Admit it, we’ve all been there. Seeking approval. People-pleasing. Shrinking. Replaying a conversation over and over wishing for a different outcome. It’s not unusual to have regrets about something we’ve said, how we’ve acted, our silence. So much of how we react is rooted in our early training and modeling, the culture in which we were raised, the safety or threats of our childhood homes, our gender roles, the encouragement or condemnation to express our feelings.
Just to prime the pump, think back. What phrase immediately pops to mind? You know, the one you heard a lot growing up. Ones like, ” Stop crying”. “Toughen up.” “That’s not ladylike.” “Don’t act like that.” “You embarrassed me.” “You’ll get over it.”
Or worse, “You’ll never amount to anything.” “You’re a piece of shit.” “You’ve ruined my life.” “It’s all your fault.”
Ouch. It’s not just feeling hurt in the moment. It’s feeling hurt for a lifetime. And yet, it’s human nature to seek equilibrium and not be consciously tormented by these negative thoughts and feelings. They go underground, influencing our reactions, our tendencies, our relationships. And because all these memories and messages live subterraneously we don’t have the immediate insight to notice how affected we are.
No matter how conscious we try to be, it’s important that we dig around and recognize the level to which we are concerned with the opinion of others.
I would hazard a guess to say that most of us are trained to care too much about how we are perceived and worry a lot about what other people think of us. Once this is rooted inside of us, we don’t even know it’s there. It becomes part of our hard-wiring and whether we’re over-accommodaters or prickly and defensive, it’s all part of that same training, the “I care too much about what you think of me” routine.
Here are some suggestions:
- Be mindful about how you feel. Connect with your physical body and notice the signals that let you know when you are worrying more about someone else’s feelings rather than your own. Worrying about others creates anxiety, leading to a host of physical discomforts/diseases.
- Notice patterns in your life. Do you feel angry a lot? Victimized? Misunderstood? Resentful? Unappreciated? Insecure? These types of feelings are great indicators that maybe you’re unconsciously and inordinately attached to how other people feel about you.
- Don’t justify your actions. This is very different than accountability. It’s an entire belief system built on the foundation of thinking that what and how you’re operating doesn’t need to be examined. It’s the definition of defensiveness.
- Stop justifying someone else’s actions. Excusing other peoples’ behaviors takes the focus off of our own. And usually, when in service to other peoples’ opinions, our behavior doesn’t shine so bright. It’s what’s called enabling.
- Recognize toxic situations and relationships. All of the above feelings and actions suck the sweetness and good out of life. Relationships, while challenging and complicated, are opportunities for joy, connection, safety. We have to decide if we’re getting what we want and need.
Say this out loud: “I don’t care what you think of me.” This isn’t meant to be used as a weapon, as a way of defending or excusing yourself or stonewalling someone else. It’s a message to yourself. Because what we truly need above all is to care a whole lot less about what others think and pay attention to what we think of ourselves.
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.Man’s Search for Meaning Victor Frankl