The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages.– Virginia Woolf
Most people are victims of an odd obsession, one that causes them to spend their time worrying about what other people are thinking.
It’s odd because it’s just guesswork; pure fantasy that we create in our minds.
Somewhere inside of us, we know this truth, but we continue nonetheless.
And it is this incessant fascination with what fills the minds of other people that is the cause of so much anxiety and worry.
It’s time to quit this habit. It’s time to take back control of your mind. It’s time to stop caring what others think of you.
But let’s take this one step at a time.
First, we need to explore the reasons why you care so much what anyone thinks.
Then we need to identify some of the things that might be making the situation worse.
And, finally, we’ll dive into some of the ways that you can break free from this need to dwell so long on the thoughts of others.
Why Do I Care What People Think Of Me?
There isn’t a single cause or reason why we worry so much about the perceptions of other people. There are many.
Identifying the combination of reasons why YOU care so much about how you come across to others is vital if you are to begin to care less and eventually not care much at all.
Most of the reasons stem from one part of your psyche…
Your ego is the part of you that you likely identify with most. It is the “I” that speaks much of the time; the “self” that you refer to.
And it’s not all bad. The ego sometimes plays an important positive role in how we act or feel or view the world.
But the ego also generates some of the negative thought patterns we experience, including our obsession with what others think of us.
Why does it do this?
Self-doubt: when we are unsure in ourselves and our abilities, we look to others to provide reassurance. We ask them to fill our ephemeral, ethereal beings with confidence.
We seek regular reinforcement of our fragile self-belief so that we may push our self-doubt down into a dark corner of our minds where it cannot affect us.
The problem comes when we do not receive the necessary words of encouragement from others to convince us of our self-worth.
Instead, we turn to our imaginations and construct our own versions of what others think. We fabricate their opinions of us.
But when you already feel insecure, the thoughts that you put into other people’s heads are likely to be less than kind.
You project your feelings of self-doubt outwards and convince yourself that others have the same doubts about you that you have of yourself.
If you think of yourself as weak, you believe that others see you as weak. If you worry that you’re not attractive, you convince yourself that others think you’re ugly.
Whatever negative thoughts you have about yourself become the negative thoughts other people must have of you too. This is what you tell yourself.
If you are self-confident, however, this need for reassurance is markedly reduced and so you worry less about what others are thinking.
The need to be liked: another way in which we put a value on our selves is by judging how well liked we are by others.
We want to feel like we belong, we want to be a part of something, we want to believe that we can depend on those around us should we need their help in times of trouble.
This is why loneliness is so detrimental to our mental health. When we have no one around us, we have no safety net to catch us when we fall.
And even when we have friends and loved ones in our lives, can we ever really be sure what they think of us and how far they would go to lend a hand?
That nagging self-doubt we just spoke about will rear its ugly head and cause us to doubt the true feelings of our friends and family.
We worry too much about the thoughts of others because they are hidden from us. They are unknowns and this scares us.
Until we can be sure that a good friend truly is a friend and not someone who