection with the truth.

When you find yourself concerned about what someone thinks about you, bring the focus back to yourself. If you’re thinking, “I hope she doesn’t think I’m a flake.” Ask yourself, “Am I a flake?” If you know the answer is no, then you’re good. Release it and move on.

If the answer is yes, then take note and forgive yourself for it.

When you spend time wondering how other people perceive you, you create stories that are often far from the truth. In order to change, we have to be able to see ourselves, accept who we are by giving ourselves love, and then make new choices.

Worrying about everyone else’s possible thoughts doesn’t contribute to positive transformation.

When I’m on my deathbed, the people who are going to matter to me are the ones who chose me, the ones who really saw me, the people who chose to give me love even when I fumbled.

These are the people who matter.

And it will matter to me that I lived a life I was proud of, that I was able to get to know myself and share that person with the people I love.

So, you have to learn to be your own advocate. You have to stop giving your power away to other people.

Like meditation practice, each time your mind wanders to the thoughts of other people, bring it right on back to yourself. Fill up that void with your own love. Stand in your own power. Show people who you really are, unapologetically.

Don’t wait for someone else’s permission to be amazing. If they don’t see it in you, it doesn’t matter.

The truth is that if they don’t see it in you, it’s because they don’t see it in themselves.

We are all acting as mirrors for one another. Don’t try to be the broken version of someone else. Be the best version of yourself and your own biggest fan.

About Michelle D'Avella

Michelle D’Avella is an author, Breathwork teacher and mentor. Her memoir, The Bright Side of a Broken Heart is available here. Download her FREE guide to heal your heart and follow her on Instagram for daily doses of inspiration.

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