What will my parents think? What will my boss think? What will my friends think? These are the worries that influence our decisions and cause us the most anxiety. The good news is, most of those judgmental thoughts we fear are illusions. They don’t actually exist, except in our heads. Don’t believe me? Consider this:
1. Most people spend 90% of their time thinking about themselves
What problems do I have to solve today? What do I have to get done today? What do I really want? What do others think of me? Think about what goes through your mind all day. How much time do you spend pre-occupied with thoughts about others – especially negative judgments and opinions of them? The majority of people out there in the world are focused on trying to get done what they need to get done during the day. Most of the people whose opinions you are worried about aren’t thinking about you at all – they are absorbed in their own lives.
2. When people do think about others, it’s 90% in relation to themselves
How does this person treat me? Does my boss value me enough to give me a raise? Does my husband / girlfriend / family appreciate and love me as much as they should? How can I make sure this person doesn’t betray me?
Of course, it’s not like your boss, work associates, significant other, or friends don’t think of you at all, but the thing to remember is that when they think of you it’s usually only in relation to something they are trying to accomplish for themselves. Maybe they are planning a party for you, so they are thinking about what you would like. Maybe they are angry with you because something you said hurt their feelings and they are trying to decide whether you meant it or not. Maybe they are worried that you don’t get the assignment and won’t ask for help and are trying to figure out how to offer without making you feel stupid. Maybe they are trying to figure out how to impress you or make you think more of them. But ALL of this is really about them, isn’t it? It’s not about you – only about the part of you that is entangled with their to-do list for the day.
3. When people make judgments about others, it’s usually just to make themselves feel better in comparison, and to alleviate their own fears about what others might think of them
What about the gossipers, you ask? You know they exist. People who spend hours over drinks talking and laughing and ridiculing others. Of course, you know you shouldn’t care about people who would stoop this low – but still it does matter a bit. Who wants to be the one being talked about?
The thing to remember is that when people gossip, the ones they choose to gossip about are simply symbols – characters they have chosen to represent something. And that something is usually something they fear or feel threatened by.
a. This person is needy, and I am so giving that our relationship will be unbalanced (secret fear: boy I hope I don’t come across as needy – I hope I come across as confident and the one that provides value to others).
b. My boss is a complete jerk – he micro-manages me and treats me like a peon (secret fear – I hope I’m not such a bad employee that I need to be micro-managed like that).
c. This person’s child really acts out, they really don’t teach good manners at home (secret fear: I hope people don’t ever see my kid behave in a way that would make them judge me as a bad parent).
d. That person is so incompetent (secret fear: I hope people see me as competent).
4. What others think about you is really about them, not about you
a. Bosses will judge you based on whether or not they feel like they can rely on you and trust you to meet performance objectives, handle problems, not cause complicated problems they have to solve, and in general make them look good as a manager.
b. Peers will judge you based on whether or not they feel like they can trust you see and value their strengths and work with them as a team member, as opposed to competing with them and making them look bad in order to position yourself for the next promotion.
c. Friends will judge you based on whether or not they feel heard and known by you, and in general whether or not they enjoy themselves and feel comfortable being themselves around you.
5. What you are worried that others think of you is really about you – not about them
The negative judgments and opinions you fear are coming from others are usually nothing more than fears you have made up in your own mind about yourself. If you are willing to take ownership of the fear, it provides a great starting point for personal growth. Personal growth work helps you get to the point where you know yourself better and feel much more confident in who you are. As that happens, you will find that other people’s opinions matter less and less, which changes the way you interact with others when you are with them. You tend to be less guarded and more authentic, which inevitably makes people feel more connected to you and comfortable with you. Interestingly enough, this personal growth work is the key thing that has the most positive impact on other people’s opinion of you.
A great way to start on this personal growth work is to hire a coach for a long period of time – at least a year or two, or if you can’t afford a private coach, join the our community. In the Aspire Group Program we are constantly working on personal growth – and members work at their own pace, based on what they have time for and what they are ready for. The low monthly rate makes it feasible to continuously improve long term, and make real changes in your life that last.
What would you do if you didn’t have to worry about the opinions of others? How would you live your life? What would you do differently? Think about it. This could be your year!