How can we stop worrying about the opinions of other people? Human beings are social creatures. Caring what other people think of us is an evolutionary adaptation.
Today we might not need tribes to survive, we do need other people for intimacy and companionship.
Even if we don’t necessarily want to be around many people or want to have a ton of friends as sensitive people we still place a lot of importance and value on our relationships- it’s in our nature. But because we’re misunderstood we can often end up worrying about what others think of us.
Everyone wants to be liked, appreciated and loved but positive, nurturing relationships can be hard to find as highly sensitive people. Maybe like me, you grew up in a family that couldn’t or wouldn’t support your emotional needs so you have a strong need for reassurance and validation. Or maybe just living life as an HSP you’ve learned to judge yourself too harshly and it’s affected your self-esteem resulting in a lack of confidence and fear rejection.
No matter how we get to the point of caring about what others think of us, when we make their opinions of who we are more important than what we know to be true about ourselves it can become a serious burden to our mental health.
We do this by letting other people make decisions for us, changing our opinions to fit in, trouble setting boundaries, and constantly apologizing even when we’ve done nothing wrong. As HSPs it’s too easy for us to overthink and over analyze ourselves into an unhealthy state of mind.
Here are 5 ways that have helped me to take back my power and free myself from caring about what others think.
1. Everyone Makes Mistakes!
Many of us get so stuck seeking perfectionism. This is one of my biggest personal battles. Even though we know that perfection is impossible, something deep inside of us still yearns for it. Anyone who thinks less of us for making mistakes has likely made bigger ones than we ever will. So whether criticism comes from a friend or a stranger, anything they say is more of a reflection of them and not you. There’s a great quote by Drew Barrymore where she says “when things are perfect that’s when you need to worry most.” I remind myself of this anytime I work on something that I care deeply about. Perfectionism is unfair, unproductive, and unhealthy and making mistakes is often the best way we learn and grow.
2. Stop trying to please everyone
It’s an impossible task. No matter how hard we try we will never live up to the expectations of some people and guess what? That’s ok! We can twist ourselves into knots trying to please some people and they will still find fault with some things we say or do. We have to please ourselves first for our own mental health and then just let the rest fall away. You can be the kindest, most compassionate person and there will still be some people who don’t like you. And we have to learn to be ok with it- because these aren’t our people.
3. People really aren’t thinking about you all that much
We’re all the heroes of our own story and it’s pretty rare that whoever did the criticizing is still thinking about what they said to you for very long after the fact. It’s likely they’ve already moved on to criticize someone else. 99% of the time people are only thinking about themselves and because we’re highly sensitive we often feel that people are judging us more harshly than they actually are. And we’re much harder on ourselves than anyone else.
4. Set boundaries on overthinking
Boundaries are a healthy way to take care of our mental health, but it’s easier said than done. First we have to figure out what our individual boundaries are and then learn to be flexible with them as we grow and change. Self-reflection and consistency are really important- continually reminding ourselves what we want to spend our precious time worrying about and letting go of what isn’t worth a second thought. If you’re in a headspace where you just can’t shake the worry try setting a timer and journaling about it. If I’m struggling I’ll set a timer for 5 minutes and either write out or make a video journal about what I’m feeling and then I delete it, let it go and move on. It takes practice but it really does work.
5. Be present
Focusing on the moment and having a consistent mindfulness practice can bring a monumental shift on our perspective. When we spend time worrying about what others think we miss so many other important moments in our lives. When you notice your worrying about what someone else thinks or a mistake that you’ve made stop take a breath and create a present moment for yourself.
These moments don’t have to be groundbreaking; they can be as small as playing a game with your kids or spending quality time with your dog. Kids and animals are the best teachers for mindfulness- they live in the present moment and have no judgement.
Life is short… so much shorter than we even realize. Do we really want to spend even a moment worrying about what other people think? Trying to live our lives as a smaller version of ourselves in the hopes that they might like or love us just a little bit more?
When we understand that we’ll never please everyone and more importantly that we don’t even need to try, we begin to feel lighter and more powerful in our highly sensitive skin.
And the world needs us now more than ever. The world needs our high sensitivity empathy and compassion. Don’t let what others may or may not think of you keep you from shining your light!