Stop Caring What Others Think

Other’s Opinions Do Not Matter

Overworked, stress worker

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There is at least one big plus that comes with age. You stop caring what other people think. Other people’s negative opinions no longer devastate you – at least, most of the time. It is such a relief!

Caring about other people’s opinions of me was the curse of my youth and early adult life. If I am completely honest, I carried it well into middle age.

I always wanted to please others by doing what they expected, or what I thought they expected of me. The driver behind that effort was that I wanted them to like me. I wanted to belong.

I know now that no good can come from trying to measure up to perceived expectations in order to fit in. Acceptance and friendships based on such actions are tenuous at best. The only absolutes that result from such effort are disappointment, a lot of mental anguish, and low self-esteem.

Caring Too Much Is Harmful

It took decades to realize that caring about what others think of me is a waste of energy. Plus, it is painful and destructive. Gradually, as the years began to pile up, the intensity of caring began to diminish. I am happy to report that now in the sunset years of my life, I rarely give it a second thought.

If I could send one important message to the younger generations it would be: Let go of the absurd and harmful habit of caring too much about other’s opinions. Life is much less stressful when you listen to your own counsel.

There will always be people who have opinions about what you should be doing or how you should be living. Frankly, it’s none of their business!

They don’t live in your skin day-in and day-out. They don’t live with the consequences of your decisions. So, why should they even have an opinion, and why should you care what it is?

There are seven lessons I have learned through years of experience. Do I always succeed at all of them? No. But, when I do, it feels great. I hope they may help you, as well.

  1. There are times when caring what people think is important.

Despite my adamant statements above, there are a few times when it would be wise to listen to what others think. You must listen when your decisions affect others. It is not wise – or even ethical to make those decisions without at least discussing the impact it will have on everyone concerned.

There is a wonderful freedom in making your own decisions. But… always be sensitive to others when they are involved and will have to deal with the consequences of a decision you are making.

  1. When a decision involves only you and it is yours to make, stand firm when others try to interject their opinions into the process.

You can graciously accept and even listen (if you choose) to what others have to say. Be as polite as possible. Being rude is never a good option.

Simply state clearly that you are comfortable making the decision on your own and ask them to respect that. If someone insists on giving you unsolicited advice, ask him/her how she would feel if you started butting into his/her life. Then, remove yourself from the conversation.

  1. Do your homework, research thoroughly, and have your facts straight.

You want to have as much information as possible when making decisions – especially major decisions. When you are prepared, you will have the upper hand when someone challenges your decision. When someone resists or objects to your decision, you can present your case if you choose.

There will be times when you must present your case in order to move on. Do so calmly and confidently. Stand your ground. Don’t let anyone bully you into changing your mind.

  1. Know when to respond and when to ignore situations.

People say things all the time that may annoy you in one way or another. It is important to be able to quickly recognize when to respond (thoughtfully) and when to ignore what was said.

If an annoying remark is made, but there are no potential consequences from that remark (other than being annoyed by it), the wise choice is usually to ignore it.

On the other hand, if someone makes a statement that can at some point become an issue if it is not addressed, action is required. (Please, notice that I said “action” not “reaction.”)

For example, a colleague states that you aren’t doing your job even when you know you are.

You have the right and responsibility to defend yourself, but not necessarily in the heat of the moment. Reacting from anger is always a mistake.

Take a minute or two to breathe (longer, if necessary) and think through your response. Then, calmly tell the offending colleague exactly why he is so far off base with his comment.

Don’t wait and let the situation blow out of proportion or let the statement become a rumor that blows up in your face. Calmly standing up for yourself is important in such situations.

  1. Everything is not personal – even though it may feel that way.

This can be a difficult one for many people to learn. It has been my biggest challenge (still haven’t completely mastered it).

A wise first step when something has been said that upsets you, is to take a step back and think about exactly what was said – not what you think they meant.

Was it truly a personal attack? On the surface, it may feel personal, but when you consider the words carefully and the speaker’s perspective, you may realize they have a point.

When you take a minute or two to assess the situation, you can calmly choose how you are going to respond – rather than give a knee-jerk reaction based strictly on emotion.

Keep in mind that when you always take comments from others personally, you are giving the speakers more power over you than they should ever be allowed to have. You are allowing them to question what you feel and believe, rather than relying on what you know to be true about yourself.

Trust yourself. Listen to what is being said, evaluate it for merit, and choose a healthy response.

  1. Choose your battles.

You have probably heard this most of your life, I certainly have.

We know life is filled with challenges and many potentially annoying situations. So, allowing yourself to get upset when someone says or does something you don’t like, serves no purpose.  You are spinning your wheels and wasting your energy. It also weakens your ability to think clearly when stressed and to deal with bigger issues as they arise.

Learn to let the little stuff wash over you without response. Save your focus and energy for the big battles that are worth fighting – the ones with outcomes that can make a difference to you or someone you care about.

  1. No one is always right. Everyone makes mistakes – including you!

I have seen people brush-off kudos for making insightful comments or a great decision. They portray a non-caring attitude and act as if what they did was nothing, which can be very effective because others see it as humility.

However, that is not a good idea if you make a mistake. A nonchalant, uncaring attitude about mistakes can be offensive to others and get you into trouble. When you make a mistake, take ownership of it. It is much better to openly admit you are wrong and take responsibility.

Admitting you made a mistake and apologizing is not a sign of weakness. In fact, it is a sign of moral courage and garners high respect in the business world. It also builds strong, trusting relationships in all aspects of life.

The best path when you make a mistake is:  own it, correct the damage if possible, learn from it, and apologize to anyone who was hurt by it. There is a lot of power in taking such action.

All are good suggestions and effective if you choose to use them. Some will be harder to practice than others. Numbers 2 and 5 are the ones that are most challenging for me, but I keep working on them.  Believe me, I am much better than I used to be in both situations.

For good measure, I have included three action steps you can take right away and a list of suggested reading for anyone who would like more information.

ACTION STEPS

Step One:  Learn to meditate and use it daily

  • To stop caring what others think, you must be able to calm your mind. Otherwise, it is too easy for other people’s comments to make you angry.
  • Meditation is a great way to help you control angry feelings when they arise.

Step Two:  Learn to “act” rather than “react”

  • A knee-jerk reaction is never a good choice. It usually adds fuel to the fire in any situation.
  • When something is said that you cannot ignore, take a deep breath, consider the comment and the speaker’s perspective and carefully choose your response.
  • If no resolution or agreement is possible, you may have to accept as it is; and walk away.

Step ThreeLearn from your experiences

  • If you tend to take everything personally, practice self-reflection.
  • Each time you feel someone has attacked you personally, take time to reflect on the situation with an open mind.
  • Walk through the experience step-by-step and determine if you overreacted – at all, a little, or a lot?  What could you have done differently? What can you learn from this experience?

ADDITIONAL READING

The Art of Everyday Assertiveness: https://amzn.to/2qLY55C

Not Nice – Stop People Pleasing: https://amzn.to/2K2oFAj

The Power of Not Caring: https://amzn.to/2qSrGKT

You Are a Badass: https://amzn.to/2qSqN51

 

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