Do you worry about what other people think?


Many of us worry about what other people think of us, whether it's the way we dress, how funny or interesting we are, or how good we are at our job. This can often lead to low self-esteem, negative thinking and a lack of confidence which then only fuels the worry and a vicious circle begins.

When discussing this issue with clients, I often get them to imagine that they have just purchased an amazing jacket that they have been wanting to buy for ages. Imagine that now for yourself. Now, because you love it so much, you decide to wear it straight away. Upon leaving the shop, you bump into someone you know who shares in your love of the jacket and comments that it really suits you. Who wouldn’t feel pleased by this? Then later you run into someone else you know who notices the new jacket but says it’s not really their cup of tea as it’s a little garish but, as an afterthought adds that it suits you though. You might find your excitement about the jacket wanes a little after this, you may even feel a little disappointed. Then you meet another person you know who jokes that you must be on your way to a fancy dress party by the looks of your jacket.

By this point, you’re most likely hoping you won’t bump into anyone else you know on the way home. I wonder how you would feel if this happened to you. Whose comment would you likely take the most notice of? The one who said it was great, the one who said they weren’t keen on it but it suited you, or the one who laughed at it?

We want to be liked. We want to make a good impression on people. As such, most people would latch on to what the last person said and react accordingly. They might take the jacket back or leave it at the back of the wardrobe unworn. Maybe they would only wear it around the people who said it suited them. But by doing this, you’re changing who you are. You’re foregoing your desires, interests, and opinions in favour of theirs.

Really, we should not be bothered by any of those comments. During the journey home from the shops, you and the jacket you were wearing remained the same as when you first walked out of the shop. You didn’t change at any point. All that happened is three people gave their thoughts about your jacket. Their thoughts! Their opinions! All based on their own preferences and what is important to them.

Last month, I wrote a blog post about how to determine what you can control and what you can’t. We often worry about things that are not within our control which is such a waste of time and energy and only causes us more stress. We cannot control what other people think, or say, or do. So we should just let those worries go. Easier said than done, I know!

In A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy, William Irvine discusses the Stoic view on seeking fame. I’m not talking about celebrities here, just everyday people seeking the admiration and approval of the people around them. In trying to impress people, we end up doing things that the people we’re attempting to impress value or finds important, rather than what you value and find important. We become their puppet, even if they aren’t actively pulling the strings (or even aware of the fact). We lose ourselves. For years people have told me not to worry about what other people think about me, however the idea that when we seek status, we give other people power over us, made me even more determined to just be who I am!

Stiff Little Fingers seem to say it best in their song “Nobody’s Hero”:

“Don't wanna be nobody's hero
Don't wanna be nobody's star
Don't wanna be nobody's hero
Get up get out be what you are”

Whilst this isn’t the subject matter of the song, the chorus really sums up what Irvine was discussing. Being yourself and not worrying about what other people think about you is truly liberating! So, Get Up, Get Out and Be What You Are!