“But what will they think of me?”
The majority of women I know struggle with this question. Probably the men, too. We have been trained to worry so much about the opinions of other people. Worrying about what people think affects our every day lives. It keeps us from being truly happy (I touch on that here, in my post about How to Be A Happier Human). It affects so many choices we make. And it holds us back from chasing our dreams.
I have struggled with this since I was young enough to be aware that other people were judging me. I would say it started as young as elementary school and only got worse. Middle school girls are MEAN. High school girls can be even meaner. And the boys… the boys are jerks.
I have struggled with this so much as an adult. I struggle with it every single time I post a blog or a long Instagram caption and wonder if people are going to laugh at it or think I’m weird. I worried about it when I started photography. I worried about it when I decided not to use my degree and become a teacher. I use to worry about it every single day when I was deciding what to wear or what to post or what to say or how to live.
Do you know how exhausting it is to live your life worried about what other people are going to say about it? I’m betting that you do.
Judging other people is easy. Loving other people is hard.
So, most people choose judgement. You get judged for every single Facebook post, every choice you make as a parent, for the car you drive, or the job you hold, or the amount of money you make, or whether you have the newest iPhone, or whether you fit into society’s beauty standards, or who you date or choose to hang out with, the list goes on. Because it’s easier to judge people and put them down to make ourselves feel better than it is to look inside ourselves and fix the problems that are holding us back from self-love.
Everything always comes back to self-love. When you love yourself enough, you are confident in your decisions. You don’t care if people are judging you because you know that you are making the best choices for you… and guess what? Those people judging you don’t live your life. They don’t care about your happiness. They want you to be unhappy because they are also unhappy with themselves. Don’t let them win.
Love yourself enough to follow your dreams. Love yourself enough to live the life that you imagine. Love yourself to wear the clothes that you want and post the pictures that you want and listen to the music that you want to listen to and be friends with the people that you want to hang out with and do the things that make your heart happy.
Love yourself enough that you don’t need any validation from other people. And then… their criticism can’t hurt you.
So many people are living lives they aren’t happy with because they are worried what other people will think of them if they make a change. This looks like refusing to go to the gym and get in shape because they are worried people will be able to tell they don’t know what they are doing & they will look dumb. Or it looks like staying in a job that makes them unhappy because they’re worried their parents won’t support a decision to switch jobs. Or it looks like not following their passion to become a singer or an artist or a writer or a photographer or an entrepreneur because they are worried people will think they suck. It looks like living the safe life, but not the life that will leave you fulfilled and happy.
Let me hit you with some hard truth: you’re gonna die someday. When you’re on your death bed, looking back at your life, do you think that you will be glad that you made decisions about your life based on what other people wanted from you? Or do you think you’ll regret not living out your fullest life because you were scared of what people would think?
People are going to judge you. But as my good friend (speaking it into existence, someday we’ll be good friends) Rachel Hollis says…. there are two types of opinions of others: hypothetical opinions and actual opinions.
Hypothetical opinions are the ones you make up in your head. When you THINK someone is judging you. When you worry that the girls you went to high school with are thinking you try too hard or the guy you’re crushing on thinks you are weird… hypothetical opinions are the ones that no one has said out loud to you, but you THINK they are for sure probably judging you.
Let me let you in on a secret… they probably aren’t. These worries stem from your insecurities. And even if they are, who cares? Why let the thoughts of someone else keep YOU from being happy? Just because so-and-so is talking behind your back to someone else about you trying to start your own business or following your passions doesn’t mean that you have to let it affect your life. Let them keep that negativity to affect their own lives.
The actual opinions that Rachel talks about are the ones where someone actually tells you to your face that you suck. Or your business is stupid. Or your writing is terrible. But the people who actually say that to you… they’re jerks. Assholes. And unhappy about something in their own life so they feel the need to spread their unhappiness so they aren’t alone in it.
For me, I don’t want to look back on my life in 50 years and have regrets that I didn’t follow my dreams because I’m scared of what someone from high school, or someone from my hometown, or someone on the internet, was going to think of me. I don’t want to hide my passions to make other people happy. I live my life for me, not for other people. Who are you living your life for?
A few things have helped me let go of so much of this worry about the opinions of other people. Here they are:
- People aren’t thinking about you nearly as much as you think they are. Most people are too worried about their own shit to be worried about yours. Don’t let hypothetical judgments invade your mind and disrupt your peace.
- I choose how much I’m going to let something affect me – in other words, I don’t let the opinions of others change my opinion of myself. Someone else’s opinion of me can only hurt me if I let it. But on the flip side, I also try not to let someone else’s compliments affect me that much either. Because if you live by the praise, you’ll die by the criticism. Love yourself enough that you don’t need validation from others, and then their criticism can’t hurt you (Read more about how to handle criticism in my post 6 Tips for Dealing with Criticism). I love myself, I choose things that make me happy. I’m not required to make anyone else feel happy.
- I don’t want to look back on my life with regrets. I don’t want to hold myself back from following my dreams because I was worried that people would judge me for it. Can you imagine how heartbreaking it would be to not live up to your full potential because you couldn’t handle the fact that it might upset someone?
- Make a list of the qualities and characteristics that you want to exemplify. Do you want to be empathetic? Compassionate? Driven? Hard working? Kind? Understanding? Selfless? Whatever it is – make a list of at least 5-6 qualities. And then reflect often about whether or not you are living up to that list. Don’t worry about if you’re living how others want you to live, make sure you are living how YOU want to live. If you’re happy with yourself, that’s all that matters.
- The world needs your gift. They need what you have to say. They need what you have to give. You were created to be unique, not to conform to society so that you don’t upset anyone. You were created to be incredible, not to live a mediocre life always wishing you could be a little braver.
It’s almost impossible to completely let go of worrying about the opinions of others. But its not impossible to minimize the effect that they have on your life. Actually, its pretty important to minimize the effect that they have on your life.
And this isn’t to say that you should completely disregard the opinions of those who truly have your best interest at heart. Or that you shouldn’t ask for advice and listen to people who are only trying to help you. Sometimes you should take these opinions and reflect on them and make changes, if YOU feel that they are valid. But learn how to decide which opinions are actually valid and prepare yourself to sometimes respectfully disagree even with the people who love you. And stop worrying about the opinions of people who do not matter and who do not have your best interest in mind.
It is a lot easier to be happy and at peace with yourself when you aren’t constantly worrying about whether you look dumb or whether someone is judging you. Let them keep that negativity for themselves, and make an effort to not make judgments about others as well.
In 2019, you need to let go of other people’s opinions. Live the life that you want to live. And remember that the only person whose happiness you are responsible for is your own.
As always, thanks for reading. Share with a friend who is struggling under the weight of other people’s opinions, and let me know what you think with a comment or message.