What are little things I can do each day to lower the amount in which I care what people think of me?
April 25, 2011 7:22 AM   Subscribe

What are little things I can do each day to lower the amount in which I care what people think of me?

I've come to the realization as of late that, despite how much I think otherwise, I let what other people think of me color my attitudes, reactions, actions, and emotions throughout my life.

I'd like to take a step back and make an effort each day to decrease this. I want to be confident in myself and my decisions, and stop second guessing the things that I do from the prospective of how it makes me look to other people.

I accept the responsibility that this is my doing -- that what I think other people think about me and my actions are simply things that I come up with in my own mind, but still struggle to stop coming up with them, and stop letting them affect me.

What are steps I can make each day to be more confident, and less influenced by what I think other people think of me?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (24 answers total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not being flip when I say this: voice an unpopular but reasoned opinion on MeFi or some other forum which you haunt. I'm about to go do so myself. Start online, small steps. You do not have to embrace the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory (Person + Internet = Asshole), but you do have to speak your mind every so often, even if not everyone will applaud you for it.
posted by adipocere at 7:32 AM on April 25, 2011 [10 favorites]

Set some goal that You want for yourself - I would choose something like getting a little physically stronger, but it could be saving money or anything - and make a little progress toward it every day. Don't talk about it a lot with other people, just research on how to do it, gain competency, and do it. Make this all about you.

This will help you have measurable success for which You are the primary influence, no one else. Once you see that you can do this thing and don't care what other people think about it, you can start ignoring their other (perceived!) judgments better, too.
posted by ldthomps at 7:53 AM on April 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Think of it this way: If you really cared what people thought you'd be yourself and refuse to apologize for being yourself. People respect people that have their own opinions and live life according to their own rules.

The next time, in an effort to not rock the boat, you find yourself agreeing with something you disagree with, speak up and disagree in a diplomatic way.

Say no to things you do not want to do.

This might not apply to you but I see it as a problem for many young people: Refuse to spend money you don't have just to fit in. Adopt a lifestyle you can actually afford. Save for the future. If you're spending money you don't have (restaurants, fashion, gadgets) to fit in, or appear a certain way, stop.
posted by Fairchild at 8:06 AM on April 25, 2011

I'm wondering how old you are. The older you get, the less you will care.
posted by amro at 8:12 AM on April 25, 2011 [6 favorites]

If it's jerks talking smack, then the only thing you can do is remember that there are tons of NON jerks that say nice, shiney things- and why the hell are the jerks' jerky point of view worth any more?

When you aren't a super duper assertive person, you can feel really underattack when someone who is really assertive gives you their two cents.

You don't actually have to listen. If someone is giving you advice or opinions that really aren't welcome, you absolutly have no obligation to listen. When it starts- cut them off quick and with a polite smile, then change the darn topic. "You know Jolene? I'm gonna stop you there. I'm set- why don't we talk about your keen vacation to the Dells?"

No explinations. no fighting. just "no thanks."

If they are insisting, that turns them into a jerkface and sort of invalidates anything they have to say anyway.

Other people do not always know better than you just because they can spout opinions like they know what they are talking about. Opinions are like assholes, yada yada. Just try every day and remember that yours is just as damn nice as anyone elses. (opinion... and also maybe asshole.)
posted by Blisterlips at 8:30 AM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Consciously choosing things. I remind myself daily to choose the experiences I want to have. It's too easy to blame others or feel coerced into unhappy or insecure feelings around some people. Sometimes, fairly regularly- I know my weaknesses, I check in with myself about whether I'm being too people-pleasing/socially rescuing which is my response to personal insecurity. I consciously ask myself what I'm experiencing from my interactions with others and to locate quickly whether I'm feeling excited or relaxed (good) or anxious or doubting (bad) and take it on board. This feels pedantic, but just stopping to consider my emotions creates a consciousness about choosing the right amount of weight I'd give to particular people or situations.
posted by honey-barbara at 8:33 AM on April 25, 2011 [7 favorites]

Yoga, meditation, other mindfulness training. Spend some time in your day consciously directing your thoughts away from others and towards yourself (or towards nothing). It give your brain less time and space to think such negative thoughts.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:34 AM on April 25, 2011

A thought,

With some things, it is worth being concerned about what others think -- do people you value perceive you as a good person, a kind person, a reliable person? These are all "big" things that have to do with your values... is it important to you that people view you as someone they can trust? Then that is worth your concern.

What is not worth much concern is what more casual acquaintances, or people you don't even know, think of things that have less bearing on who you really are. The superficial ... ie. what you look like, what kind of car you drive, your shoes... etc.

What I'm getting at is superficial aspects vs. your internal sense of self and values.

To help learn to not sweat the small stuff, you might want to push your comfort zones a bit... wear something "odd" (or what you think is odd) one day. Say something, or talk with people that are outside the norm for you... by doing so, you will learn that the reaction you get is something you can handle. Your confidence and sense of self will grow stronger. You may find the reaction is not what you thought... people may respect your courage and confidence.

Oh.. and aging helps too. At 50, I don't give much thought to what most of those folks out there think of me.
posted by ecorrocio at 9:10 AM on April 25, 2011

I struggle with this a lot myself, and one thing I've found helpful is simply just making myself more aware of when, and how much, I am doing this. If I'm going about my day and I find myself worrying about how I'm dressed like a slob, or wondering if someone I just talked to thinks I'm an asshole, or whatever, I try and stop myself and say inwardly, "I'm worrying about what someone thinks of me." Doing this has helped me realize how very much I worry about what other people think, and how constant and automatic those thoughts are. I knew before that I worried about other folks' judgements too much, but I never really grasped the scope of it until I started paying more attention to all those little automatic thoughts and the way they pile up.

And after a while, once you're able to catch yourself when you're thinking this way, you can add in little rebuttals. It can be as simple as reminding yourself that what you're worrying about is an assumption, a projection of your own insecurities onto other people, and that it may well be an inaccurate one. What if every time I'm worried that someone thinks I'm a slob, they're worrying that I think they're overdressed and stuck-up? Other useful reminders are, "I can't please everyone and don't have to try," and "If they really are judging me for something like this, then they suck and I don't care what they think."

Be careful that the arguing back doesn't take on a life of its own, though. Sometimes I'll catch myself spending way too much mental energy refuting a judgement that I am only assuming someone else is making about me, which is itself a way of staying obsessed with what other people think. Try and touch the negative thoughts as they rise up, turn them over in your head, and let them go.
posted by bookish at 9:26 AM on April 25, 2011 [5 favorites]

Turn it around in your mind and ask yourself: how much do you think about other people? Like, how much time do you really spend think "omg, X is an asshole" or "Y is dressed like a slob!" or "Z said that super dumb thing"? Probably not very much. And if you don't spend all that much time thinking about other people, they're probably not spending all that much time thinking about you either.
posted by Xany at 9:36 AM on April 25, 2011 [5 favorites]

Remind yourself that you can't read minds, then ask yourself, when you're upset about what someone thinks about you, whether you're projecting something you think about yourself onto them.

For me, I picture one of my friends doing whatever it is I'm doing, and saying to me "You must think I'm (whatever I'd imagined people thinking) and straight away in my head, because I love her, I'll say "noooo you're trying your best, I really admire that" or whatever... which helps me be more realistic and kind with myself.
posted by Chrysalis at 9:39 AM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Self-confidence grows from watching yourself do something smoothly and efficiently, over and over. Also from watching yourself make the right decisions, over and over. And from watching yourself recover when you bungle something, over and over. It's a matter of practice, and time.

Think about what it takes for other people to earn your confidence: the IT tech who fixes your computer, the boss who always sticks up for their staff, the friend who never flakes on you. It takes multiple interactions to establish their consistency and reliability.

Same thing for earning your own confidence, which is even harder: you have to establish a track record. Self-doubt is a big hurdle, but you can counter it somewhat by consciously giving yourself credit when you do something right. "Mental note: I unclogged my shower drain! Yay, me!" After a while you build up a bunch of these notes, and the next time you're confronted with a problem you'll remember all those other problems you were able to solve. Which gives you the confidence to tackle the new one.

Every day you can remind yourself "I totally unclogged that drain. It was nasty and gross and I didn't want to do it, but I tackled the problem head on and I unclogged that sucker. I can definitely handle [this other situation confronting me]."

So what does this have to do with other people? When you know you're a kickass shower-drain-unclogger, it doesn't matter what other people think about your unclogging skills. You know you have the chops - just look at that shower drain flowing!

Less flippantly, self-confidence in one area tends to spread into other parts of your life. Feeling good about your mad plumbing skillz makes you feel better about yourself in general, which makes you feel better about your appearance and other stuff. When you start trusting yourself to do the right thing, you don't worry so much about what other people will think.
posted by Quietgal at 10:22 AM on April 25, 2011 [9 favorites]

I have an anecdote you might find helpful. I used to be easily shamed into giving money to panhandlers, despite knowing that there are more effective ways to help those in need. I later became very involved with a few nonprofits, and I noticed that I was completely comfortable declining panhandler requests because I felt like I'd "done my part". I then realized that the people asking me for money weren't aware of my community involvement, and I would be subjected to the same judgement regardless. I was less concerned about their judgement because I wasn't worried that I was a bad guy.

People make assumptions about others all the time, and the ones that hurt most are things I'm scared might be true. The assumptions and judgements that are flat out incorrect are annoying, but don't weigh on me as badly. The more certainty I get about who I am as a person, be it good or bad, the less concerned I am with outsiders making up stories about me.
posted by yorick at 10:25 AM on April 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

Every time you catch yourself wondering what Susie at the office thinks, remind yourself that you'll never know and that it doesn't actually matter. Unless she tells you, you'll never know, and even if she hates you, so what? There are six billion other people out there. What an individual thinks of you doesn't really make much difference whatsoever.

Also, remind yourself of the good things you've done for people, every day. I do this, and it feels great. I keep a list of all of the nice things I've done for someone else, like letting people out into traffic and such. it's simple, but over time I can see that I'm actually an OK person, so what anyone else thinks doesn't really matter.
posted by Solomon at 11:23 AM on April 25, 2011

Have you read The Four Agreements? It's self-helpy but has really helped me with similar struggles.
posted by hansbrough at 12:18 PM on April 25, 2011

Remember that it's not about you. I don't mean that in a "get over yourself" sort of way, just that people really don't care all that much about other people, and even when they ARE talking about you, it's more often more about them than you.
posted by biscotti at 12:23 PM on April 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

When I feel self-conscious, out of place, or like I've seriously messed things up, I try to visualize myself as a honey badger. I am totally serious, and yes, it helps.

If the honey badger example is too silly for you (and if it is, honey badger don't care) think of some other badass you admire and cast them as the little self-confident angel on your shoulder. The whole "what would _____ do?" shtick is succinct and evocative, so it can work pretty well when you're not convinced by other forms of self-talk.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:07 PM on April 25, 2011 [5 favorites]

Consider that you are on one extreme end of things, taking far too much consideration of what others think, to the point of almost paralysis in making choices that others will see. Think back to the last 20 people you saw on the street. What did they look like? What were they doing? Now think back just to the last week. You should have crossed paths with hundreds, if not thousands of people. At least dozens where you witnessed some result of actions they have decided to take in. What were they?

If you can even remember these things, ask yourself how what you thought of them. What was the results of your thinking? Did you think they were freaks? If so, did they look like they were hurt by it? Did it help advance you in some way?

When someone voiced an opinion that you didn't agree with, did they die from it? Were they injured? Were people talking about it for months after? Did it keep you up at night?

Now think of people you really care about. What was the last five conversations you had with the 5 people closest to you? What was the last 15 things that your sibling did that would cause you to pause if it were yourself?

The point is that you probably can't answer the bulk of any of these questions, even with people you supposedly know the most. So now, if you are one to overthink decisions in the social realm, and can't remember these things, what do you think other people will remember of you? Strangers? People in your industry?

But I bet you remember little details of your life from years ago and it eats away at you. Regrets, should-have's, if-only's, missteps, etc... But you are the only one, and these situations don't exist anymore. They are done, relegated to a past that has little to no bearing on the here and now.

I have seen so many outlandish things in my life and years later 70% of it is made up by my memory trying to piece together the puzzle. I remember the general idea of the concept or act but I rarely remember the person or the details. And these people have done things that would probably make you die of anxiety if forced to do. So remember, that whenever you decide to not do something based on your judgment of others, it's really coming from yourself. Nobody else will give a shit. And if they do today, they won't tomorrow.
posted by penguinkeys at 3:02 PM on April 25, 2011 [6 favorites]

Oh, and if you are in a big city, make up a crazy new person for the day. Dress how you think they would dress, act how they would act, do what they would do. At the end of the day this person disappears, at most remembered as that crazy/wierd/fun guy they met a few years ago. I wish I could remember his name, or his face, or that funny thing he did. I think he was from Australia. Could have been England or the South though. Oh well...
posted by penguinkeys at 3:07 PM on April 25, 2011

Keep a couple nice emails in your inbox instead of archiving them, so you can see them there every day and remember the people who love you. I basically keep to Inbox Zero, but Inbox Absolute Zero feels lonely, so I keep Inbox Two, ie, preserving two sweet messages from friends. I used to do this on my answering machine, too.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:20 PM on April 25, 2011

When unsure of myself, I always think of an excerpt on how we "create" others (and how they must create us) that rings very true... this helps me to not care as much about what others may think!

- from Proust- Swann's Way:

"But then, even in the most significant details of our daily life, none of us can be said to constitute a material whole, which is the same for everyone, and need only be turned up like a page in an account-book or the record of a will; our social personality is a creation of the thoughts of other people. Even the simple act which we describe as “seeing someone we know” is to some extent an intellectual process. We pack the physical outline of the person we see with all the notions we have already formed about him, and in the total picture of him which we compose in our minds those notions have certainly the principal place. In the end they come to fill out so completely the curve of his cheeks, to follow so exactly the line of his nose, they blend so harmoniously in the sound of his voice as if it were no more than a transparent envelope, that each time we see the face or hear the voice it us these notions which we recognise and to which we listen." 
posted by catrae at 3:31 PM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wear shorts to the gym/store/whatever, even if you're embarrassed by your legs. And a corollary - wear a swimsuit to the beach or the pool even if you don't like how your body looks.

Don't stop singing along to the radio in the car when you come to a red light, even though everyone in the cars around you can hear you.

Make a corny joke with a cashier, just so that you can smile at him or her. They might think you're a loon, or they might smile back, but either way, practice not caring.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 4:03 PM on April 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

I think I've been overly concerned about what other people think of me in the past (and even now).

It has to do with fear of rejection perhaps. I think the answer lies in shifting one's values away from acceptance/rejection. But to make the shift successfully, one needs to replace it with something else.

So now I try to value making a contribution more than I value acceptance. It's tough though.
posted by storybored at 8:44 PM on April 29, 2011

Do some socially odd, but harmless things.
And realise how illogical it is for people to be bothered by it.

My favourite unintentionally-eccentric moment - walking through town eating toast off a plate. It was the easiest way to carry it. And yet, people stare.
And yet, pretty much every other time you might be worrying what people think, they probably aren't thinking about you at all.

People are funny. And you realise that most of it has to do with them, not you, and that's ok.
posted by Elysum at 1:22 AM on December 2, 2011

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