The occasional punch in the face by reality is good for us. Case in point: on occasion you’ll do, or not do, what you want because you’re concerned with what other people think. And it’s holding you back.
Why do we care so much about other people’s opinions, even those of total strangers?
Why do we do things, or not do things, because of how we expect others to react?
No matter the “why” the truth is, at some point, we base our actions and decisions on how we anticipate other people will perceive us. As a result, we don’t always do the things we want to do, because we’re afraid of what others will think.
I’ll kick this off with a disclaimer. It’s beneficial to have opinions from a few people you can trust to tell you if you’re doing something bat-crap crazy, or to encourage you to take a risk. Thankfully, I have a spouse who doesn’t hesitate to keep me in check or nudge me forward and a mom who will always tell me, point blank, if I’m not thinking clearly.
But what about other people’s opinions? What about those who spew hate and venom your direction for no reason? Or what about people you go to school with, work with, or otherwise have to tolerate because you encounter them frequently?
For a good chunk of my life, I valued the opinions of others too much.
I wasn’t the most confident kid. Like many others I was made fun, relentlessly. I was laughed at for having a large nose. I was teased because I could beat all of the boys in any physical activity (at least until puberty). I wasn’t pretty enough. I acted like a boy. My idea of a good time when I was 13 was seeing how high I could launch into the air from a homemade ramp with a pair of roller blades or a bike. This was not “normal” girl behavior, and other kids let me know it.
My analysis to these events was the same: do something different from everyone else and you’ll be berated. Better to fit in.
Unfortunately, I allowed a lot of opportunities to pass me by, simply because I cared too much about what other people would think or say. I would often not be true to myself, or do the things that would make me happy, out of fear of how other people might react. I stopped doing those “things that aren’t normal for a girl” and conformed to the standards. I started to dress different. Act different. I also changed my hair.
Perhaps you can relate: When was the last time you didn’t do what you wanted because you cared more about what other people would think?
Probably more frequently than you like to admit.
Older. And, Wiser?
Fast forward a bit. I’m now 30 and much more confident, though not immune to hatred. Many share their negative opinions about me, and my body (because I’m a health and fitness professional). I have a stupid southern accent. I don’t dress “properly” and need to show more skin. My personal opinions about women’s health and fitness are ridiculous because I encourage them to ditch the traditional methodology that revolves around constantly striving for fat loss with rigid diets and life-consuming workout programs and choose to be MORE instead.
Now more than ever, thanks to the internet and social media, people have no problem being jerks and letting their opinions fly. The pool of negativity has grown larger, and deeper.
It’s time to stop caring about what other people think …
7 Practical Ways to Not Care What Other People Think
Let’s jump into the seven-step guide to not giving a damn about what others think, and live the life you want.
1. The negative comments someone makes is about them, and not you.
When I started this website I was rapidly introduced to the craziness that can happen on the internet. People posted cruel, and false, comments about me on forums. I was, and still am, criticized for many things regarding the way I look. To some people I’m too big, to others too small, and there was a debate on a forum where people were trying to guess “what was wrong with my body” because I don’t post pictures of me in bikinis or revealing clothing. It was shocking, and overwhelming. Why would people who don’t even know me feel compelled to be so cruel?
But a couple years ago I saw everything clearly. The people who go out of their way to make hateful comments, usually under an alias, must have a pretty crappy life. Why would someone who is happy or building a worthwhile life take the time to do nothing more than be hateful?
That’s when I realized the hateful comments I receive are a reflection on the commenter, and not on me. It’s just like high school, but with (some-what) grown-ups and the power of anonymity.
It’s terribly sad that some people have nothing better to do with their time then try to tear others down.
Now when I receive unconstructive, pure hateful comments, I view the commenter differently than I used to. I no longer get upset, and I certainly don’t take their unwelcome opinion to heart. I take pity on whoever is choosing to spend their limited time on this earth flinging bile toward people they don’t even know. It’s unfortunate that some people have nothing better to do than try to tear others down.
2. Be true to yourself.
Yes, this is almost painfully cliche, but it’s crucial. It was a valuable lesson I didn’t learn until my early 20s.
As a personal example, I took a risk creating this website and sharing my personal experiences, such as my battle with binge eating and disordered eating habits.
My goal is to be honest, unrestrained, and as transparent as possible on the website and podcast because that’s the only way to truly connect with people. Some call this crazy. I call it following a passion that was in my heart to share my story and, hopefully, help people by doing so.
Once I finally stopped caring so much about what other people thought and followed my heart, my life got significantly better. Never underestimate the beautiful power and freedom that washes over you when you commit to being true to yourself.
3. This is your one life. There are no do-overs.
My spouse is a physical therapist at a nursing home and she sees death on a near daily basis, and has the opportunity to learn from those who are willing to share their life lessons. The most frequent comment has been something along the lines of, “I wish I would have chosen to be happy”.
All of our stories will end the same. Death is inevitable. As uncomfortable as it may be to acknowledge the fact that we will all die, it can also be liberating.
When you can put things into perspective and realize that we only get one life, it makes it easier to stop caring so much about what other people think and be true to yourself.
4. Think, really think, about the absolute worst case scenario.
What intimidates you? What’s holding you back from doing the things you want to do?
For example, I’ve had numerous women tell me they’re intimidated to lift weights at the gym because it’s full of loud, grunting men. And others say, “There are no women back there; they all participate in group classes”.
Ask yourself this question: What is the absolute worst thing that will happen if you do [insert whatever it is you want to do]?
Sticking with the weight lifting room example, you may get an odd look or two. You may have to stand beside some smelly men. If your gym is filled with women who like to gossip, someone may say something about you.
And is that worst case scenario really that bad? No . . . no it’s not.
An amazing, determined woman received an ignorant comment from a personal trainer when he said, “There’s another one who will break our equipment” because she was 350+ pounds. But this lady didn’t give up and lost 250 pounds despite the comment of a horrible person. You can find her story here.
That story proves what we know is true: some people are ignorant assholes. The solution is simple: screw what other people think.
And here’s the REAL question we should be asking:
What is the worst thing that will happen if we don’t do the things that make us happy because we’re concerned with what other people will say/think?
In short: we won’t do the things that make us happy, and we won’t live life to the fullest. How sad is that? I know, because I’ve done it in the past. I’ve held myself back from doing the things I wanted, all because I was too concerned with what others would think and I missed out on many opportunities as a result. Hell, I spent almost two decades trying to force myself to be attracted to men because where I come from, being gay is unacceptable.
The next time you’re hesitant to do something or take a risk because you’re afraid of what other people will think, stop and ask yourself, “What’s the worst case scenario if I do this?” More than likely it’s not that bad. And I can almost guarantee you’ll be worse off if you do/don’t do things because you’re more concerned with what others will think.
“I’d rather look back on life and say ‘I can’t believe I did that’ than ‘I wish I did that’.”
5. Remove sources of negativity, immediately.
Purge your life of negative, toxic people and resources. If your coworkers have a knack for starting drama, avoid them. If your circle of friends have a tendency to tear you down, then separate yourself and look elsewhere.
If you have a public life on the internet or have trouble with cyber bullying and can’t (yet) laugh off the terrible comments people say about you, for the love of everything stop reading the comments or remove yourself from the situation! You can’t stop people from being hateful, but you can choose to ignore them and do something meaningful with your time instead.
I once made the mistake of reading comments about me on a forum, and I was utterly shocked by some of the comments. I can easily shrug off 99% of the cruel, ridiculous comments people make, but I’m not bullet proof. The fool-proof solution is to simply avoid it all together.
Instead of reveling over comments, I ignore them. I keep doing the work that makes me happy. I continue to follow my passion. I choose to make positive, productive, fulfilling decisions with my time.
You should do the same.
Avoid people and resources (and social media, if necessary) that are negative.
6. Trust a few opinions, but forget the rest.
There’s freedom in being true to yourself and not caring about what other people think. However, it is important to trust a select few to share their opinions with you, or people you can go to when you need to talk.
Have a few close people you can confide in; people who you know have your best interest at heart.
Personally, I can count on one hand the number of people’s opinions in my life that have an affect on me. And what about other people, or total strangers who feel the need to tell me what they think about me, my body, and my life? Pffft. They don’t matter.
7. Some people are going to dislike you, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Don’t waste your time trying to get everyone to like you, because it’s impossible.
Instead of worrying about who doesn’t like you, focus on being a better person for those who do. Spend your time and energy living an awesome life and using your talents, gifts, and abilities to make the world and people around you better.
Let other people like you not because of who you’re trying to be, but because of who you genuinely are. Or, as I like to say …
I’d rather be hated for who I truly am than loved for something I’m pretending to be.
Apply those seven tips and you’ll be on your way to not caring what other people think and living a more awesome life.
Ready, Aim, Don’t Care What They Think
Are the tips above easier said than done? Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Just like anything else in life you want to master, it will require consistent practice. In the same way Lifting Like a Girl takes some time to achieve results, you’ll also have to consistently put the above tips to practice if you want to stop caring about what other people think and live the life you want.
Remember, what’s worse: Having to deal with unwelcome comments from doing the things you want, or not living your life to the fullest?
Finally, please practice this with other people too. If you find yourself judging or gossiping about others, please stop. Let’s focus instead on becoming the best versions of ourselves and encourage others to do the same, even if it’s a different way than us.
Did you enjoy this article? You may also like:
- How to Stop Letting Fear Hold You Back (Even if You Don’t Realize It Is)
- 10 Benefits to Not Caring About What Other People Think of You
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