Episode 5: What will people think of me?
I’m LDS Life Coach, Hannah Coles and you are listening to The confidence Catalyst episode 5: What Will People Think of Me?
Welcome back, friends! So glad you’re here with me. I hope you’re all doing fantastically well. It’s officially spring and thank goodness. It’s finally getting warmer and we’re able to enjoy some outdoor time. My family and I have a fun family past time. We love skating. My husband and oldest son skateboard because they’re too cool for skates but I show them up each time because I have these awesome sketchers roller skates. They’re so cozy. They’re sketchers tennis shoes will wheels. So fun. Go google them because pretty sure you’re going to be jealous. I get all kinds of looks and comments and I just smile because they just rock.
Now, there was a time that I wouldn’t have been able to smile and laugh off the comments of others. In fact I used to be really paranoid about what others thought of me and because of that I would refrain from doing things all because I was worried that people might think ill of me and that’s what I want to talk to you about.
This is one that really everyone struggles with to some degree and I want to talk about it because it’s also something that tends to get in the way of feeling really confident and secure in who you are and what you want to contribute to the world. We’re talking about the fear of what others think about us.
We ALL want to be liked and more importantly, accepted. But problems start arising when we expend tons of energy and time worrying about what they think of us. It’s even become so practiced in our minds that we might not realize we’re even doing it. But all these hidden, sneaky thoughts and worries are creating an effect on us and how we’re showing up.
I want to take you back to the primitive days when being accepted was a huge deal and really did mean survival or not. The tribe meant greater survival and protection against harsh environments, feeling protection, finding and gathering food, being part of a tribe meant a higher chance of survival. So it was a real issue for them to worry about what the tribe thought of them. If the tribe didn’t like them you’d be out on your own, to fend for yourself. So those that really focused on being liked and likable were the ones that for sure always stayed with the tribe.
Being part of a group, being accepted by others still carries some of these beliefs. While we don’t need protection from harsh weathering or real tigers or other primitive threats we still feel safer and more secure when have approval from others. We’re taught and conditioned by media, society, our culture that you’re supposed to “make people happy”. If you make people happy then you’ll be accepted. They’ll like you. They’ll want you around. You’ll have a group.
But approval and acceptance has its opposite, its evil twin which is rejection. Rejection can still feel like genuine threats to our survival which is why we worry. If I don’t make them happy. If I offend them they won’t like me anymore and where will that leave me?
These thoughts are tenacious and linger for years, decades even. In our attempts to try to fit in, to be likable we fill our heads with so many what if’s…
What I say the wrong thing? What they don’t like the way I look? What if I sound stupid? What if they don’t like what I’m talking about? What if they disagree? What if they don’t like me? What if they’re judging me?
Your brain hasn’t gone off the deep end. Don’t stress if you’ve had or still have some of these thoughts. Your brain is just looking out for you. It’s trying to protect you from perceived, possible threats to your survival. Remember to your primitive brain it really believes and operates from the belief that acceptance equals survival and rejection equals death. Your brain is just surveying constantly for danger, for threats, for some reason to fear.
Thankfully you have agency. You have your pre-frontal cortex that can calm down these rapid worries and start questioning them.
So first and foremost you have to ask yourself a very important question, SO WHAT? Really, that’s the question. When your brain wants to start freaking out, what if they don’t like what I have to say? Stop right there. Ask that very profound question, SO WHAT?
No joke. It interrupts the anxiety producing thoughts and endless what if spiraling and forces you to understand why it’s a problem for you in the first place. You have to understand why you care.
Be kind to yourself. Remind yourself that you’ve been conditioned to lean towards this line of thinking and caring from your primitive roots, from society and cultures of this is how a girl is supposed to dress, act, sound like, look like, be like.
The cute, quiet, prettily dressed little girl is considered the good girl. “Oh you’re such a good girl” whereas the rambunctious, totally dressed themselves, free spirit is considered wild, unruly, and unacceptable.
If you look at any magazine in the checkout line that’s geared to women you’ll find topics pertaining to their bodies, how they look, dress, act. Current magazine’s on the shelf right now say, “hot body fast”, “Longer, leaner legs”, “dress to look taller”, “Slim and happy”, “get lean in four weeks”, “Sexy cool new you”, “crazy hot abs”, “I want her hair”, “Arms, Abs, back”, “burn fat fast”, “let’s talk about hair”, “make up to survive work days and late nights”. I didn’t have to hunt for any of these. These are the bold, big print, pick me up off the shelf headlines. I’m being conservative too. There were several headlines that I’m choosing not to talk about there.
These messages are accosting us every time we go anywhere. You have to look a certain way. If you don’t, quick buy my magazine and help you get there so you’ll be accepted. So without realizing it you’ve been conditioned and programed to think who you are isn’t good enough. It’s really no wonder we’re all worried and stressed about what others think of us. They’re find out that we’re not socially acceptable and that could mean rejection. Rejection equals risking survival. Quick! Calm the waters.
Think about this, how many times have you started to be authentic, to talk about what you want to talk about, to say how you’re really feeling, to be you only to regret it immediately. Oh no, I shouldn’t have said that. I shouldn’t have done that. They’re going to be mad at me. They’re not going to like me anymore. I can’t be real. I can’t be me.
When I was first married I remember being part of this group and there was this one lady that I was kind of intimidated by. I liked her but she was really pretty, happily married for several years, she was well off financially and we were just poor collage students. I had just heard this one conference talk where whoever it was said that he was worried that he had offended someone and went all the way to their house to apologize. Going off of that thought, I remember having this phone call with her and I complained about something. Nothing big, I wasn’t ranting or anything but it wasn’t perfectly positive and I thought, “oh no. I shouldn’t be like that. She’s going to think I’m a negative person. I need to call her back and apologize.”
And I did…and it was so weird. She was like, “uh okay…” and because I was still intimidated by her I did it the next time we talked too! It was terrible and I was so embarrassed but I was genuinely worried that she wouldn’t like me if I was negative and ungrateful. I had that belief that we’re supposed to be happy, smiling, and positive all the time. You know what I’m talking about right? and a part of me really wanted her to like me so I did crazy things like that.
I’m not saying that apologizing is crazy. If you feel like you may have shown up in a manner that you’re not proud of, apologize. Do what you feel is best. But when you do it because you’re afraid of what they’re thinking about you, that’s another story. It’s the question, are you motivated by fear and scarcity? Or are you motivated by love? I wasn’t motivated by love because I was talking to her authentically. What I was motivated by was fear, fear that she wouldn’t like the authentic, real me. So I showed up really weird around her, the opposite of my authentic me.
So first, if I was coaching my younger me, what would I say to this worried, embarrassed girl? I’d ask her, SO WHAT? So what that she thinks you’re negative? So what if she doesn’t agree with you? So what if she doesn’t like you? What do you make that mean about you?
Are you negative? I’d have said, No. I was just talking. Telling her how I was feeling. Okay, so what if she thinks that? What do you make that mean about you? That’s I can’t be real or myself. That I should pretend.
See how we start getting these beliefs all mixed in with how we’re showing up or NOT showing up?
I need you to know this really important piece of information and truth. What other’s think about you HAS NOTHING to do with you. What they think is all about them. Their thoughts, beliefs, preferences, their background. What they think and say isn’t about you. It’s about them. So stop making it about you. Don’t even try and be tempted to think that, it’s not about you.
You can be the most perfect you possible and there’s still going to be people that don’t like you and it has nothing to do with you. The Savior was the only perfect being on earth and He was despised, rejected, and ultimately crucified. If he, being perfect wasn’t accepted by everyone why do we have this belief that maybe it we try really hard, look the part, say the right things, that we will be?
We don’t have any control over what others think about us. They’re human with their own agency. They get to choose what they think, say, feel, and do. What they think about you is none of your business. Stop trying to control them, manipulate them, trick them into liking you, agreeing with you, accepting you.
This is a misuse of your time and energy. Doing this will not serve you. It’s pointless to because you’re fighting a losing battle.
Virginia Woolf once said in response to worrying about what others are thinking of us, “The eyes of others (are) our prisons; their thoughts our cages.”
When you spend all your time and energy trying to make them think and feel for you how you want them to you’ve boxed yourself into a prison of your own making. When you can stop worrying about what they think – or bring it to light and decide what YOU wan to think you start breaking free.
Stop trying to control them and put your thoughts, time, and energy on something you CAN control. You. Your thoughts. Your feelings. How you want to show up and who you want to be.
I was so worried about her thinking based on a few short conversations that she’d think I was negative that I stewed and ruminated on how to fix it. I was so consumed with her and trying to control what she was thinking that I had no room to think about how I wanted to think. What I wanted to think and believe about me.
I wasn’t negative. I loved our season in life. I loved being human. I was learning to love me.
When you worry about what others are thinking of you you’ve given your brain a directive: Look for any signs that they don’t like you, look for danger, look for anyhting that could look like rejection. So then you start interpreting everything through that filter. Did you see that look they just gave me? Rejection. They haven’t contacted me in two days. Rejection. They went to lunch without me. Rejection. They asked someone else to help out instead of me. Rejection. We start seeing and interpreting everything they say or do as signs of, “See…they don’t like me” and then you start trying to overcompensate. Like, calling them 5 minutes later to apologize. I have to laugh at myself for doing that and to be honest. I love that I did that. It was totally weird but that just shows that in my heart I was trying to be kind and positive in the best way I could at that time.
Love yourself. Forgive yourself for your past. Forgive the girl who said crazy things. Forgive the girl who tried so hard to get people to like her. Forgive the girl who tried so hard to “make” people happy. Forgive her and then let her go. You’re not her anymore. Even if you were her yesterday. You don’t have to be her today.
When you’re so focused on them rejecting you the catch 22 is that YOU are rejecting you. Do you see that? When you’re trying your best to be liked and do the things you think they’d like and say the things you think they’d like you’re rejecting you. You’re not allowing yourself to be you.
When you’re wasting all that energy on impressing THEM you’re neglecting you and guess what? You have a LONG MEMORY. You will remember and it’ll show up again as lowered confidence, low self-esteem, not trusting yourself and then you wonder why you struggle to feel good about yourself. You’re always placing yourself as less than. You’re teaching yourself over and over again that THEY are more important and you’re not.
So okay, what can you do to stop this vicious cycle? What can you do to stop worrying about what others think about you? Try these four steps to help you stop worrying about them and start honoring you:
1.) find out WHY you care in the first place – ask yourself SO WHAT?
2.) Repeat in your head over and over and over and over again, what they think about me has NOTHING to do with you and everything to do with them.
3.) Stop trying to control them (rejecting you) and start honoring you. Forgive the weird way you showed up that one time in 2nd grade, the things you said or did, forgive her, and move on.
4.) Now what do you want to think about you? Start creating from there.
The more you show up as you, the real authentic, honest you the easier it will be to find your people. Not everyone is for you – you’re not for them and it’s okay. There are 7.5 billion people on the planet. Your people are out there, but they can’t find you when you’re trying to be someone you’re not.
Here’s a gem that has helped me so many times. I still use it. I give people permission to not like me. It releases me from trying to get them to like me and it releases all the pressure of them having to like me. I allow them to have preferences and when I do that, I stop worrying about what they think of me. I allow them to think whatever they want. It’s liberating. And when I’m not trying to manipulate them or change their mind about me, like, “see? I’m really a nice person!” Then I show up different and trying to say and do what I THINK they might like and approve of it’s exhausting.
Just before it goes any father. Give them permission not to like you. It’s okay if they don’t. It’s great if they do. But if they don’t. There’s no games, no manipulations, no people pleasing, or dishonesty. It’s a beautiful space. We’re all different. We’re not all going to think the same way or do things the same way. I adore my husband but he does things that I wouldn’t do. I was just noticing how differently we cook. Granted he doesn’t cook very often, and I can’t say that I do either. Luckily we get fed by my amazing daughter who likes to cook. phew! But when I do cook I get one ingredient out at a time. I use it. I put it away. I like a clean space and kitchen and when I’m done cooking I don’t have a huge mess to clean up. That’s how I prefer it. He’s the opposite. I need such and such ingredients and he gets them all out and puts them on the counter and they stay there until he’s done cooking. It’s not wrong. Both ways the food still gets made. The kitchen still gets cleaned afterwards.
I give him permission not to like the way I cook and I give myself permission not to like the way he cooks. It’s okay. I’m not worried whether he thinks I’m doing it wrong and I don’t think he’s doing it wrong. There’s no judgments. There’s no worrying or manipulating saying, You should do it this way! Or me, trying to do it his way so he doesn’t think I’m doing it wrong.
Yet we do this with other people, with budding friendships, with co-workers, with family. We’re so worried about what they think because we NEED them to like us. We NEED them to think a certain way and when you can just give them permission to not like something about you, then you can be you without worrying or needing to change you or change them.
You can show up authentic and you’re allowing them to be them too. There’s so much freedom there.
So one more thing, going back to that lady I awkwardly called back. I did something and worried that she would think negatively about me. That she would be disappointed in me. That she might not like me anymore. That it might hinder our friendship. The list is endless and when I worry about that and try to get inside HER head I’m fighting a pointless battle. I can’t control what she thinks about me and so what if she thinks I’m negative.
She can think that. She can be disappointed. She can choose not to want to call me for a while. And I can still be me. I don’t have to try and “fix” anything because there’s nothing to fix. Sometime’s were awkward. Sometimes we’re negative. Sometimes we don’t conform to what others think we should be. Sometimes we’re different…and it’s because we are different. We’re all human and you know what? We’re really, really, really good at being human. It’s amazing how good at we are.
Let yourself be human. Let yourself be awkward. Let yourself be who you want to be. Forgive yourself for your past – even the five minutes ago past. You can start fresh right now. Give others permission to not like every single thing about you. It’s okay. Be human. Focus on the only thing you CAN control, you. Focus on showing up how you think a good human should not how you think someone else think’s you should.
Eckhart Tolle says that “Worry pretends to be necessary” – it feels like you’re doing something productive. It feels like if you worry about what they think about you that somehow you’re changing the circumstance. Stop worrying about what they think of you. Let them think what they want. Not just letting them – give them permission to. It’s really liberating. It’s you not needing anything from them because they don’t make you happy, make you feel secure, make you anything. You do. Your thoughts do.
So if you want to feel accepted, you have to start with you. Start accepting YOU.
Okay, have a fantastic week. Let me know how these tools are working for you as you’re learning to apply them. If you need help with this you can request an appointment for a consultation for coaching. I’d love to hear from you!