How to Stop Caring What Other People Think
I liked a boy in school and he didn’t like me back. I found this out when a girl asked me whom I liked and then told him; she actually derived pleasure from my humiliation…she already knew the boy and that he in fact, liked her. Total bitch “mean girl” in the making. We were probably ten years old.
That day in middle school changed me forever more. Of course, I would never admit to liking someone ever again.
It’s human nature to care about what other people think, in order to survive, humans had to be part of the tribe. If you didn’t fit in or were unproductive, you might not get a mate or you might even get kicked out.
A part of us thinks about everything we do in relation to:
- How it will help or hinder us in society?
- Who will approve or disapprove?
- What will the consequences of this action be?
This part of us that has been conditioned to fit in, it’s very strong like an obsession; a human’s obsession to fit in is like having a “mean girl” on your right shoulder whispering in your ear all day every day criticizing every circumstance and action you take.
This can cripple you in today’s world.
- I can’t try painting because someone will think I’m not good enough.
- I can’t wear that dress it’s too clingy for my roll-filled body.
- I can’t drive that car because people will wonder, “Who do I think I am”.
However, this need to fit in doesn’t serve us in modern life quite like it did thousands of years ago. Unfortunately, human nature or genes don’t change as fast as civilized life on earth has for humans.
This “mean girl” on your shoulder doesn’t just hurl insults but also is very needy for praise.
When she has done the work of making sure, you look good she requires the compliment that it might trigger from someone else. She’s really let down when the compliment doesn’t come.
Sometimes she takes over and you blurt out brags or even insults to others who she feels might be hogging her spotlight. Maybe your insult is simply you withholding praise or attention, something subtle. You probably regret this hostile takeover later.
We continue to accommodate this “mean girl” by making sure to choose the education or job that satisfies her place in society, ignoring our true essence and callings. Sometimes it’s not our inner “mean girl”’ on our right shoulder, it’s our “peeps” on our left shoulder.
Our left shouldered “peeps” are the parents who expect you to go to college to become a doctor, and not to follow your dreams and become a mid-wife. They are the high school pals who think you’re totally uncool if you don’t try smoking or vaping. Your office mates who comment with disdain on your red lipstick or high heeled shoes. Maybe it’s your girlfriends who might tease you for the frilly skirt you really want to wear…we crave people’s approval.
Your Essential Self
With all the noise in your head from the “mean girl” and your “peeps”, I bet you can’t even hear your essential self anymore. The voice in your head that is your authentic self is the person you were born to be. Over the years, you have been conditioned to ignore what you want, for the approval of others.
Your essential self knows what it loves and it can use the information it has taken in to choose the next steps, not out of fear but out of an innate moral code and knowing. Your essential self knows the right path for you; it has varied interests and tries many things. Your essential self isn’t attached to things and outcomes.
When your “mean girl” and your “peeps” are shouting in your ear it’s very difficult for your essential self to be heard. When this happens, you are no longer you. When you can no longer hear your essential self, you end up becoming the person your mean girl and your peeps want you to be…this is not your authentic self.
So what do you do about it?
How do you free your essential self from the “mean girl” and your “peeps”?
All of us are somewhere on a spectrum when it comes to how free our essential self is and how loud the “mean girl” or the “peeps” are.
A lot of us are somewhere in the middle and can work to become more authentic, which will bring us more joy and contentment in our lives.
Some of us are already super in-tune with our essential selves and are totally aware of the “mean girl” and “the peeps” while allowing our essential self to dominate.
But sadly, many of us don’t hear the essential self at all anymore. We just feel unhappy, discontented, and fearful all the time. We may not even realize it. Some of us think we are totally in charge and unaffected by others but we are simply blind.
The first thing you need to do is to reconnect with your essential self.
You can sit and reflect or journal about all the areas or aspects of your life and really think about why you choose those things and paths.
- Why do you work where you do?
- Why do you do that work?
- Whom do you really want to spend time with?
- What are activities you truly love and why?
- What are you doing that you already know you don’t like, what interests are you following simply to fit in?
2. Shine a Spotlight on your “mean girl” and your “peeps”.
Look at your fears, shame, and insecurities. Look at areas where you brag, preen, or people please. Look at where in your life you are seeking or asking for permission.
These three areas are where you will find your “mean girl” and “peeps” hanging out. Now of course you can’t silence them forever, it’s human nature after all. But you can put them in their place and make sure your essential self is the one driving the bus.
You need to neutralize the power the “mean girl” and “peeps” have on you by understanding that your “mean girl” and “your peeps” fears don’t actually make sense.
They think every person is thinking about you and focused on you, when in reality we are all thinking and focusing on ourselves.
They think they can please everyone and feel awful when they don’t; this is simply not possible and pleasing others is so less important than pleasing your essential self.
They feel terrible when people judge them and they in turn tend to be judgy to others. This judginess is about them making themselves feel good, they need this validation. A person whose essential self is driving the bus does not need validation and they don’t judge because they are letting their freak flag fly too. They mind their own business.
You get one life. It is your responsibility alone. Life is short.
3. A few more thoughts about your “mean girl” & ”peeps” vs. your essential self.
“Mean girl” & “peeps” are boring, like everyone else, in-authentic, followers, fearful, conformers.
Your essential self is interesting, unique, attractive, a leader, and she will do, try, be.
First, you should reflect and journal like we mentioned earlier so you can get familiar with your essential self. Be patient, if you’ve ignored her for a long time she will be shy.
Then you need to get brave and build up your courage muscles, nothing you fear is actually scary if you think about it. Being brave and courageous and authentic gets easier and with practice you will get stronger.
Eventually your “mean girl” and your “peeps” get pretty quiet, but be careful not to stop paying attention to whose driving the bus. It’s a constant practice.
I was inspired for this post by the article, Taming the Mammoth on Wait by Why, I summarized, used my own examples and tone but the content idea is adapted directly from, https://waitbutwhy.com/2014/06/taming-mammoth-let-peoples-opinions-run-life.html – I totally recommend you read it for a deeper understanding of the above post idea.