Many of us were raised to be concerned about what other people think of us. The idea that we were being watched and judged and condemned was passed down to us by people who had this belief passed down to them and until we become aware of it as an idea rather than a truth, it can seem like some kind of law we must abide by.
But how helpful is this for us? How free are we to be and act and live as we choose when we must take into account other people’s opinions all of the time? It leads to a default stance of self judgement and criticism and keeps us welded to our past actions and mistakes as we hold in our minds what other people were thinking about us and how wrong or bad or inferior they must believe us to be. We do not feel free to grow and explore and investigate life because we are so frightened that in other people’s opinion we will get something wrong and be blamed, called out or ridiculed for doing so.
We have all heard by now that what other people think of us is none of our business which is particularly pertinent in a time when other people share their opinions about others widely and freely. Allowing ourselves to disengage from the need for approval from others as well as the desire to defend, prove and justify who we are is what allows us to focus on what is important in our lives and do what it is we feel we have been put here to do, regardless of what other people might think about it.
The one thing we all know by now is that if someone has an idea about us that feels solid and real for them, they’ll think it no matter what we do to try and change their minds. Each and every one of us lives in a separate reality of our own making. This could be seen as evidence that other people’s thoughts about us are not especially useful or trustworthy and yet our conditioning means that we still pay them heed, time and worry.
No successful story starts with, I got worried about what everyone else thought about me and decided not to pursue the venture or cause or project. What we do find is that those who do well in life pay little attention to the opinions that others hold about them, good or bad, or work hard to ignore or override their programming. If we want to be free from the fear of what other people think about us, we have to understand that their ideas and opinions can have no bearing on us unless we allow them to.
We can also see how living a life that is motivated by a desire to be viewed as successful by others, to be deemed right or good by the standards of an unknown concensus, to be seen to be doing well rather than acting in alignment with our truth and our own common sense, can find us losing sight of what matters to us. When this happens we rarely feel fulfilled no matter how well we seem to be doing in other people’s eyes and often, despite having what appears to be the approval of others, we feel unsatisfied and even lost.
Noticing the familiar tug of anxiety, stress, defensiveness and worry that occur when we are told what other people think of us or start imagining what they do, can help us to change our reaction. Habitual feelings created by habitual thinking that we did not form for ourselves but were conditioned into believing and repeating until they appeared to be the right or normal way to think and feel can be changed. Once we see them for the unhelpful, disempowering and limiting paradigms that they are, it no longer makes sense for us to invest in them. Once we see how they are affecting our life, we no longer want to give them power.
The more we choose a new way for ourselves, the more natural it gets for us to take this route in future. Once we decide we want to feel differently about other’s people’s opinions and potential views on who we are and how we live our lives, we can start making changes to the way we think. We can’t control the thoughts that flow through our minds but we can control the way we think about them. If a thought leaves us with a feeling of unease, we can trust our feelings as a reflection of our state of mind in the moment. If we feel neutral or calm about something, we are in a state of mind that will lead to us to investigate our thoughts with clarity and clear perspective which often leads to positive action. If we feel otherwise, it can be helpful for us to drop our thinking until we are able to consider it more consciously.
It logically makes no sense for us to spend our time on Earth hampered or even paralysed by what other people think. Freeing ourselves from the compulsion to be concerned about other people’s opinions empowers us to find out who we really are, listen to our intuition and inner wisdom and follow our own lead. Opinions, beliefs, ideas are all just thoughts. Deciding on the ones we choose to invest and believe in is up to us. Why not choose the ones that free us from the worry of paying attention to what other people think and focus instead on the ones that help us to live the lives we really desire?