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This article is a little bit different than all the other ones. In this one I’m not sharing what I’ve learned through reading a bunch of scientific studies, but rather something personal. I used to worry a lot about what other people think about me. I would get consumed by it and play lots of different variations out in my head, this would take up hours in my day.
Eventually, I came to the realizations I share below. These are what made the change for me. They switched off that “Oh what are they thinking?” switch in my head and I’m sure they can work for you as well.
Had it not been for this, I would probably never have started writing these articles. Putting myself out there would have been my worst nightmare.
But lets start at the beginning.
It all started in High School, as I’m sure it does for most of us. High School is a period in your life where you are almost solely preoccupied with what other people think about you. “What’s cool?”, “What do they think about my hair?”, “What do they think about my clothing?”, “Oh, I hope they like me.”.
What makes it comical, when you look back, is that the cool kids were the ones that acted like they didn’t care about what other people thought. The ones that just did what they wanted. Oh how we wished we could have been like them.
This continues even after High School. In college, you want to be invited to all the parties, you are wondering what that cute girl at the other end of the bar thinks about you….. “Does she like me? Does she think I’m cute? Should I go over there and talk to her?”
Later on, you worry about what your boss thinks, what your kids think, what the random stranger across from you on the train thinks about you……
I’m here to tell you a little secret.
What they think about you really does not matter.
The only thing that matters is what you think about yourself.
1.You can not read minds, so stop acting like you can
I’m sorry, unless you are some super hero hiding your abilities from the world, living a secret life of crime fighting, you can not read people’s minds. So why do we all act like we can?
We assume we know what people are saying “Oh they all hate my dress” or that you know what they are thinking “Oh they all think I’m fat”. I’m sorry to break the news to you but that is just you deciding for them what they are thinking.
The kicker is that because of things like your negativity bias you usually assume negative things. How many times have you found yourself thinking “Oh they all love my dress”? Never. Our brains just aren’t wired that way.
So first lesson I learned. Stop acting like a superhero, you’re not one and you are probably making the wrong assumptions.
(To the real super heroes out there, don’t worry about this one, keep fighting the good fight)
2. Your own thoughts are the only thing you can control
I think Marcus Aurelius said it best: “The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts”
When you are preoccupied with what other people think, you are not in control of your own thoughts. You are trying to achieve what you think other people think you should achieve. Read that sentence again. That’s messed up!!!
You can’t control what they are thinking or why they are thinking it. Everyone has their own lives and own reasons for reacting the way they do.
The only person you really know and whose thoughts you can control, is yourself. So start controlling what you think.
3. A focused mind is one of the most powerful things on earth
We are all living in the future, living in the past or trying to live in someone else’s mind.
If you are worrying about what other people think, you will never really focus on what you want in life. Happiness isn’t achieving someone else’s ideals for you, but achieving what is important to you.
The problem is that most people don’t know what makes them happy. You spend all of your energy on what makes other people happy. Start focusing on what you enjoy in life.
We are all cognitive misers, if you spend your limited cognition worrying about other people you won’t have anything left to focus on what really makes you happy.
What other people think doesn’t matter, all that matters is what you think.
1.Stop acting like a superhero,
2.You can only control your own thoughts
Along the way you are going to have to deal with stress and you are going to feel like the whole world is against you. Don’t worry that’s normal.
I’m not saying they are fool proof or that they will work for everyone, but they worked for me.
If you find something else that works for you I would love to hear about it.